Four Forever, and Help Needed with Names

Happy Poetry Friday! Welcome, everyone! (Wondering what Poetry Friday is? Click here.)

Two things first:

Teachers, before I move on to my Poetry Friday post, I need your help! I’m revising a picture book and need to find names for several kid characters whose families come from different areas in the world. The kids are not the main characters, but the main characters mention the kids by name. And the kids will be in the illustrations. I want names that are NOT the MOST common name and therefore perhaps a stereotype, but names that are common enough to be recognizable to people of that background. If you’re a teacher and can share given names of students you’ve known over the years and have seen the names at least a couple of times, I’d be so grateful! Or if you can answer from your own personal circle of family and friends, wonderful! I keep getting mired in research, but so many names are used as both surnames and given names and are also gender neutral that it’s tough to come up with names that hint at a clear background and gender. And plenty of non-specific names will be used, too. Specifically, I’m looking for suggestions from the following cultures. (Others are represented but already taken care of.) Multiple suggestions welcome, as these will appear in poems and sometimes I need particular sounds or syllable counts. 

  • girl — East Asia — India
  • girl — Japan
  • boy — China
  • girl — Saudi Arabia
  • girl — Native American
  • boy or girl — Nigeria

Thank you so much!

And any Poetry Friday friends who know April Pulley Sayre or simply love her work, she is facing extraordinary medical challenges. If you’d like to contribute a page TODAY with a few words or a beautiful nature image for a virtual book Liz Garton Scanlon and I are putting together, please go here. And if you’d like to contribute to the nonprofit nature conservancy she and her husband Jeff are starting, you can learn more (and a bit more about the medical crisis) here. I know April and her beautiful books have influenced many of us. Here’s a chance to show our care, appreciation, and love.

Okay–hello again! I’m so excited. So. Excited. In 2021, my Poetry Sisters and I are trying something new. We wrote together. Live. Online, but still. All seven of our faces together on one screen. It was magical. 

Our prompt for our January poem was to be inspired by words from our birth year, via the Merriam-Webster Time Traveler: 

As we all Muted and went to writing for 35 minutes, I browsed my list of words and copied out the ones that resonated with me in some way:

  • bullet train
  • bunny slope
  • cold call
  • cost effective
  • domino effect
  • found poem
  • freak out
  • gorp
  • instant replay
  • lovebug
  • mind-blowing
  • multi-tasking
  • ripple effect
  • street smart
  • unlinked

And then I began writing. I went free verse, and my poem turned out to be about my arrival in my family–which makes sense since I was thinking about my birth year. My first draft had maybe 7 or 8 of these words, but with each draft, I lost a word, it seemed. I didn’t want them to be quite so obvious, so if they didn’t fit in at least a little bit organically, I tossed them.  “Unlinked” was the word I kind of started with, thinking about how in 1966, I unlinked my body from my mom’s body. But that word didn’t even end up staying in the poem. In our discussion afterward, Liz Garton Scanlon commented on how even the words that didn’t stay in the poem delivered (ha!) the poem to me. I love that.

Here’s what I ended up with (draft 5). Might like to play with this one some more!



I can’t wait to see what my Poetry Sisters came up with. We didn’t share our drafts in our Zoom. We just chatted a bit about how we were finding our way in to a poem. Fascinating to hear everyone’s approaches!



Click here to see all our previous Poetry Princesses collaborations. 

Want to try our next month’s challenge and post with us? We’d love for you to join us! Here’s the plan: Whenever you’re ready to write, roll a set of metaphor dice and write a poem inspired by your metaphor. If you don’t have metaphor dice, try an online metaphor generator, like this one: Then share your poem on Feb 26 in a post and/or on social media — #PoetryPals. Hope you’ll join us on Feb 26!

And clever and wonderful Jan Annino is rounding up Poetry Friday. Make sure to visit!




22 Responses

  1. I adore this poem, and given that a colleague just gave birth to a baby this morning, there’s something about “I broke my nine-month lease” that speaks to me. (It may have even made me giggle.) Sisters are awesome.

