At the beginning of each month, my critique group partners and I take turns challenging one another to try a new poetry form. This month, Heidi Mordhorst suggested that we write nestlings: poems found within a single poem that we wrote. Heidi’s challenge was inspired by Irene Latham‘s brilliant and joyous book, This Poem is a Nest. In her introduction, Irene explains that she was inspired by watching “robins build a nest” and realized that “poems are nests–and we poets spend much of our time nest-building. We gather words, ideas, and dreams, and then we set about weaving, arranging, and structuring. “
I love everything about this book: the concept, the poems themselves, the illustrations. Irene mined four “nest” poems (one for each season) and came up with 161 nestling poems. Her creativity shines in the way she organizes her nestlings. There are poems about colors, emotions, months of the year, animals, and more. This book is a treasure and an inspiration. What a fun challenge!
Then reality sunk in and I had to actually choose a poem to work with. After several false starts, I decided to mine several poems I wrote during National Poetry Month last April. My project for the month was a series of poems I called “News from the Natural World.” All of the poems had some connection to nature, both from my yard and across the galaxy. (Links to all the poems can be found here.) I chose to look for nestlings in two of my favorites, “Praise Song for the Natural World” and “An Earth Day ABC.” Like all found poems, the words are in the same order as in the original poem. Titles can be added and don’t have to be in the original poem. Those words are bolded. I might have added an “s” to the end of a word or two. 😉
Praise Song for the Natural World
Each day, wild creatures go about the work of survival.
A vibrant bluebird flits through the undergrowth
in pursuit of an alluring female.
High in a pine, a nesting hawk surveys
the countryside, screeching in protest
at a mob of pesky crows.
All around, color is brightening the drab world.
Brilliant yellow dandelions are open for business
and hungry bees buzz joyously among them.
Violets sprinkle the hillside like confetti
And every shrub and tree is wrapped
In a fine haze of green or pink or red.
In the pond, clumps of frogspawn
are silently, mysteriously on their
journey of transformation.
Praise song for their confidence, their
optimism in the face of a fickle world,
for their honest pursuit of life.
Praise song for every blossom, every nest, every egg.
Draft, © Catherine Flynn, 2020
Nestlings from this poem:
Eyes of a
A mob of crows
rap their confidence
pursuit of life.
hill and shrub:
An Earth Day ABC
An atlas of the world can’t
Begin to reveal the
Complexity of connections, the
Diversity of life on
For centuries, curious humans have
Grappled with questions, searching across
Insights into our home, finding pieces of the
Jigsaw puzzle, gaining
Learning the lessons
Mountains teach us. The earth
Nurtures and nourishes us. We are
Protect her, preserve her. Our reckless
Quest for riches is irresponsible. Actions
Ripple across the globe, casting
Shadows on life everywhere.
Today and everyday, seek to
Vulnerability and vitality of our
eXchange hubris for humility. Change begins with
Zoom in and discover nature’s abundant gifts.
Draft © 2020, Catherine Flynn
Nestlings from this poem:
This was a fun and thought-provoking adventure! Dozens of nestlings didn’t make it into this post, but I learned a thing or two about myself as a writer through the process and will approach revision differently in the future. Thank you, Irene, for this amazing book, and thank you, Heidi, for this great challenge! You can read how my other critique group partners approached this challenge at their blogs:
Heidi Mordhorst: My Juicy Little Universe
Linda Mitchell: A Word Edgewise
Margaret Simon: Reflections on the Teche
Molly Hogan: Nix the Comfort Zone
And don’t forget to visit Sylvia Vardell at Poetry for Children for the Poetry Friday Roundup and a sneak peek at what looks to be a bumper crop of children’s poetry arriving in 2021.