One Egg–The Poetry Sisters Play With an Exquisite Corpse Poem

Happy Poetry Friday! (Wondering what Poetry Friday is? Click here.) It was so great to host last weekend, and thank you for all the kind comments and encouragement for my forthcoming picture book and virtual launch party! In case you missed it–or as a reminder–Please come to my book launch event, where we’ll write a collaborative We Belong poem together and I’ll share a template to use with students.

So. This month, we played with an Exquisite Corpse poem. (Read about them here.) Liz wrote our first line, and she passed it along to just one person, who wrote another line. Each of us ONLY saw the line written by the person before us, with no idea of what came before. We were going to use that as our raw material. Here’s what we had:

This month, odd one out, running short on days and sleep, (Liz)
This month, past meets pride, roots ripped from native soil still somehow grow. (Tanita)
The once-bright future dims. Shadows grow (Kelly)
But there, near canyon  rim, in  broken light (Sara)
the yearling hawk shrieked in futile fury (Andi)
and the steel-edged clouds looked away (Laura)
trees bow and bend on a blustery day (Tricia)
that rattles old oak leaves down the street. (Mary Lee)

And here’s what I ended up with. (Scroll down if you want more writing process stuff :>)


Writing Process Stuff

During our live writing session last Sunday, I decided to write an etheree (10 lines, 1, 2, 3, etc. syllables). I just picked a word or two from each poet’s line and was thinking about gun violence, social justice, poverty and…

  1. Short
  2. tempers.
  3. Too much pride.
  4. Broken future.
  5. The young shriek in rage,
  6. but the clouds look away.
  7. Can we somehow bow and grow?
  8. Can we send old

Too preachy and abstract.

Then I tried draft 2, zeroing in on that hawk:

  1. In
  2. its nest,
  3. the hawk waits.
  4. An unhatched egg
  5. lies in the shadows.
  6. Hopes have broken open,
  7. but this one odd egg stays whole.
  8. The hawk shrieks into the bluster
  9. of wind that bends the rattling oak tree.
  10. Even the clouds look away from the grief.

I was getting ready for a week’s worth of school visits (waving hi to you now from Albert Lea, Minnesota!) and was going to share that draft. But Monday morning, I woke up knowing I needed at least a tiny bit of something less literal. And daffodils. A tiny hint of life at the end of a poem of grief. So here’s draft 3, which is what’s in the image poem above.

  1. Perched
  2. in sticks,
  3. the hawk waits—
  4. its unhatched egg
  5. like a shadowed rock.
  6. Whole eggshell; broken hopes.
  7. She shrieks into the fury
  8. of wind rattling the tree. Flight seems
  9. an impossible dream. Rocks don’t fly.
  10. The clouds pour their grief into daffodils.

I realized as I wrote draft 3 that I had a word count wrong in draft 2, even though I use the numbers as I write and keep counting on my fingers!

Anyway, I like draft 3 better, with its touch of internal rhyme (seems/dream, hawk/rock), its harsh /k/ sounds in the first half, and those daffodils–something alive, finally–at the end.

Check out what everyone else came up with, all starting from the raw material of those same exquisite corpse lines. I am so interested to see what everyone did! Because I’m traveling to different elementary schools all week, I won’t be able to add links until later. But you’ll find them in your Poetry Friday travels, I’m sure :>) [Edited to add: up super early on Friday, so links are here, though they might not all be live yet–enjoy!]

Mary Lee

Want to write with us in March? We’re writing ekphrastic dodoitsu! Don’t be scared. I have no idea what dodoitsu are, either, but we can all learn about them here. We’re sharing photos within our small group to be inspired by, but you can choose any image you like. Here are the images I contributed, because dodoitsu are apparently often clever and/or funny. These pics in my scroll amused me. We’ll share our poems on Mar. 25th, and you can, too! If you share on social media, use the hashtag #PoetryPals. This should be fun!

Apple slice? Not exactly
Usually, I lose a piece, not gain one.

And click here to see all our previous Poetry Princesses collaborations. 

The Poetry Friday Roundup this week is my Poetry Sister Tricia. The past rattling down the street in her poem has been rattling around in my head. Something about those words paints such a vivid image in my head!


16 Responses

  1. The hawk gets the spotlight once again! This time, my heart broke with her, but those daffodils at the end…I’ll never look at them in the same way. GORGEOUS! (And thanks for sharing your process!)

  2. You’re SO good at sharing your process. And the images! An egg as a flightless rock—oh, the pain. And yet—there is some hope at the end, in those daffodils.…

  3. I love seeing your process — thanks for sharing your drafts with us so we can see the evolution from inspiration to finished poem. I do love the daffodils — we always need to look for hope .…

  4. Thanks for taking us on the poem’s journey, Laura! I especially love your last line. I can see the daffodils sharing in the sorrow, but at the same time they bring a message of hope and happiness.

  5. I’m just amazed that even though you had a limited word count you could use (I find it heartening that someone else has such a hard time wrangling etherees as well) the hawk endured! I am chuckling that I think it’s survived in each poem. Yours is SO different, but it works and I love the daffodils.

  6. “The clouds pour their grief into daffodils.” Oh, my heart. That line will stay with me and sing every time I see a daffodil. Thank you for sharing your drafts and your process. I love seeing the poems develop.

  7. Laura, thanks for sharing your process. It helps me key in on ideas that make you revise. I do think revision is a key. You identified areas of concern with such precision. I do like the #3 version and so happy the hawk appeared. What I offer today is a an adaptation of an Exquisite Corpse poem since I did not contact colleagues verbally or via Zoom. My version works for me so I would love to hear your thoughts on it. Thanks.

  8. Oh, wow, that egg-as-rock, Laura. This is just stunning and so emotionally evocative. And that hawk — I love what a talisman he became in so many of the poems!

  9. Add me to the admirer of, “the clouds pour their grief into the daffodils.” That is such a strong, beautiful image.

  10. Thank you for your poem, for the brightness of the daffodils in the dark of loss and grief. And I love seeing your progression in your drafts, plus your explanation. Glad you have had school visits with some lucky students.

  11. Have a marvelous time at your FIRST outing, Laura. I am loving all these poems, and as others have written, “pouring grief into daffodils” feels like we are all in need of that. Watching the news because I must but feel I need to. Thanks for a great poem & showing your thinking!

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