Poetry Friday: The Writing of “Elegy for a Daffodil” for March Madness 2013

Elegy for a Daffodil by Renee M. LaTulippe

March Madness Has Sprung!

As most of you probably know by now, the March Madness 2013 Poetry Tournament is in full swing! Devised by the ingenious Ed DeCaria at ThinkKidThink!, the game involves sixty-four poets who have written sixty-four poems for Round 1, all of which can be read and voted upon from the comfort of this handy scoreboard right here.

Given that it’s a high-pressure, high-stakes kind of game, I thought I’d share the feverish process that is devising a poem for March Madness.


For Round 1, I had 36 hours to compose a poem for the 16-seed word GAIETY, going up against the talented Linda Baie’s RANDOM. In light of words like verjuice, parallax, and grok, I thought I had it easy, but this word gave me some trouble indeed. Besides that pesky extra syllable, I felt boxed in by the meaning of the word. I had to write a poem about frolicking, it seems, so I dutifully made my list of words.

impish gaiety

…and I was bored already. So I googled “use gaiety in a sentence” and scrolled through the findings. They were also boring except this phrase: gaiety gone. And that’s what I wanted to write — a poem about the absence of gaiety. This would be a departure, a serious poem!

These are the words that came out first: 

I watered you from bulb to bloom,      [had to look up if daffodils have bulbs; they do]
watched you waltz away the gloom,
shining in your green-gold gown          [it’s a female daffodil?] (something here)

dewy dawn
limp and jaundiced, gaiety gone.
I curse this wind I thought I knew
that fertilized the death of you.

Ooh, there’s been a death! I immediately attached the title, “Elegy for a Daffodil,” which pleased me, so I went in that direction. I also really liked fertilized the death of you, but how did the wind fit in there? A secondary thing that had happened in the quick-write was the alliteration of bulb/bloom, watched/waltz, green-gold/gown and so forth, so I wanted to extend that.

I thought the first two lines were keepers, so I moved on to the next two. Shining is ho-hum, and I wasn’t sure about the gown. This daffodil felt male to me! This line changed its clothes several times:

twirling in your green-gold gown:
nothing, no one held you down.

gaiety in green-gold dress:                [gaiety moved here from the second stanza]
you danced with style and finesse.     [ugh! pedestrian! cliche!]

gaiety in green-gold suit:                    [nope, this daffodil’s a girl]

gaiety in green-gold gown:
that was you, my dancing clown.         [clown? really?]

I settled on this for the first stanza, though I didn’t like lines 3-4:

I watered you from bulb to bloom,
watched you waltz away the gloom,
gaiety in green-gold dress:
you danced with style and finesse.




For the second stanza, I had started with this:

dewy dawn                      [cliche; will have to do w/o the alliteration]
limp and jaundiced, gaiety gone.       [move gaiety, but keep gone? – what to fill with?]
I curse this wind I thought I knew         [makes no sense!]
that fertilized the death of you.               [I likey!]

I was on my way to a serious poem! At last! But that wind…what to do with that wind?!

I found you sprawled upon the lawn,     [assonance sprawl/lawn/jaun/gone]
limp with jaundice, gaiety gone:      [fix this]
it was that cat I thought I knew      [where did the cat come from? what’s going on here?]
that fertilized the death of you.     [cat? fertilized? huh? Also: death is too harsh, much as I like it.]

[MOMENT OF ABANDONMENT/DESPAIR during which I decide this thing is too weird and I’ll never write again. I move on to other ideas. Researched archaic words. Yawned. Made tea. Ate yogurt. Worked. Nothin’. Came back. Sent this poem to a couple people. One likes it but has suggestions, one scolds me for not doing better. Back to it.]

So…when last we saw this poem, a cat had shown up and my dreams of a serious poem were consigned to the compost heap. Had to go with the cat because wind doesn’t fertilize and time was running out. And as long as there’s a pooping cat, I might as well bring in the clowns.

A final consultation with my poetic husband, a few more tweaks to line 6, which still isn’t right, some touch-ups here and there, and I said good enough. The final poem:


I watered you from bulb to bloom,
watched you waltz away the gloom.
Gaiety in green-gold gown:
that was you, my dancing clown.

I found you sprawled upon the lawn,
jaundiced, flat, decidedly gone:
curse the cat I thought I knew
who fertilized the end of you.



But that’s not all! I really wasn’t sure about this poem, so I wrote another one. This time, I thought I’d try gaiety in a rhyme with spontaneity. Then I looked at my wonderful opponent’s word (random) and this is what I saw:

random                spontaneity

That seems redundant, doesn’t it? Just like gleeful gaiety. Let’s play with that! And this is what I got, with no real revisions:


Redundant Ray was happily glad,
the antipodal opposite of gloomily sad.
The source of Ray’s gleeful gaiety?
Spurts of random spontaneity.


My two readers thought this was clever and I almost submitted it, BUT … I don’t want to be just clever. It’s fluff. It’s fun, but it’s fluff. Don’t get me wrong, I love les bon mots as much as the next person, but I’m really trying to stretch and broaden my skills. If it isn’t completely serious (stupid cat!), at least “Elegy” is more poetic than this one.

