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Last month, we all wrote sonnets. Well, everyone in the poetry sisters except me wrote curtal sonnets, a form invented (or at least made popular) by Gerard Manley Hopkins. This month, we are each writing a tanka in response to somebody else's sonnet. I have been known to refer to a tanka as "a haiku pulling a trailer", but I've also discussed it far more thoroughly. Here's an introduction to tanka, another post describing the construction of tanka, and one about how the parts of a tanka relate to one another. And for fun, "a little tanka feminism".

Tanita Davis is responding to my sonnet about Kismet, the not-so-mighty huntress, and I am responding to Sara Lewis Holmes's curtal sonnet about Gerard Manley Hopkins, which you can read below:

Hopkins foxed sonnets to 3/4 spare
     wire-whipped stresses til they wailed
         half-tocked feral hymns from sprung clocks

Elbowing joy as birdsong from air,
      priested, pressed hard, he failed
          at 44, a life, curtailed and boxed

Yet, cold-call his poems, and he swells,
      as slugger’s bandied cauliflower ear; rung,
          you clangor, near strangled, on far-hailed
Words; carrion cry unlocked, he wells
                            blood to tongue.

Here is my response to Sara's poem, which is more about my feelings than anything else:

feral bird-song clocks—
imagery drives me cuckoo
cauliflower words
tiny white flower clusters
tasty morsels for the tongue

Here's where you can find the other poems:

Tanita, responding to me

Sara, responding to Liz

Liz, responding to Tricia

Tricia, responding to Laura

Laura, responding to Tanita

The rest of the Poetry Friday posts can be found by clicking the box below:

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Kismet in the Cold--a Poetry Friday post

Today, for the first Poetry Friday of the new year, an original sonnet about my cat. It's the first group project of the new year with my lovely poetry sisters.

I watch small brown birds puffed fat against cold
peck gravel for small sustenance at best.
A finch, a wren, some dark-eyed juncoes wrest
the smallest bit of God-knows-what. I hold
the cat up to the window, where she tries
to follow hops and jumps, small bursts of flight.
We both pretend she’d catch them all, despite
us knowing that is all a flock of lies.
She’s lived inside a house since she was small,
found toddling by a highly trafficked street,
a tiny, bat-eared calico fuzzball
with pink toe-beans on all four small white feet.
    She asks to be put down, climbs in my lap,
    curls up, then dreams of birds during her nap.

To see what my poetry sisters have written, you can check out their posts here:

Laura (curtal sonnet)
Liz (curtal sonnet)
Sara (curtal sonnet)
Tanita (curtal sonnet)

Poetry Friday is being hosted at Reading to the Core. You can get to the roundup by clicking the box below:

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The Lai - a Poetry Friday post

This month, my lovely poetry sisters and I took on a form called the lai. It is an open form consisting of one or more nine-line stanzas. Each stanza follows the form of AABAABAAB, where each A line has 5 syllables, and the B lines have only 2 syllables.

I found this one challenging (as my poem illustrates), and the lines felt tight. It was super easy for this to get tight and trite fast. Without further ado, here goes:

When I start to write
in forms, I delight
in play
These short lines are tight
and the rhymes incite
I worry I might
lack the skill to write
a lai.

As day turns to night
turns to day, then night
to day,
I struggle. My plight
becomes dire. I fight,
I pray,
But try as I might
I just cannot write
a lai.

To check out my sisters' poems, you can go here:


Poetry Friday is being hosted by my lovely friends at A Year of Reading. You can get to the roundup by clicking the box below:

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Over at Guys Lit Wire

Over at Guys Lit Wire, it's my review (sort of) of Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. I say "sort of" because it's more of a READ THIS BOOK thing.

You can find my review/exhortation at here.

Seriously, read this book. And if you'd like to read my 2008 interview with John, you can find that here on my blog.
This month, my poetry sisters and I were tackling triolets. A triolet is a short poem of just eight lines, rhymed ABaAabAB, where the capital letters are repeated lines. Basically, once you've written the first two lines, you only have three more to go (the lower case lines). Triolets were originally devotional poems, and then became popular as comedic forms, but they can be used for lots of things, serious topics included. There's no real fixed metre for triolets, although a lot of people use iambic tetrameter (four iambs per line, taDUM taDUM taDUM taDUM).

Liz Garton Scanlon picked the form, and said we needed to use at least two from the following list of words in our poems: orange, fall, chill, light, change

As you can se below, I used three: light, fall, and chill.

The glow of leaves in yellow light—
the amber glow of sun in fall—
is swallowed as day turns to night.
The glow of leaves in yellow light
when crisp chill wind sets them in flight
enchants. In winter, I’ll recall
the glow of leaves in yellow light,
the amber glow of sun in fall.

You can find the poems of my poetry sisters at their blogs. You can find the rest of this week's Poetry Friday posts by clicking the box below.

Laura Purdie Salas
Tanita Davis
Liz Garton Scanlon
Tricia Stohr-Hunt
Sara Lewis Holmes

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Late to the party, but at least I'm in attendance this month! This one is a poem from Fall . . .

My poetry sisters and I agreed to write a poem in hymn meter this month (think almost anything by Emily Dickinson, or Amazing Grace, or the Theme to Gilligan's Island, or the Yellow Rose of Texas). Here is mine.

