Monday, August 03, 2015

Monday Poetry Stretch - Timeline Poem

So, this isn't really a form, but I can't think of any other way to describe this. I have a number of books I regularly use for inspiration and guidance as I write poetry. One of these books is A Note Slipped Under the Door: Teaching From Poems We Love, written by Nick Flynn and Shirley McPhillips. In the chapter on list poems (the chapter that gives the book its title) is this example.

by Homero Aridjis

On cold mornings the ducks
slide across the ice
after the dry bread
thrown to them by the little girl

In the afternoon
the hungry ducks
cross the street
against the traffic

At night the ducks
nestle beside the frozen canal
they scarcely move
their green heads

At dawn the ducks
sleep beneath the mist
which cover the man
the dog and the stone alike

Though ostensibly a list poem, I love the arrangement of this series of moments in time, hence my term "timeline" poem. Your challenge this week is to write a poem that describes a series of events over some span of time. I hope you'll join me this week in writing a timeline poem. Please share a link to your poem or the poem itself in the comments.


  1. Hi, Tricia! Happy August and thanks for the stretch--this is the perfect TIME to write a poem I've been planning about my recently dispatched collection of old watches. Wish I could post the photo I took…

    Don't Believe Me Just Swatch

    NYC 1986
    sidewalk knockoff
    of subway art
    radiant, baby, in black and red
    Thanks, Keith

    London 94 and love is all around
    on a Sunday I buy a new watch,
    wear it to some weddings
    but no one we know needs a funeral
    we’re lucky

    1996 is a timetumbler
    between continents in the air
    weightless over oceans
    repatriated, do I come out more

    Caterpillar Classroom 2001
    sewing machine runs in fits and starts
    patches of orangecoralpink & one red heart
    4-year-olds keep me in stitches:
    Mother’s Day quilt for my wrist

    --Heidi Mordhorst 2015
    all rights reserved

  2. When History Was Happening Elsewhere

    In 1556 Dublin, Eva Winter watched her cottage
    go up in flames as an Oxford executioner lighted
    the twigs under the stake that held the treasonous
    Archbishop of Canterbury.

    In 1662 London, Cheeky Willingford snuffed out
    a street candle in Piccadilly Circus as Samuel Pepys
    witnessed the first Punch and Judy show.

    In 1743 River Running, a Pottawatomie, roasted
    venison over a wood fire in what is now northern
    Indiana while a mother in hard labor was giving
    birth to the third president of the United States.

    In 1813 the sister of Napoleon’s wife’s first cousin
    so startled her maid that the poor girl cut her thumb
    at the very moment the first pineapples were being
    planted in Hawaii.

    In 1889 the Chevigny twins slept with their sheep
    and their dog, Luna, under the starry night that inspired
    a fevered Van Gogh in Saint-Remy ten miles away.

    In 1969 under a full and populated moon, ten-year-old
    Ajax Hopper saw a white rainbow—the moonbow—
    curve over Cumberland Falls, Kentucky.

    J. Patrick Lewis

  3. What great poems, Heidi and J. Patrick! Like J. Patrick, I'm thinking about the large and the small together.


    At dawn the glass ball
    on my desk is the colors of the sea,
    trying to be a small earth
    and failing even
    when I spin it in my hands.

    At noon the world turns
    like a dancer, her waist
    going 1,000 miles an hour,
    her head and feet
    barely moving.

    Mid-afternoon, a hummingbird
    circles the columbine. Its flowers
    are shaped like shooting stars.

    Evening, and the sun
    strides down the sky,
    dressed in red and gold.
    I turn from my work
    to watch him go.

    —Kate Coombs, 2015
    all rights reserved

  4. I like the way that, in all these poems, the small instant can't help but connect to the bigger moment. Most enjoyable, Pat and Kate!

  5. Heidi, exactly! I once participated in a writing workshop where we wrote a short life history in terms of just one kind of item, like your watches. I chose couches and it was a lot of fun. It would be a good writing activity for kids.

  6. Waking Up In Scotland, A Timeline

    A single magpie screams its greeting,
    bullying the grass.

    Cushet doos mourn the morning,
    crash of wings.

    Dawn chorus begins in cacophony,
    ends in symphony.

    The weak sun crawls
    through resisting window glass.

    I cough harshly, stretch, out of time,
    wake myself up.

    ©2015 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

  7. 1987

    Meredith Parker shares tongue lashings
    With Shaun Atkins in back of school bus.
    Their heat fights off winter winds outside their
    Foggy window. I watch in heartbreak.

    Groups of scrunchie haired, umbro shorts wearing,
    Field hockey teenagers, flirt with acne dotted, underdeveloped,
    Baseball players at summer camp. Each girl ignores
    My pleading eyes, desperate for affirmation.
    Another missed connection.

    Bundles of mustachioed gentleman of a certain age
    laugh as my dad forces me to get my earlier haircut erased by
    the barber. I sit, red-faced with embarrassment, not saying a word.
    Inside my soul I scream in frustration. This was not the kind
    of attention I was hoping for.

    (c) Charles Waters 2015 all rights reserved.

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