Friday, July 01, 2016

Poetry Seven Write "In the Style Of" ... Kay Ryan

Sigh ... I really procrastinated this month and now I'm not so happy with my poem. I guess that's alright. My energy has been focused on summer school, so writing has been coming in fits and starts.

The poem I chose to write in the style of, as did a few of my poetry sisters, is entitled Turtle.

by Kay Ryan

Who would be a turtle who could help it?
A barely mobile hard roll, a four-oared helmet,
she can ill afford the chances she must take
in rowing toward the grasses that she eats.

Read and listen to the poem in its entirety.

I had a hard time settling on a subject. I started a poem on the heron, inspired by a morning walk and watching our local heron wade through the mud near some sunning turtles. It didn't go very far. I also tried mongoose, cockroach, and bat. I suppose this was hard for me because I'm fascinated by these animals and don't see too many drawbacks to their design. I finally settled on the naked mole rat. The poem is entirely too didactic, but I enjoyed working on the internal rhyme in the piece. In fact, I ran it through The Wall Street Journal analyzer. (Props to Laura Purdie Salas for sharing this!) Their algorithm breaks words into component sounds and then groups similar-sounding syllables into rhyme families, which are color-coded. You can learn how they did it at How WSJ Used an Algorithm to Analyze ‘Hamilton’ the Musical. Here's what a portion of my poem looks like.
So, without further ado, here's my first draft, along with a picture of the animal that inspired it. I'm not sure I'll be revisiting this exact one, but I like Ryan's poem as a mentor text and will definitely try to tackle another subject.
Image licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

Naked Mole Rat

Who would be a naked mole rat who could help it?
A wrinkled mess with random whiskers
and excess hair between her toes, she does not know
that beauty escapes her. She’s a prime
example that form follows function. Living
a lifetime underground, it’s no wonder
she is built for digging, skilled in
wielding her prominent teeth and snout
to excavate her route. Fate determined
by birth, she labors for her queen.
Keeping chambers clean, finding food,
minding pups, life is busy enough.
Neither mole nor rat, she’s tough
to define, closer relation to the porcupine.
Despite the strangeness she’s
undeterred, unaware of how absurd
her subterranean life is.

Poem ©Tricia Stohr-Hunt, 2016. All rights reserved.

You can read the poems written by my Poetry Seven compatriots at the links below. Andi's not sharing a poem today, but she's always with us in spirit.
I do hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference. Happy poetry Friday friends!


  1. "Undeterred" and "absurd" are terrific internal rhymes---as are the many others you've woven into this poem. I like it! Don't want to be a mole rat, ever---but you've shown me her life. Mission accomplished.

  2. I'm so envious that you managed the rhyme! I just didn't have it really in me this time. I love this, though. Naked mole rats are ... disturbing. And related to porcupines!? SURREAL!!!

  3. Oooh, this is fun! And, wow, such an odd-looking creature, right? I only glance at images of them because they kind of creep me out.

    Fate determined
    by birth, she labors for her queen.
    Keeping chambers clean, finding food,
    minding pups, life is busy enough.
    Neither mole nor rat, she’s tough

    This is my favorite part of your poem--it's genius! Love that line break of tough/to define. So MUCH to like here. I feel the same way about my poem, though--it feels OK to me, but mostly, I feel like this is a mentor poem to come back to.

  4. What a strange looking creature - but hard working, indeed.


  5. Clearly I have been writing poems in Kay Ryan's
    style for years, these internal rhymes are my signature.
    Yet I didn't know her poems. Bad me!!!

    To Bee or Not To Bee

    There is a certain cant to bees,
    Chanting buzzingly along the beelines.
    Being fuzzed with life, they dance
    to flowers, powering their way
    to enhancing honey. They do not do it
    for fame, nor money, nor to occupy
    their boring lives. They thrive on
    nectar, over hectares of meadow.
    In their living, there is no shadow.

    ©2016 Jane Yolen all rights reserved

    1. I did not know Ryan until this project. It's one of the things I love about writing with others. Just when I start to believe I'm slightly well-read when it comes to poetry, I learn about someone else I should have known!

      Thanks for sharing this poem. I love the internal rhymes.

  6. I learned a lot about naked mole rats from your poem, Tricia--and I love the combination of "undeterred" and "subterranean." Always a good exercise to COPYchange!

  7. Love this. Have never seen a poem for the Naked Mole Rat before, though I did get to see a colony of them at the Singapore Zoo this year.

  8. I think you're being to hard on yourself. This is fabulous, and very Kay Ryan-ish!! Well done!

  9. Love all the renditions of Kay Ryan's style. I have new respect for her poetry and Naked Mole Rats, thanks to your poem. Brava! =)

  10. Wow, even with the elegance of your poem, I am still having trouble feeling sympathy for the poor naked rodent except as she is both undeterred and absurd. There is something wonderful about that rhyme.