I have a secret, said the Fall,
that nobody may know.
I whisper it through rustling leaves
that fall before the snow.

I know that it appears as if
death comes to growing things.
The truth is they are just asleep
and will awake in spring.

You can find the others' posts here:

Sara with If Apples Were Dappled and Sweet
Tricia with Autumn Song
Tanita with Keeping Emily's Sabbath
Liz with It Doesn't Feel Like Fall
Laura with An Old Dog in Autumn

Find the rest of the Poetry Friday posts by clicking the box below:

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Statues in the Park - a Poetry Friday post

My poetry sisters and I have our monthly poems up today. This month's challenge was to write any poem you want to the title "Statues in the Park", and I have to tell you that it didn't give me much guidance or speak to me in any particular way. I started thinking about various statues in various parks, and did online research where I found this cool sculpture park in Ireland called Victor's Way that has some really interesting statues that I'd love to see in person, but still . . . nada.

Which is when I remembered being young and playing a game with other kids in the park. And then this poem mostly wrote itself.

Statues in the Park
by Kelly Ramsdell

One with the power to stop,
one with the power to release,
all others quite willing
to stop when tagged,
to hold their position
as long as it took until they
were freed, or the game ended.

Who can forget freeze tag?
Who can remember
how to be released?

You can read the other poems here, which include further references to freeze tag (aka the "statue game") as well as to actual statues.


Find the rest of the Poetry Friday posts by clicking the box below:

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The good folks at :01 First Second were kind enough to send me a review copy of The Amazing Crafty Cat, a graphic novel for the younger set featuring (no, not a cat) a girl named Birdie who has a secret alter-ego (Crafty Cat). Birdie seems to me to be in about third grade (personality-wise), but has a locker at school, so I'm not so sure that's what's intended.

Birdie heads to school on her birthday with some pretty swell panda cupcakes, things go amiss, and she is left trying to figure out what to do with black olives and cottage cheese. Fortunately, her crafty alter-ego comes in handy and she teaches everyone a craft.

The graphic novel is set up cleanly so it's easy for younger kids who are not yet fluent in the format to read it and follow along, and is the first in a new series. It uses a simplified palette of black, white, grey, brown, and green. AND it comes with instructions for five different crafty projects at the back, complete with supply lists and diagrams, including four panda crafts (hair clip & necklace, pencil topper, cupcake decorations, and a "panda pal", plus alien &/or bunny puppets).

A great fit for elementary school libraries or classrooms, and for young kids looking for graphic novels but not ready for older content. (I'd put this at the same age range as Baby Mouse, if I had to make a guess.)

You can go to the publisher's website and check out a few of the interior spreads, but here is one that gives you an idea what the interior is like:

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Over at Guys Lit Wire: DECELERATE BLUE

My monthly book review for Guys Lit Wire is up today, and it's of the spectacular graphic novel, Decelerate Blue by Adam Rapp and Mike Cavallaro. It's basically a futuristic Romeo and Juliet retelling set in a hyperkinetic world and featuring a same-sex romance. The entire book is perfection, and a warning. Cannot rave about it enough.

Here's the start of my review:

There's an old English Beat song that ends "faster faster faster faster STOP (I'm dead)". (The name of the song is "I Just Can't Stop It", from an album of the same name.) It turns out to be almost a summary of this amazing dystopian graphic novel, Decelerate Blue, which is set in a hyperkinetic future. In that future, everyone has a chip in their arm and is constantly monitored by "Guarantee", which appears to be an industrial state entity of some sort. Chips are scanned all the time.

There is reference in the book to a novel by "Kent Van Gough", which appears to be a veiled reference to Kurt Vonnegut.

A must for all high-school and public libraries.

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When we were deciding on our themes for this year, I tossed out a poem in the style of George Gordon, Lord Byron's "She walks in beauty", which begins "She walks in beauty, like the night". You can read the original here. It's a short poem - three stanzas of six lines each - and was allegedly written after Byron attended a party and met his cousin there. She was, at the time, in mourning for her husband - hence "like the night". He made an awful lot of assumptions about her internal state based on her pulled-together, likely serene appearance.

My version addresses what might have been going on with her before and after the party:
She Walks on Eggshells
by Kelly Ramsdell


She walks on eggshells, tip-toeing
    her way through life, in hopes that none
will notice how she cannot bring
    herself to stand directly in the sun.
Her sole reward, a wedding ring
    that weighs her down so she can’t run.


One minute more in this black dress
    Is more, she thinks, than she can bear.
Her cousin’s smiles cause her distress—
    He is enough to make her swear,
Though not out loud, of course. Useless
    to be female, she’s well aware.


And now he’s published something new
    that raves about her peaceful mind,
her innocence. He has no clue
    that she is finally unconfined
by men: a widow, it is true,
    but one who cannot be divined.

You can find the poems by my poetry sisters at the following links:

Laura Purdie Salas with "She walks in glitter"
Sara Lewis Holmes with "Crede Byron"
Tanita Davis with "Daughters of Diogenese" &/or "Maat/Lady Justice"
Tricia Stohr-Hunt with an untitled poem about grief
Liz Garton Scanlon with "Mother Liberty"

Find the rest of the Poetry Friday posts by clicking the box below:

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