Waiting for News

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

So, this month, our Poetry Princess challenge was a byr a thoddaid, a Welsh form.  Last Thursday, my husband and I went on a road trip to see Tears for Fears in Chicago! Awesome concert. On the way, I wrote or worked on several poems for various things, including the poem for today. I don’t know exactly why this topic came to me, except that several friends have received scary medical news, either about themselves or family members, recently. I wanted to write from a child’s point of view, so I decided it would be a child in a family waiting to hear news about a mom, who’s ill.

Here’s what I came up with, and a few process notes follow the poem:

I knew I wanted two rhyming pairs, and “sick” immediately came to mind. I wrote the final, 6‑syllable line first. I liked the feeling of dread and suspense. In thinking about how the time waiting for medical news is worse (for me, anyway) than at least getting an answer, I thought of time freezing and flying by. So then I wrote the third line, which is 10 syllables and has the rhyme for the last line in the 8th syllable.

Now…how to set up this moment? I was thinking of my own childhood and my husband’s, too. Back then, phones had cords…sometimes very long cords, so you could carry the phone with you, around the corner and down the dark hall to try to have at least a semi-private conversation. So I decided to use the words “hall” and “call.” I didn’t want to date the experience by identifying corded phones, etc., but I thought a parent trying to have a quiet conversation in a house busy with kids might slip down the hall. And those kids might huddle near the doorway, trying to find out what’s going on. Here’s the longhand draft, and I added 1st, 2nd, etc., to show the order of writing and the revision I made to the first line. I notice I also changed “And” to “Then” at the start of the last line.


Our live write was on Father’s Day, and Randy and I were out kite flying and identifying stuff in the Seek app. So, I have no idea what anybody has come up with! I’ll add links as they’re available, though!

Mary Lee


Click here to see all our previous Poetry Princesses collaborations. 

The wonderful Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week, plus a fabulous abecedarian poem of teaching!




12 Responses

  1. So much is shared between the line. We’ve all been there in one form or another. Beautiful catch of this form with these lines.

  2. Always learning from you, Laura! Thank you for sharing a bit about this form and your process. Your poem said all the right things to evoke emotion.

  3. I didn’t keep good process notes like you did, but I definitely remember skipping around from line to line as I wrote, rather than writing sequentially. Your 10 syllable line is powerful. Those extra syllables add to the suspense perfectly!

  4. Thanks for writing about your process; I missed kind of seeing HOW people did this, seeing as I missed the Sunday chat too. Interpreting the “almost” rhymes and end rhymes and the like wasn’t as tricky as it looked from the outside, and I like how yours kind of has that ka-chunk in the end line — the “how sick” is as rattling as a dropped phone (into the cradle, a sound held only in memory these days).

  5. This poem is a gut punch. I appreciate hearing about your process. There are a number of poems I begin from the end lines, but I never even considered doing it with this. I wish I had thought to do this. Your single stanza is beautiful and heartbreaking.

  6. This is so vivid and poignant! So brief yet it gives us an entire scene from beginning to end (ish … because we are left to wonder, what comes next?)

    Thanks for sharing this poem and your process with us! I love getting glimpses into the creative evolution of a poem.

  7. I always love when you share your process. For me, your notes illustrate how this form seems hard until you try it, and then you realize how much wiggle room it gives you. The dread is clear in your poem—and I admire the amount of emotion and suspense you managed in one tight quatrain!

  8. I just wrote about process this week and enjoyed reading about yours! I love how you self-edited and showed what you did. I think ‘middle-agers” such as ourselves have a lot to draw from with our past experience growing up and how life is lived today. Surreptitious phone calls are still made/received as you point out but hiding has become easier. I also like how you used the word dread and not fear. In the past I wrote about the demise of anticipation and dread in today’s world. I now have to go revisit that post. Thanks for sharing your work and inspiration with us!

  9. I read the description of how to write this poem, but appreciate your explanation, too, Laura. You’ve packed a lot of emotion into those four brief lines, took me back to a few times waiting for “How sick?” in my own life. Thanks, hope the weekend is being good to you!

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