Friday, April 26, 2024

Poetry Sisters Write Poems to Unanswerable Questions

This month the Poetry Sisters' challenge was to dream up an unanswerable question and answer it in a poem. For example, in the poem "How Many How Much," Shel Silverstein asked, "How many slams in an old screen door?" 

On our Zoom call Sunday, we spent 5 minutes generating questions on our own, and then we shared them. It gave us a lot of ideas to work with! I tried writing to a couple of different prompts but found that every poem I started wound its way to an answer, which was not the point. Ultimately, I ended up with lots of questions and no answers. 

Ode to Wonder

How many ticks in a grandfather clock?
How many rings in a bell?
How many days in a rotating Earth?
How many pails from a well?

How many songs in 88 keys?
How many drops in the rain?
How many spins on a merry-go-round
How many thoughts in a brain?

Who made the stars?
What makes them shine?
Is there life beyond Earth in space?
Where are lost souls?
When are they found?
Why have they fallen from grace?

The why of the world
is a curious thing
with so many questions to ponder.
Sit down for a bit
and think big things
there's so much for us to wonder.

Poem ©Tricia Stohr-Hunt, 2024. All rights reserved.

You can find the poems shared by my Poetry Sisters at the links below. 

    Would you like to try the next challenge? In May we’re writing in the style of Lucille Clifton and are writing poem about body parts ala "Homage to My Hips." Are you in? Good! You have a month to craft your creation and share it on May 31st in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals. We look forward to reading your poems!  

    In addition to this poem, I have been building a book spine poem each day to celebrate National Poetry Month. I hope you'll pop over to my April 26 post to check it out and explore some of the other poems I've written. If you've been following the Progressive Poem, you might like my April 25 poem, which was inspired by the unfolding plight of the poem's characters.

    This week, Poetry Friday is hosted by Ruth at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town. I hope you'll take some time to check out all the poetic things being shared today. Happy poetry Friday, friends!


    1. You definitely channelled Shel with your poem! I like how you paired two stanzas of questions with a who-what-where-when-why stanza and then a call to wonder. This would make a fantastic mentor poem for other writers!

    2. I love this rhyming question poem. Any one of them could become its own poem. My favorite line is "How many songs in 88 keys" because my mother was a pianist and my brother still is. I'm enjoying your book spine poems and wonder, How many poems in a library of books?

      1. Margaret, that is a fabulous question!

    3. This is so incredibly charming, my students would absolutely love it - I love the idea of sending their minds whirring with these questions!

    4. OOH! How many songs in 88 keys!!! I love it all so much, but "Who are lost souls? Why have they fallen from grace?" is just a question for the ages. Big thinky thinks, lots of grit to chew over. What a great kid-friendly way to teach about thinking.

    5. What a great rhythm. And I love thinking about the "why of the world."

    6. I love this, Tricia, the way it flowed from questions to expanding two questions and then, a wonderful wrap-up! I had a few 'questions' that I used to give my students in order to inspire them to be all kinds of silly or serious when responding. That helped to get them writing, poetry or prose. One I remember is "Why is it called 'after dark' when it is really 'after light'? Wish I could still share all of the sisters' poems now!

      1. What a wonderful question, Linda. I imagine students loved writing to such prompts.

    7. Yep, I kept answering them too. As I did in my rock poem. Sigh. Hard to get away from. I love this list poem, Tricia and think that's a fab approach. I extra love stanzas 2 and 3.

    8. " The why of the world
      is a curious thing"

      I love that so much. And your poem captures that curiosity so beautifully.

    9. Tricia, I love the unanswerable questions you came up with, like "How many songs in 88 keys?" Wow! That is unfathomable, but a lovely think to consider. The last stanza is a broad and wonderful invitation.

    10. Sooo many good questions! The answer seems to be that we must not stop asking. :)

    11. The rhythm bounces so joyfully, Tricia. And I'm all about nurturing wonder, especially when those big questions come from a child!