Friday, December 30, 2022

Poetry Sisters Write "Box"-Inspired Poems

For our last challenge of 2022, we let the word box inspire our poems. I made a long list of phrases that included the word box and hoped I would find some inspiration there. Two items on that list really stood out for me. One was "tackle box." I have fond memories of poking around in my father's tackle box while we were fishing. The other was a button box, which immediately reminded me of this.

This old candy tin was my grandmother's button "box." It was the one I spent hours playing with when I was young because "children were meant to be seen and not heard." 

I also thought a lot about the shape of a box and wondered if I could write a poem in the shape of a box (or square). I did some searching and found that Lewis Carroll wrote in a poetic form where the number of words per line is equal to the total number of lines in the poem. What's challenging about this square poem is that each of the six lines was meant to be read horizontally OR vertically from top to bottom. Here is the poem Carroll wrote.

I Often Wondered

I often wondered when I cursed,
Often feared where I would be –
Wondered where she’d yield her love
When I yield, so will she.
I would her will be pitied!
Cursed be love! She pitied me…

It's a bit easier to see how this works in the image below.

I decided to give this form a go. I started with 6x6 and found it incredibly difficult to write a poem that made sense across all the lines. Frustrated, I tried a 5x5 and then a 4x4. Ultimately, I landed on a 3x3 and wrote two stanzas. This isn't what Carroll had in mind, but I'm a rule-breaker. I did use the word box in my poem, so I feel as though I met the challenge posed.

I created a grid to aid in writing my poem. It helped align the words and made reading the horizontal and vertical lines much easier.
Here's another way to read the poem. I've highlighted the words in various ways to make the vertical lines stand out. Even though the poem is actually 2 individual square poems linked by a theme, I quite like the way the 6 words across the stanzas work together to create 3 entirely new lines. I did cheat with the singular/plural form of button(s). I'm not sure "buttons box" works, but there you have it. 

Sorting Grandma’s buttons
Grandma’s buttons box
Buttons box bounty

Assorted beautiful buttons
Beautiful buttons speak
Buttons speak history

Poem ©Tricia Stohr-Hunt, 2022. All rights reserved.

I am still working on a tackle box poem and hope to share that soon. In the meantime, if you are into nerdy mathematical poetry connections, I came across a conference paper while researching square poems that I am fascinated with. You may be too. It is entitled Graeco-Latin Square Poems.

You can read the pieces written by my Poetry Sisters at the links below. 

    I hope you'll take some time to check out all the wonderful poetic things being shared and collected today by Patricia Franz at Reverie. Happy poetry Friday, friends!


    1. Holy cow! The horizontal/vertical element gives a crazy new layer to the box poem prompt! This is amazing and I'm so impressed by your button poem. I have a special place in my heart for button boxes. I was fascinated with my nana's growing up. It was a wooden Lane (furniture) cedar box; I still have it, and many of the buttons it had in it. Thank you for sharing your process this week. Happy New Year, Tricia!

    2. Love it! (And I can't wait for the tackle box poem!!) I was inspired to try a Lewis Carroll box poem and managed a 4x4! They are hard, but rewarding. I wish I would have saved more of my mom's buttons...20-20 hindsight. Sigh.

    3. This is so intricate and tricky and wonderful. It's the "buttons speak history" line for me -- wow!

    4. Geez. This looks impossible. To be fair, I don't think Carroll's works all that well, so maybe I'm just not the audience for it. Like Liz, I love that final line of your button box poem. Thanks for sharing your process!

    5. This poem is a Rubik's cube! Thank you for breaking it down for you (and many a poet!) I think I may be too right-brained for this kind of restraint/constraint. I just want to poke holes in the box. xo

    6. Oh, what fun! I love the "button box bounty"! I'm not sure I have the patience to try it, but the form definitely intrigues me, as does the topic. I'm also not sure what I'm saving buttons for, but I have a collection, too. Happy New Year!

    7. Wow, Tricia, that is impressive! I like all those Bs, which sound musical.

    8. YOU DID IT! These Carroll poems are intensely hard but I love how you always have a spreadsheet for these things; thank you, that actually helps a great deal, because spatial things are not always my jam. I feel like I could ...MAYBE... do this sometime? Maybe.

      I can't wait to see what you do with the tacklebox.
      Also, I have two button bins like that, but they were round baskets that started coming apart. I need to order some hard candies in a big metal bin... strictly so I have a new home for the buttons, of course. ☺

    9. I made a spreadsheet to organize mine, too, but I didn't hold myself to a very high standard. Yours, on the other hand, actually works, Tricia! And I'm another who's partial to the object and my memories of a specific button box/jar/tin. So much tactile exploration for us young ones, and that feeling of bounty in our hands! Happy New Year to you and yours!

    10. Wow, Tricia, this is amazing, & seems far more intricate than a palindrome poem though it reminds me of that challenge. Carroll's is quite something & I enjoyed reading about your own process, wonder if it will become easier with practice. I do love that line, as others do, "buttons speak history". I have one grandmother's button basket & two huge mason jars from my mother-in-law. Like me and I guess my mother, my grandchildren played with these. Did you know that there is a National Button Society, among others in the world? I read somewhere that some have 3 or more generations in the groups. Thanks for ALL the post. Happy New Year!

    11. I loved looking at your process! Wow! So cool. And we have a button box from those old tins.

    12. I adore your poem and a peek into your process. My grandmother's button box was the same for me...just a magical bounty to play with. I was equally happy and sad that my youngest cousin inherited it. I'll probably never see that button box again. But, I'm glad my cousin valued it enough to keep it as a memory and heirloom.

    13. My MIL who passed last year had multiple button boxes. I'm not sure any of those buttons will ever find their way to a garment again, but I love the way you blend the possibilities of boxes and buttons together in the same poem. (And I bow to your mighty attempt to make this form work. Do NOT suggest it for 2023, however, haha!)