Friday, November 05, 2021

Bespoke Poetry

You are probably as tired of reading about my difficulty in doing any regular writing for the past few years as I am in saying and living it. 

So I won't give any excuses, nor will I make any promises - except this one which I make to myself: I will spend 20 minutes every day engaged with writing. On some days, that will be the multiverse novel I'm fighting with. On other days, poetry. 

A few weeks ago, I sent out a tweet asking for folks to give me 6 words that I would weave into a poem. 

And folks came through. 

While I'm not participating in NaNoWriMo, I have been writing more steadily. Here are some of the first poems I've written, along with the words that created them:

For Laura Jane 

When I try to wish my way
into silence, fallen branch snap
and leaf litter whisper insist
on conversation. Witness
trees slowly spin stories
in a language I almost understand:
a thousand words for wind and rain,
sun and soil, birds and moss, the tickle
of small creatures against bark
and root. And my clumsy
footfalls; a steady heartbeat.

-Lisa Janice Cohen 11/3/2021

(leaf, star*, rain, spin, whisper, wish) 
*I had star in a line that I ended up cutting and didn't realize until I had already posted the poem



In the five centuries between
Father Falloppio's anatomy lessons
and the operation that removed
my ovaries and wayward tubes
I wonder how much wisdom we have accrued.
We still buy tickets to cancer's indifferent
lottery. Celebrate our losings
with extravagant meals--red wine, bitter
greens, ravioli, trying not to think
of rogue cells splitting open
like ripe fungi as we dine.

--Lisa Janice Cohen

 (fallopian, wisdom, green, ravioli, indifferent, fungus)



I drive down roads without signs, streets
so familiar to the locals it would seem strange
to name them. Directions are always a story:
head up the lane a ways, look for the flying
pig on top of a red barn, turn left. Mind
you don't bottom out on the ruts. My survival
skills were made for a different landscape.
The farmer eyes my smile with mistrust,
would never describe his farm, his cows,
their breaths steaming in the chill morning air
as charming. His worry follows me. I fight
the urge to turn back and apologize for everything.

--Lisa Janice Cohen

(up, down, charmed, strange, bottom, top)


If you'd like to play along, tweet or comment with 6 words. (Same caveats apply as in the tweet above).

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  1. I've love your poetry forever, and I think these six words ones are some of the best. I especially like For Laura Jane. Some of the poems I wrote in college that I liked best were assignments like this -- with random words or parameters of some kind. This kind of work can really fuel your creativity!

    1. Thank you so much! Drop me some words and I'll write one for you. :)