Poetry Friday: My Cabinet of Curiosities

Inspired by the Poetry Sisters, my critique group decided to set monthly challenges for one another. After much debate, we christened ourselves the Sunday Night Swaggers and premiered in August with a challenge from Heidi to write definitos, a form she invented. 

This month it was my turn to come up with the challenge. I remembered an old post from Lee Ann Spillane about a Highlights Workshop she attended with Suzanne Bloom  a few years ago. Lee Ann wrote:

“Suzanne had an assortment of mystery packed into tiny boxes: metal boxes, cardboard boxes, long boxes, jewelry boxes, cloth boxes, wooden boxes, soap boxes and small boxes. We had two questions to guide our group talk:

Who was the owner of the box?
How did what is inside the box transform him or her?”

I tried this activity with teachers at my school and it sparked many interesting conversations and inspired some amazing writing. My challenge this month was more open-ended: write a poem inspired by a box.

Since I first read Lee Ann’s post, I’ve accumulated quite a collection of boxes, with lots of help from my friend Colette, who is always on the lookout for cool stuff. I shared a photo of my boxes with my writing partners, but also encouraged everyone to pick their own box if they wanted. 

So which box did I choose? Not the one I thought I would. As you may know, we’ve been renovating our house (for way too long) and I’ve been sorting through closets and cabinets.  One day after I posed this challenge, I found an assortment of tea similar to this:

My mind immediately started racing, and my box has now been transformed into a mini cabinet of curiosities. (Read more about them here.)

Now that I had an idea, all I had to do was write the poem, right? Yeah, not so much. The start of school and an ongoing medical issue with my husband (nothing too serious, but stressful and frustrating) kept distracting me from writing this poem. 

My Cabinet of Curiosities 

This box is full of treasure
I found scattered on the ground:

A fallen feather
Fragment of forgotten flight
Now grounded.

An empty marvel
Seashell or angel wing
Who’s to say?

A butterfly
Orange, brown, and blue
Resting her wings

A baby hawk’s
Snow-blue mottled egg
Expertly unzipped.

Gum tree seed pod,
barbed, brown orb
An earth-bound star

Coins from the sea
Not silver or gold

Baubles, relics, rarities,
Each one holds a memory
carried in my heart.

Draft, © 2019, Catherine Flynn

What did my fellow swaggers come up with? Visit them to find out!

Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda at A Word Edgewise

Then don’t forget to stop by and say hello to Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong at Poetry for Children for the Poetry Friday Roundup!

8 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: My Cabinet of Curiosities

  1. oooooooh. I am in love with the idea of this poem….I’ve always been a complete pushover for any kind of curio cabinet. I love how you created a small one. Best line…”Snow-blue mottled egg.” I just want to see it in person and hold it in my hand. Fabulous poem as always–especially with all the side juggling going on!


  2. I love Joyce’s favorite line, too, & the ‘new’ use of your box. I kept a small table in my classroom that we called the ‘table of pretty things’, where students and I brought in some things found in nature to admire, & sometimes sketch. Your “cabinet of curiosities’ reminds me of that, Catherine. You wrote a lovely poem for it!


  3. Ah delightful Catherine, I love your treasures and treasure-filled poem! I do a prompt with my Children’s Picture Book Illustration class that’s based on a box but goes on a bit from there…


  4. I’ve enjoyed reading the poems inspired by this challenge. I enjoyed your transformation of a box of tea (which might inspire a poem for me) to a mini museum of curiosities. Just like your box, your poem contains many treasures to wonder over.


  5. Boxes have a certain magic about them–and yours is filled with magic and treasures, as is your poem.”Seashell or angel’s wing” I love that. It reminds me of the wonder that children feel when they discover treasures in nature.
    And it reminds of a rhyme I used to do with my classes (I’m not sure who wrote it):
    Here is a box
    And here is its lid.
    I wonder whatever inside is hid.
    Why it’s a ______ without any doubt;
    Let’s take off the lid and let it come (or fly or crawl or whatever) out.


  6. My favorite image—”Gum tree seed pod, / barbed, brown orb”—brings back many memories, just the way a cabinet of curiosities (or a poem about one) should! Thank you for this post, Catherine!!


  7. Hey, hey, Catherine – Good luck with the revision/home remodeling! Your mighty cool box would fit into our home, feathers found on walks are in jars & shells, eggs, moss, other Arte’s d’MotherNature share display spaces with books. I love reading that Suzanne Bloom leading folks at a Highlights workshop inspired the box prompt…. She is one of my favorite creators & my Highlights visits are catalytic creative times.


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