  2. Laura, I think the Poetry Sisters’ challenge for this month is very clever collaborative venture with time for independent work, and a sweet surprise at the end. This would be a very idea for remote learning. Your poem is nostalgic, filled with linked family moments. If I have time next month, I would love to join your Poetry Sisters for a rousing good time.
    Girl name (Indian): Saira (I know someone with this name. It means princess.

  3. Hi dear Laura!
    Your sweet & inventive poem “Four Forever.” Melts my heart. So many word gifts: “broke my nine-month-lease,” “daisy chain of sisters.” You are Poet Extraordinaire & I feel fortunate to call you Friend. xo ~~ Jan
    ps Such a groovy, loving foto!!!

  4. Laura, I used a Nigerian girl’s image on my book Sunshine and I’m racking my brain to remember her name. It was so unique. I think it was “Mimo” but I’m going to try to find out today at school. I love your poem about sisters. My children are three girls, so your poem resonated with me. I love “Each new art rippled around my daisy chain of sisters.”

    1. Haha–well, I write fast. Sometimes I write crap fast. Sometimes I write okay stuff fast :>) Thanks, Kat!

  5. Awww. Those bathrobe/nightgown situations are so cute! So reminiscent of an entire era. I think my second favorite line is “an unwanted cold call, interrupting dinner.” That, also, is simply redolent of another time! (We weren’t allowed to answer the phone during dinner, though.) My first favorite line is the simple last statement, “We wove ourselves into a family.” Lovely.

  6. Love the poem, Laura, birth like an “Like an unwanted cold call.” I had three older brothers, so such different environments we were born into. I often think about birth order and gender. My eldest brother and I have totally different perspectives.

  7. That photo is adorable! I think I can see exactly which one has your brilliant smile. 🙂 I especially like how you “fiercely hugged each other out of trouble. Every time.” Triple trouble sisters! That where you get your spunk. 😉

    1. I’m the youngest, and I think I just look rather bewildered here! But my sisters definitely gifted me some spunk!

  8. “Four Forever” lovely wordplay and woven lines creating your forever bond–and I love “daisy chain of sisters–I can see the flower chain weaving between you, thanks!
    Here’s a few Japanese girl names– from friends of mine, Kazuko, Asami, and Akemi.

  9. What a colorful post with the highlights of joy, sadness and your time-traveler poem. I love it!
    First, some names:
    girl – East Asia – India. Ankita, Lata, Nijia
    boy – China–Dan-wei, Hui Wu
    girl – Saudi Arabia
    girl – Native American
    boy or girl – Nigeria–biblical concepts like Praise, Honor, Amen

    Next, your poem is wonderful. What a treasure to have sisters. I didn’t discover how valuable my treasure of two sisters was until after our mother passed. It’s really special. Your first line is funny…and true. Kind of like having sisters.

    1. Thank you, Linda, for names and nice comments. I wouldn’t have made it through my childhood without my sisters!

  10. Beautiful to see you & your sisters in that picture, one I think everyone has, robes & nighties on Christmas, and I love the “instant replay” among all the other words you included from your list. What fun to do a zoom together, then write! I need to look up my list! Thank you!

  11. This portrait of sisterhood made me teary (though I have brothers, not sisters). I love the idea of using those words from your birth year, too. Saving the site for later (from an earlier Poetry Sisters blog post I read this morning). Ruth,

  12. What a lovely tribute to your sisters. I definitely want to explore the Time Traveler site–what a fun idea for inspiration. And thank you for the invitation to play along with you with the metaphor dice, especially the link to the online ones.

  13. Your ‘Four Forever’ poem is a glorious celebration of sisterhood and family ties, Laura! I’m a 1966 baby, too, but the 10th of 10 (7th girl!). My siblings and I “burped the alphabet” more often than my mother appreciated! 🙂

  14. No idea where my first comment went, but I adore this. It’s one of my favorite poems of yours, ever. So personal, so fun, so poignant. The phrasing is precise, and the emo raw, and it’s gorgeous.

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