Poetry Month 2013: The Progressive Poem, Day 17

2013 Progressive Poem

2013 Progressive Poem

It’s here!

Started by the lovely poetess Irene Latham, the Progressive Poem is a group poem that’s been traveling around the blogosphere all month, with each writer adding one line. Yesterday, Liz Steinglass added her soaring line and passed the flaming baton to me.

This is my stream of consciousness process, coming to you live…

For last year’s poem, I added my line near the very end, which was nerve-wracking yet somehow easier. This year I’m right in the middle where things have to happen! What should happen?!

Let’s see…we’ve got words/poets as dancers…then trapeze artists. They’re doing a lot of swinging and jitterbugging and risk-taking. Liz left me soaring, but I feel this thing needs to be grounded right about now, set back down on the page. The words/poets have had their dancing time and need to buckle down and get to the work of writing!

But I’m not sure I can do that in one line. It’s a long drop from the trapeze to the ground, and Mary Lee’s safety net is dubious comfort. Maybe it’s too soon for the words to settle down. Maybe they need to scramble, rumble, play musical chairs, twist around in one of those long pieces of fabric, hang by their legs.

What happens when they hang by their legs?

When you listen to your footsteps
the words become music and
the rhythm that you’re rapping gets your fingers tapping, too.
Your pen starts dancing across the page
a private pirouette, a solitary samba until
smiling, you’re beguiling as your love comes shining through.

Pause a moment in your dreaming, hear the whispers
of the words, one dancer to another, saying
Listen, that’s our cue! Mind your meter. Find your rhyme.
Ignore the trepidation while you jitterbug and jive.
Arm in arm, toe to toe, words begin to wiggle and flow
as your heart starts singing let your mind keep swinging

from life’s trapeze, like a clown on the breeze.
Swinging upside down, throw and catch new sounds–
Take a risk, try a trick; break a sweat: safety net?
Don’t check! You’re soaring and exploring,
dangle high, blood rush; spiral down, crowd hush–  


Hm, it seems paranoia has set in with the being watched thing! As I mentioned, I kind of wanted to start bringing the words down to earth, back to paper, knowing that they would eventually be seen by other eyes, so they better start to shape up!

For me, the shift to shorter words and a more staccato rhythm that Mary Lee started signaled the beginnings of revision, when we take all the high-falutin’ and expansive ideas we’ve thrown on the paper and start snipping.


More than once I’ve watched a fascinating documentary on how performers are chosen and trained for Cirque du Soleil. It’s a grueling process, but I’m thinking those acrobats got nuthin’ on our twisty words/poets. It ain’t easy wrestling words to the page, and I wonder how the remaining poets are going to tame them. And so I pass our poetic performer(s) off to the delightful Penny Klostermann, secure in the knowledge that she’ll help bring them safely to rest.

Here are all the places this poem has been and where it’s going still:

1  Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
2  Joy Acey
3  Matt Forrest Esenwine
4  Jone MacCulloch
5  Doraine Bennett
6  Gayle Krause
7  Janet Fagal
8  Julie Larios
9  Carrie Finison
10  Linda Baie
11  Margaret Simon
12  Linda Kulp
13  Catherine Johnson
14  Heidi Mordhorst
15  Mary Lee Hahn
16  Liz Steinglass
17  Renee LaTulippe
18  Penny Klostermann
19  Irene Latham
20  Buffy Silverman
21  Tabatha Yeatts
22  Laura Shovan
23  Joanna Marple
24  Katya Czaja
25  Diane Mayr
26  Robyn Hood Black
27  Ruth Hersey
28  Laura Purdie Salas
29  Denise Mortensen
30  April Halprin Wayland


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Arrivederci! Goodbye! Auf Wiedersehen! May you be well and rhyme-y until we meet again.

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  1. We’ve shifted from lots of syllables and lots of words to the bare basics–that’s what happens when you’re writing for your life! I like the idea (and I hate the idea) that we’re being WATCHED while we perform these feats of poetry. Looooooove reading about your thinking and love the movement downward, back to the paper?

    1. Heidi, I added a bit more commentary on the process based on your comment. I didn’t know we were being watched until that crowd showed up unexpectedly! Maybe it was a subconscious thing, given that each of us is being watched as we create our lines. 🙂

  2. (Also have to mention, Renee, that this weekend while helping my folks clear our their garage I found my own beloved old-fashioned thesaurus which I used to read like a novel. I have an urge to do a video update to “Meet the Saurus”! What editing software do you use so skillfully?)

    1. Ooh, that would be fun, Heidi! I use Adobe Premiere Elements 10 for editing, but I think you can use whatever software comes on the Mac (iMovie?) or PC, or you can just send your update to me and I’ll fix it up. 🙂

  3. Ok so I love the poem and your post, as usual, Renee, but am lost on the whole editing talk going on here!! Up early since tomorrow I have to get up by 3:30 to get to the airport for the 6:21 am flight to IRA!! Will be at the Poetry Olio on Sat. night talking about Poetry online! You both are featured in my flyer!! Very curious about what you and Heidi are talking as I venture the little toe into the whole creating a blog thing!!!

    Now the poem, I like how you formatted by centering. It looks interesting to see how the lines work in this configuration. I also like how you are bringing the words to the page and thinking of how to polish and chop.

    1. Thanks for featuring NWR in your flyer, Janet! As for the editing, it has nothing to do with creating a blog, so never fear! We’re talking about editing her poetry video. 🙂

      Have a great time at IRA!

  4. I can hear the crowd suddenly hush as though you have done an unbelievable feat. Will the metaphor continue to play or will we get grounded into the reality of writing?
    Fascinating and fun to watch the poem unfold, somehow as if it was meant to be.

  5. Nice way to create some tension and possibly a change in action…and keep in mind, Mary Lee’s ‘safety net’ comes with a question mark – so there might not be one!

  6. Hi Renee!

    Nice line…very nice. I was over here early this morning and then I went off jotting down thoughts and doing the daily things one must do. Then I came back to jotting, and realized that I never commented. Mine is a one-track mind!

    You’ve given me something wonderful to work with 🙂

  7. Ooh, I have been gone for too long. But I am so happy to be back and to read all of these great lines. There is a lot happening here; the movement continues, and I love the glorious drama (of course!) and meter (of course!) of this line. I hope we don’t fall! xo, a.

  8. Ooo, so much thought goes into your work, I love seeing your process, but find it a little intimidating too. This line was full of action and sets Penny up well!

  9. Terrific line, Renee! It’s impossible for me to read anything you write – even a normal sentence – without hearing your voice 🙂 Lucky me!

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