Introducing Couplinks

BULLETIN: A reminder that today IRA released online the 4th edition of CHILDRENS LITERATURE IN THE READING PROGRAM. I wrote the first chapter: “Poetry, the Write Thing to Do,” which was greatly enriched with poems by Jane Yolen, Kenn Nesbitt, and April Halprin Wayland, plus an embedded video of 5th grade boys reading poetry to kindergarten students, provided by Patricia Cooley, and a delightful quote by Joyce Sidman. Here’s the link.

Hi everyone,
David publicity photo

One of my favorite games involving poetry is when a group of people (poets are people too) face an audience, each armed with one or more books of poems in front of them. Someone starts by reading a poem. All others scramble for a poem that connects in some way to the first, no matter how tenuous or downright preposterous that connection might be. Which leaves the group flipping pages in search of the next connection to offer. The game continues until time is up. Sometimes sheets are passed out to audience members so they can choose poems and participate in the blast too. This is a good exercise to play in classrooms too. When we release the ham in students, they can be surprisingly witty and spontaneous.

So here’s an idea that springs from the poetry blast game. I’m posting a couplet and you, if you wish to accept, are challenged to write your own couplet that is linked in some way — according to you — to mine. If we have more than one couplet posted, participating poets may select their choice of couplets to link to. Thus the term COUPLINK. Here’s your prompt.

Too slow the fly, too late to scram,
Too quick the hand, too soon the wham.

From that I deduce that this fly is in trouble. It’s in a fix, in a jam, in a pickle. Pickle! Did someone say pickle? Aha! There’s more than one kind of pickle. So here’s my couplink.

Call me picky, call me fickle,
I won’t eat no chocolate pickle.

Or maybe I think the fly got the worst end of the bargain in the original poem so I decide to couplink by giving the story a happier ending, fly-wise.

Too quick the fly, too soon the scram,
Too slow the hand, too late the wham.

In which case I might focus on the noun, fly, which can also be a verb, and decide to couplink with your couplink thusly:

Gone are the days when I loved to go flying,
Replaced by discomfort, frustration, and sighing.

Your turn. Start with the fly poem and find your own couplink.

Interview by Matt Forrest

BULLETIN: I’m pleased to appear today on Matt Forrest’s blog. Here’s the link. . Many thanks, Matt. It’s a pleasure.

Hi everyone,

Yesterday I promised an example of working a chain of words into a poem in verse. Here it is, beginning with the list:


Here’s the poem that doesn’t rhyme.

The drop hangs
from the kid’s nose
like the lip of a faucet,
glistening wet, unable
to slip off and fall.
I yearn to grab a rag
and rip it off! Instead
I sip my drink and stare,
wishing that drop would drip!

And here’s one that does.

I’m minding my business
Sipping ice tea
When I hear a loud sniff
From a kid about three.

A drop is just hanging
From the tip of his nose
Like the lip of a faucet,
Like dew on a rose.

Glistening wetly
High on his lip,
It’s wanting to fall
But unable to slip.

I look for a tissue
To rip it away,
It’s driving me crazy,
It’s ruining my day.

I reach for my beverage
And slurp a loud sip,
I can’t stand the pressure.
That drop just won’t drip!

Making a poem from a word chain

Hi everyone,

Here’s how I put Tim Rasinski’s approach to work. I chose a word and, by changing one letter at a time, created a short list. Like this.


Tim would have kept changing until he wound up back at the original word but I didn’t go that far.

The poem uses each word in the ladder. I chose free verse but you might prefer to go with rhyme.

Something about a fox
makes a dog run,
howl like a spirit on the wind,
till dusk deepens
and the fox by now
has vanished into gray fog,
resting comfortably,
lying low behind a log.

The other “new” form

Hi everyone,

What got the conversation started yesterday about my fish poem was a note from Renee La Tulippe about a different poem, the one about a trombone, which I recorded as a video for her NO WATER RIVER The poem originally appeared in POETRY FRIDAY ANTHOLOGY, another great collection of poems published by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong.

Renee and a poet colleague got to looking at the structure of the poem and asked if it were original with me. Again, I admitted that it was something that seemed appropriate at the time and was written without being aware that there is such a form although there well might be. Here’s the poem.

by David L. Harrison

I play a slide trombone,
my teacher says I’m flat,
I’m not as good as I’d like to be
but there’s nothing to do about that.

I play the slide trombone,
at least I’m not the worst,
I’m one chair up from the guy who’s last,
25 chairs from first.

My teacher says I’m flat,
I sound all right to me.
First chair practices every night,
when does he watch tv?

I’m not as good as I’d like,
a trombone is not easy,
even guys I like a lot,
say I make them queasy.

I play a slide trombone,
my teacher says I’m flat,
I’m not as good as I’d like to be
but there’s nothing to do about that.

For this one I repeated lines 1, 2, and 3 from the first stanza in descending order to begin each of the following three stanzas. Rather than start the fifth stanza with the original line 4, I chose to repeat the entire first stanza because it made more sense than opening that quatrain with “but there’s nothing to do about that.”

I might try another one of these to see if I can pull off a repetition of all four lines of the first stanza. It will help to give all four lines of these stanzas the same number of stressed syllables. In this case I set a pattern of 3-3-4-3, which got me in trouble when it was time to repeat line three as the lead line in stanza four. Going with all trimeter or all tetrameter lines would work better.

Call this a work in progress. If I do a better one later, I’ll get back to you with it. If someone beats me to it, I’ll look forward to seeing the result!


Word of the Month for July is . . .

BULLETIN: My mistake about the July Word of the Month word. Don Barrett already supplied the word, which is BOWL. Thanks to Cory Corrado for reminding me of my error. I’ve been on the road all day so just now am able to set the record straight. In the meantime, J. Patrick Lewis supplied us with a freedom inspired, powerful poem. So my error resulted in a gem that we might not have enjoyed otherwise. Good for me! Good for Cory. Good for Pat!

Hi everyone,

I’m on the road tomorrow so here’s the Word of the Month for July one day early. It’s FREEDOM. Let’s see how many ways you can be inspired by this one word. I’m eager to find out.

And don’t forget about our Poetry Theme of the Month for July: RELATIVES.

Lots of great material in these two words!