So yeah…”Elegy” wasn’t so much a stretch as a muscle spasm, but I’m working on it. Under pressure!

business cat ate daffodils



Click on this!

March Madness Poetry 2013

Jone is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup at Check It Out today. Take her some (living) daffodils!

[heading style=”1″]NEXT WEEK: Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is back with a shiny new book![/heading]

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“Elegy for a Daffodil” and “Twice as Good” copyright 2013 Renée M. LaTulippe. All rights reserved.

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  1. Ha! I don’t know which I enjoyed more, reading your finished product or the process. I’m glad you shared this. It was like a mini workshop.

  2. Fun to see all the thinking and processing you did as you wrote these lines. It is great to stretch ourselves and see where it takes us. I loved when you said, where did the cat come from. Isn’t it funny how things will suddenly creep in unexpectedly but then it works and feels like it always belonged.

  3. Thanks for sharing this process! I’ve learned a lot from this post. Thank goodness you didn’t submit the other poem you wrote otherwise the results might have been a WEE bit different. 😉 Poetic stuff is better than fluff!

  4. Renee, my favorite line is “Gaiety in green-gold gown.” My post is about the MMP poem-writing process too. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one stressing over this assignment. Good luck to you and to Linda B!

  5. I totally love reading an author’s process, in this case you, the poet. I am impressed with all the time and thought that went into this. You and Linda both outdid yourselves. The standard this year is blowing me away.

  6. I liked seeing your process, Renee. I do love that line ‘gaiety in green-gold gown’ – so perfect to describe a daffodil.

    I can’t wait to see what you come up with in round 2!

  7. I love this look into the poet’s mind! As an illustrator, I’ve seen scads of process posts (and I love them all) but this blow-by-blow into the writer’s process is something I haven’t seen much of before. This is very helpful, Renée. And interesting. I love your poem– it paints a picture and tells a story–all in 8 short lines.

    Good luck with the Madness!

    1. Glad you found it helpful, Dana. I don’t usually keep drafts since I just keep overwriting the first one, but I’m trying to break that habit. I learn more looking back at and trying to articulate the process.

  8. I’m with Pam on enjoying this post almost as much as I love your poem (you and Linda sarted things off with a VERY high bar), and I’m with Betsy, charmed by the appearance of that cat! That’s what I love about writing – those surprises that show up. Mrrooowww.

    Thanks for sharing this behind-the-scenes look, and good luck to all in the Tournie.

  9. Love the behind-the-scenes peek! And so glad you seized upon the “gaiety gone” theme… one year I judged a contest in which the theme was “spring” and it was a poem complaining about allergies that most intrigued me — rather than the odes to flowers and such, which are of course, all true and wonderful, but done and done and done. Keep going, you!

  10. Hysterical, Renee! Reminds me of myself, who almost drove to Detroit with some ADROIT auto workers, but thought better, and made my peace with clever species.

  11. This is a brilliant poem, Renee. Beautifully crafted. Thanks for sharing your process, too. I work in a similar way. I’ve had no formal poetry training, so I always feel like I’m shooting in the dark. This made me feel a teensy bit validated.

    1. Isn’t all writing kind of shooting in the dark? Especially the revision – I don’t think there’s a class that can teach a specific process. I imagine it’s just intuitive for each person. 🙂

  12. Thanks for sharing your revision process… it’s always so fascinating to see other people’s revisions.
    I had been wondering if the clown line was spontaneous or a planned image.

  13. Fantastic, Renee! I love seeing your process – so interesting and creative and smart. And I love both poems. But I think you were right to go with the pooping cat 🙂 ”Elegy” wasn’t so much a stretch as a muscle spasm… you are so funny 🙂 I hope you win because I want to hear all about how you come up with your next poem and read it in round 2!

  14. I’m having so much fun reading the poems (and so happy to be on the sidelines because… wow, the competition is stiff!). The poem you posted made me snicker-snork. I loved it. And I know this feeling, “during which I decide this thing is too weird and I’ll never write again” a little too well. 🙂

  15. Renee, I loved reading about the process you went through in writing this poem. The title alone made me smile because I wondered, oh where is she taking us! What happens to this poor daffodil! Like me decapitated rose, she’s another flower with back story.

  16. It’s exciting to see what great poems people have generated with such sadistic, I mean difficult, words. Also, I am struck by poets writing multiple poems and then choosing their favorites — you have so little time, and yet you write more than one!?!?! Wow 🙂

  17. Renee, congratulations again on making it to the Sweet 16! Some lizards (and liars) have bifurcated tongues. My imagination has been stretched as I speculate what you’re going to do with that word.

  18. Renee, I am in awe of you and your poetic mind. But someday(?) maybe (?) I hope to be close to your skills and artistic abilities. You have such a fun way of teaching and and making learning poetry exciting. YOU make us feel like we CAN do it! YOU WERE SCOLDED?????? ACKKK!!! <3 you!

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