Poetry Friday: A Nonet

Earlier this week, I was lucky enough to spend time learning more about poetry (there is always more to learn!) from two of my poetry idols, Georgia Heard and Irene Latham. Irene talked about her writing, where she finds inspiration, and more. She also shared her charming new collection, Nine: A Book of Nonet Poems and guided us through the process of writing a nonet. Nonets have nine lines, beginning with one syllable in the first line, two in the second, and so on until you have a nine-syllable line. Or you can reverse the order and begin with nine syllables and work back to one. Irene explained there are many benefits of writing nonets (or any form of syllablic poetry), including forcing you to cut unnecessary words such as a, and, & the, “generating powerhouse words and ideas,” and expanding your vocabulary. She also encouraged us to come to poetry “with a sense of wonder.”

I thought of Irene’s words when I left my house the next morning and saw this in our old apple tree:

Although I was a bit chagrined at the damage to one of my favorite trees, I was also filled with wonder at the precision of these holes. With a little research, I discovered that this was the work of a yellow-bellied sapsucker. Who knew?

Of course I had to write a nonet about this determined little bird.

The Promise

Yellow-bellied sapsucker’s sharp beak
bores through bark, drills into heartwood.
Soon, neat rows of round sapwells,
like honeycombs, cover
tree trunks. Sweet liquid
oozes; insects
tumble in.
Lunch is

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2020

Thank you, Irene and Georgia, for all the inspiration!

Hop on over to Buffy Silverman’s blog for an interview with Janet Wong and Sylvia Vardell about their newest anthology, Hop to It! and the Poetry Friday Roundup.

15 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: A Nonet

  1. Your yellow-bellied sapsucker has a slight look of our (black&white) peewee – but their habits are not at all alike. Rather incredible that they can subject their beak (and head) to the relentless hammering required to make those neat rows of round sapwells. (How glorious to be taught nonets (or any poetry) by Irene!)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, that poetry workshop sounds delightful! And, I agree with the sentiment about there’s always more to learn. I love it! I listened to a podcast by Brene Brown recently in which she interviewed a neuroscientist and they talked about how learning new things/skills is important in keeping the brain young. I choose poetry! It’s always a challenge to me and I still come back for more.
    Your nonet is wonderful….that word, heartwood. Lovely!

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  3. Catherine, this poem is full of strong magical words – BRAVA!! You did the nonet proud! Next time I teach nonets I will link to this beauty! Thank you!! xo

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Amazing persistence of that yellow-bellied sapsucker, and your poem shows itall, Catherine. I love Irene’s book & the challenge of nonets! Beautifully done!

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  5. Love your nonet portrait of a sapsucker–you clearly followed Irene’s advice and brought a sense of wonder and some powerhouse words! (Lucky you for having a sapsucker in your yard–I might be wrong, but I thought that they don’t usually kill trees?)

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  6. I love the new vocabulary word to me, sapwells, and how you compare them to honeycombs. Great images. I have not had much luck yet in writing a nonet. Thanks for sharing Irene’s sage advice.

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  7. I love how research can turn into poetry! And Irene’s advice about wonder? Perfect. (PS–your comment came through. You thought it disappeared, but it was captured in the net of comment moderation!)

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  8. Your essential curiosity shines through this post, Catherine–and do you have any idea why my brain goes immediately to “Why, you yellow-bellied sapsucker!” as an insult? I think the voice in my head is Yosemite Sam’s! I love the same honeycomb line as others.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Your sapsucker reminds me of our family of pileated woodpeckers! IT’s fascinating to see their drill holes not only in our yard, but all around the neighborhood.

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