Poetry Friday: National Poetry Month Isn’t Over

It’s time for the monthly Inkling challenge. This month, Linda challenged the Inklings to “Honor someone’s April Poetry project in some way with a poem in the spirit of their project, a response poem or any way that suits you.” 

I knew immediately that I wanted to base my response on Tricia Stohr-Hunt’s (aka Miss Rumphius) project of “sharing original poems written in a variety of Japanese poetic forms (haiku, tanka, dodoitsu, etc.) to primary sources. I’m using photos, letters, newspaper articles, and more to inspire my writing.” Tricia shared many treasures from her family archives and her poems always captured funny or poignant insights into her source materials.

Like Tricia’s family, my family (specifically my maternal grandmother) saved everything and I have many photos and letters. I also have my grandmother’s diary from 1936, which is the only one we know of. Mostly, she recorded the weather, her daily household chores, and what she baked. There are also a few headlines from the wider world: The last line for Monday, January 20th reads “King George V of England died. Edward VIII becomes king.” She stopped writing on Saturday, August 22th with this short entry: “Rained on Sat. Went to town in A.M. Did shopping. Bought a pot roast. Not much new. They will finish the forty acre lot in one more day.” (I’m sure this refers to haying on my great-grandfather’s farm.)

I suspect she stopped writing because of this entry a few days earlier: “Feel certain that we will have a baby by spring.”

That baby turned out to be my mother and her twin sister.

Here they are, about 3 or 4, ready to attend a cousin’s wedding.

My mother is on the left
Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

There are troves of poems waiting in that diary, but how could I resist writing about this photo? I chose a most forgiving form, the Gogyohka. This is a five line verse without a specific syllable count. As Tricia explained in her post, it was “invented in the 1960s, the idea was to ‘take the traditional form of Tanka poetry (which is written in five lines) and liberate its structure, creating a freer form of verse.’ You can learn more about this form at Writer’s Digest Gogyohka: Poetic Form.”

Please be sure to visit my fellow Inklings to see which NPM project they honored:

Mary Lee Hahn @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst @ My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Then head over to Jama’s Alphabet Soup, where Jama is serving up the Roundup.

11 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: National Poetry Month Isn’t Over

  1. Ha! You know, I love a good, short poem. And, the truth of this one is just right there in the photo! One sweet smile and one a little crooked. Isn’t it fun to see people we know or knew as old ladies in their little socks and sun bonnets? Such a great photo. I look forward to future troves of poems from Grandmother’s diary too!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So envious that you have all those old photos, letters, and your grandmother’s diary! Even her recording everyday things is meaningful in hindsight. And that priceless photo — twins! Cool poem (didn’t realize there were so many Japanese poetic forms).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is intriguing to look at a picture & imagine. Tricia’s words were wonderful all through the month. You seem to have caught the essence of it, Catherine, especially in that ending. I have so many old pictures, one that we have smiled over because it shows my husband’s father as a young boy with a wonderful dog. When we asked him about the dog, he said he’d never had a dog but the photographer brought it along to enhance his photos of kids!

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  4. What a beautifully written post, Catherine! Your gogyohka has a lovely rhythm, right down to the last surprise line, which hints at multitudes of details about the relationship between little girls whom you only knew as adults. I have my grandmother’s diaries and calendars full of similar practical record-keeping…maybe I can pull them out and find inspiration too.

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  5. I love reading about your process to arrive at this poem and love that you had so many sources to consider. That photo is a gem! Your final line is perfection and brings the whole piece into focus. What a great response to the prompt!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. […] Last week, inspired by Tricia Stohr-Hunt’s National Poetry Month project, I wrote a gogyohka in response to a photo of my mother and her twin sister. Like Tricia, I have found family archives to be rich source material for poems. One of the treasures I have is a diary of my grandmother’s from 1936. Times were tough for my grandparents throughout the Depression and many of her entries detail the small ways they scraped by. January of that year was bitterly cold, and Grandma was knitting a scarf for my uncle, but she ran out of yarn. She sounds so relieved when she finally “got to town” to get more yarn that the first line of William Carlos Williams’ famous poem popped into my head instantly. […]


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