Not One Woman

Many and many a blog ago, in Woman Yes, Girl No, I wrote about some people’s inability to use the word woman. Recently I was reminded of this by a book I read. In it, the author either refused to or could not get himself to use the word woman.

My response was to write a “skinny” poem, also called a “short lines” poem.


Let There Be Light

The man
a book
by men,
and girls,
but not one

In four
not one

I want
to rate
this book
one star
but can’t:
even one
the dark.



Barbara Gregorich has published one book of poetry: Crossing the Skyway.

Finding a Found Poem

Many months ago I explored both web sites and books in order to learn more about different types of poems. I’ve already posted about the fib. The day I learned about the fib I must have been in the F section of information sites, because I also learned about the found poem.

Found poem? I muttered to myself. Is that the opposite of a lost poem?

No. It isn’t.

According to Wikipedia, which in this case provides a good definition, found poetry is “a type of poetry created by taking words, phrases, and sometimes whole passages from other sources and reframing them as poetry (a literary equivalent of a collage) by making changes in spacing and lines, or by adding or deleting text, thus imparting new meaning.” (Emphasis in original.)

Okay, I thought. That’s great. I now know what a found poem is. On to another subject.

Because, you see, I never thought I’d write a found poem. Nothing about found poetry really “called” to me, you know. Perhaps the found poems were out of hearing range.

But life loves to watch us strolling happily along, thinking we’re in charge of our own decisions — and then throw something in our path that makes us do the opposite of what we said we would do.

So it was with me and the found poem.

My husband, Phil Passen, is a musician, and I am his roadie. One day Phil had a three-hour gig at O’Hare Airport, somewhere in the United terminal. I brought along a novel I had almost finished reading.

Sixty minutes later, I did finish.

Two more hours to go on this gig. And I had forgotten to bring a second novel. What could I do? Besides listen to the wonderful music, of course.

I sat there, looking all around.


Words everywhere. On posters, flashing in neon, in windows, on plastic signs, on free-standing sandwich boards, on cardboard boxes, on luggage, on trams creeping by, on suitcases . . everywhere.

So I wrote down maybe half of the words I could see.

Found Poem

And then, even though the Wiki definition does not say that a found poem makes changes in the order of words, my found poem does. I rearranged the words (okay, okay, the spacing and the lines, too, and maybe I even deleted some words) and produced my first (and so far, only) found poem. You could say I found it at O’Hare.

United We Wait

Duty Free Liberty
United Club
Wi-Fi Available
Concourse C Baggage Claim
Currency Exchange
Animal Relief Area
Welcome US Customs Require That
Life-goes-on Insurance
From the International Best-Selling Trilogy
Let Us Serve You
Eli’s Cheesecake Chicago
You’re going to need a bigger map
Please Ask for Assistance
Not just leg-room . . . laptop room
Earn Miles and Rewards
Priority Boarding
Trains to City


Barbara Gregorich’s not-lost poetry can be found in Crossing the Skyway.

The Tanka: 17 Plus 14 Equal 31

For those who might not know, the tanka is a syllable-count poem of Japanese origin. Older than the haiku, it is still related to the more widely known form. Indeed, its first three lines are identical to the haiku in syllable count. But the tanka is longer. The specific syllable and line breakdown goes like this:


That, as you can see, adds up to 31 syllables: almost double the 17 syllables in a haiku.

In two earlier blogs, Haiku: Five Syllables Too Few and Cinquains: Five Beats More, I mentioned how difficult I found it to write the 17-syllable haiku, and how I much preferred the 22-syllable cinquain, especially its 2-syllable last line. In addition, there’s something about a five-line poem I find more appealing than a three-line poem.

Although the cinquain and tanka are both five lines long, the tanka has nine syllables more than the cinquain. You would think, then, that I would take to the tanka. Especially since, unlike the haiku or even the cinquain, the tanka is said to have a “turn,” and I like the logical and argumentative construct of a turn in a poem — a place where the reader feels the poem’s argument move toward resolution or conclusion. Sonnets are classic examples of poems which contain turns.


Photo courtesy of Tad Gilster

The Poetry Dictionary states that the tanka form is more casual and conversational than the haiku. “Imagery is important, but there is ample room for statement and declaration.”

But just as I find haiku difficult, I find writing the tanka difficult. In looking over my poems, I find only one example of a tanka. I wrote it one night while listening to a group of bluegrass musicians jamming. Interestingly, I found that my thoughts couldn’t be squeezed into one tanka . . . so I simply continued into a second one. Some poets keep on going, tanka after tanka, until they’ve written a long poem.


        if life were bluegrass
        we’d sit around pickin’ tunes
        we strummed in common,
        taking instrumental breaks
        in time, in tune, in accord

        but life is more hard
        rock than blue grass, more poundin’
        than pickin’, breaks seized
        without sharing by jammers
        who disregard harmony

Cinquains: Five Beats More

imagesIn a previous blog, Haiku: Five Syllables Too Few, I wrote about my mild frustrations trying to write haiku, which is so sparse, and I mentioned that I would continue the story of syllables and me at a later date. This is that date, or part of it (because the syllables go on).

When I was in college and first learned about haiku, I also learned that a cinquain was a five-line poem, or five-line stanza. So? I thought. Cinquains, sestets, septets, what’s with all the line counting? What I didn’t learn until much later — way after I tried writing haiku — is that there’s a specific, syllable-counting poetic form called a cinquain. So there’s cinquain general, and there’s cinquain specific.

The cinquain specific, created by American poet Adelaide Crapsey, consists of five lines (usually unrhymed) totaling 22 syllables. The breakdown of syllables per line is as follows: 2 / 4 / 6 / 8 / 2. The form is now known as the American cinquain. In creating this form, Crapsey was influenced by Japanese forms such as the haiku and tanka.

The moment I read my first American cinquain, I fell in love with its form. I was particularly drawn to the buildup and then the final, abrupt 2-syllable line. Feeling that I couldn’t express myself well in haiku’s 17 syllables, I tried writing cinquains.

To me, at least, the difference was astonishing. With just 5 extra syllables, I felt I could say so much more. Plus, as I stated earlier, I love the abruptness or finality of those two final syllables.

Here are four of my cinquains. The first three were inspired by plants or animals I saw while hiking. The fourth was inspired by my attempt to weave a Japanese bamboo bundle basket . . . a tricky process.

        to buttercup
        and learn: tightly coiled
        is not the way to view the world.

        life drove me wild,
        a glut of noise and nuts.
        In the forest I hear myself


        In this
        tangled thicket
        where twisted branches twine,
        the path is not for those who crave
        straight line.

        bundle basket
        sits quietly, waiting
        for my next move before springing

For me, the cinquain is a form that now comes naturally. I use it often. But in my exploration of syllable-count poems, I also learned about the tanka and the fib, both of which I’ll write about later.