Monday, August 09, 2010

Monday Poetry Stretch - Same Sound, Different Meaning

Homonyms, homophones, homographs ... what's the difference? I learned the word homonym in grade school for words that sound the same but have different meanings. You can find a nice discussion at

Why the ruminations? After reading a poem by Brenda Hillman I started thinking about the interesting ways a poem could be constructed with such words. Here's an excerpt of the poem.
Cleave and Cleave
by Brenda Hillman

The lifeguards have gone in for the season;
their stilted chair
still looks out like an egret on the strip of sand
that's cluttered with artifacts; one thong,
sun-lotion bottles, the sunken
pockets of fottsteps filled with trash.
I stop on the cliff and stare down at the lake
that builds its private character in the off-season,
imagine sunbathers skiing now,
taking their introverted goldness
down the bright slopes.

In the parking lot,
a young couple embraces, coming from
the shoulders of the lawn with picnic remnants,
and finding their Buick he presses her against it
and she tilts her sun hat toward him so it
catches the light like a last
phase of the moon--she knew
it would do that--

Read the poem in its entirety.
What can you do with words that sound the same but have different meanings? That is your challenge. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.


  1. This is not a new poem; it's one I wrote for Zoe Ryder White's Heinemann book - PLAYING WITH POEMS.


    It's true
    that to
    and too
    and two
    are spoken just the same.

    To tells where.
    Too means also.
    Two is more than one by one.

    And when you talk
    it's good to know
    they sound alike.
    But when you write
    it isn't right
    to mix them up.
    Go slow.

    To Mom,
    I'd like two cookies
    for myself
    and two for teddy too.

    (Your mom will think
    you've learned so much
    she may give them to you.)

    © Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
    (The Poem Farm)

  2. Dower and Dour

    I suppose being widowed
    has its perks.
    I get to choose the movies,
    the music, which friends to have tea with.
    I no longer hear the same stories, jokes.
    I do not have to fake interest
    in computer languages, German philosophers,
    the small bones in bird wings.
    But perkiness is no longer
    in my vocabulary.
    The dowager in her own house
    watches alone while the new young king
    makes the rules and fingers the jewels
    that once were hers.
    That might seem a relief to some.
    But I feel each day as a dour ache,
    louring skies, the promise of rain,
    apres moi les deluge.

    © 2010 Jane Yolen All Rights Reserved

  3. Oh, Jane. I must say it: you are, always will be, queen of the writing world.

  4. I'm intrigued by words that have different meanings when they're different parts of speech. I've used a pair of those here, plus a more traditional set of homophones.

    Stealing Away

    You steal across the room,
    shoes hanging from one hand
    like thieves from the gallows,
    leaving as if it might matter.

    I suspect you think my heart
    is made of cotton candy,
    but you're wrong about that.
    You're wrong about everything.

    My heart is made of Kevlar
    wrapped around steel
    and I smile between the lashes
    of sleep, pretending to breathe

    while you creep out,
    defining yourself as smugly
    as a dictionary entry once
    and for all as a creep.

    --Kate Coombs, 2010, all rights reserved

  5. A Mussel's Muscle

    The lowly mussel
    enshrouded in shell
    stood on a stone
    awaiting the sea.

    Fiercer than God
    the ocean raged in,
    backed by the wind -
    a two-pronged attack.

    Defenseless and small,
    without any weapons,
    the mussel entrenched,
    prepared for the fray.

    The enemy charged,
    pounding and blowing,
    crushing and swamping.
    The mussel held firm.

    Frantic and frenzied
    the wind twisted madly.
    The ocean tsunamied.
    The earth heaved in pain.

    The bivalve stood bravely,
    foot locked in a vacuum.
    The stone was its home.
    It refused to be moved.

    And still the brutes battered.
    They blasted and slathered
    in efforts unending.
    They surged and they quaked

    until finally spent,
    weak-kneed and weary,
    the ocean receded.
    The wind died away.

    And the mussel stood tall
    on that same bit of stone,
    its calcified shield
    a bit scarred and bent -

    just a lowly mussel
    enshrined in a shell,
    saved by the muscle
    of a slim byssal thread.

    ~~Barbara J. Turner

  6. My meager attempt:

    Non Cents

    A kind of kindness
    knows no meanness.
    I mean to say
    I'm bound by rules.
    I bound by schools
    on bouncy buses
    though I man
    the man's brick trusses.
    I sense this pen
    makes no sense.
    So sew with pins
    to make some cents.
    I'm not a traitor
    of the word,
    just a trader
    of the world.