National Poetry Month 2023: Day 1

Welcome to National Poetry Month! This is one of the most exciting times for Sappho’s Torque because I typically feature something about poetry — usually a poem — every day for the month of April. I’m going to try my best to keep up with it every day this month. 

Today I ran across this lovely haiku by Elaine Sorrentino over on Haikuniverse — a delightful site you should all subscribe to, by the way. It captures the way my annual National Poetry Month series affects my blog rather perfectly. Poem-A-Day might be the most popular thing I do here.

bona fide poets
spend one short month each year
converting haters

I wish you all a marvelous April. Happy National Poetry Month!

To see previous year’s National Poetry Month series, click on the following links:
April 2022 —
April 2021 —
April 2020 —
April 2019 —
April 2018 —
April 2017 —
April 2016 —
April 2015 —
April 2014 —


Elaine Sorrentino, Communications Director by day, poet by night, has been published in Minerva RisingWillawaw Journal, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Gyroscope Review, Ekphrastic Review, Writing in a Women’s VoiceONE ART: a journal of poetryHaikuniverse, Sparks of CalliopeMuddy River Poetry ReviewYour Daily PoemPanoplyzine, and was featured on a poetry podcast at Onyx Publications. She posts a humorous poem once a week on Facebook for friends who celebrate Haiku Tuesday.

National Poetry Month: Haiku and Sijo Forms

If you’re looking for a fun poetry challenge, consider writing in some of the brief Asian forms that use syllabic meter (or, lines which are measured in the number of syllables they have, rather than accents or beats or emphases).

Of course many of us know the haiku, which we in the U.S. are taught when we are young as being three lines with 5, 7, and 5 syllables respectively, and usually being about nature.

That’s not a bad way to think about haiku at all, but you can expand your idea of it to be any very brief lyric which incorporates both image and comment. And consider that “comment” can be any implied opinion. One of the most amusing haiku I’ve read is this one by Issa (translated by Robert Hass):

Don’t worry, spiders,
I keep house

Another form you might enjoy, related to haiku and tanka and offering a bit more of a challenge, is the Korean form sijo. According to the Poetry Foundation, a sijo is “comprised of three lines of 14-16 syllables each, for a total of 44-46 syllables. Each line contains a pause near the middle, similar to a caesura, though the break need not be metrical. The first half of the line contains six to nine syllables; the second half should contain no fewer than five. Originally intended as songs, sijo can treat romantic, metaphysical, or spiritual themes. Whatever the subject, the first line introduces an idea or story, the second supplies a turn, and the third provides closure. Modern sijo are sometimes printed in six lines.” You can find multiple examples of sijo online.

I invite you to try these forms out and send them to me at forest [dot] of [dot] diamonds [at] gmail [dot] com!


National Poetry Month — Day 2

One way in which poetry has the power to grace our lives is by existing in fragments — a line or two of verse that you can’t forget, a well phrased image you came up with when you saw something striking, your favorite lyrical sentence from a book you read that opened you up to something new. So much of what we have retained of ancient poetry exists in fragments, too, and those pieces inspire poets to respond, as was the case in my prose-poem “Sappho’s Torque” — but more about that tomorrow.

One of the ways I want to celebrate National Poetry Month this year is by acknowledging these benevolently intrusive snippets of lyric, and so some of the posts this month will be of fragments. I invite you to respond to this post with a fragment of your own — either one you’ve written, or one you can’t easily forget. Today’s fragment comes from a random occurrence I experienced this afternoon, but first, some backstory…

My husband and I used to keep turtles, many years ago. We had a juvenile red-eared slider, very common in our part of the world, named Portia and a softball-sized box tortoise named Sebastian who used to eat cantaloupe and honeydew slices from my hand. We don’t have them anymore, which is a long story for another day, but when we did, they lived in a charming courtyard my husband had built for them which had a variety of plant life, a pond with a gravel beach, a waterfall fountain made from a huge pile of flagstones one of our neighbors was giving away, a tiny coliseum for Sebastian’s live cricket feeding time, and — one year — about ten thousand tadpoles which became about a dozen overnight because Portia got hungry. Portia used to stretch out on the dry flagstones and sun herself, and if you’ve never seen a turtle stretch its limbs out, put it on your bucket list. She’d put her front feet together as if she were going to make an Olympic dive into the pond and then her back legs fanned out so her body made a somewhat bulbous A-shape. She’d lift her face up to the sun and just hang out like that for hours.

In that neighborhood where we used to live, red-eared sliders were plentiful, because the subdivision had a couple of golf courses running through it and there was a wetlands/nature preserve for birds nearby. During turtle mating season it wasn’t unusual to see mature turtles migrating across the golf course, through people’s yards, and into the residential streets.

While driving through this neighborhood today, I happened upon a red-eared slider in the road, a big one about the size of a dinner plate. I stopped my car and picked it up and relocated it to the middle of the closest front yard — pointed toward the backyard, so that it could meander toward it and to the golf course on the other side, from which I’m reasonably certain it came. I’ve rescued more than a few turtles from these roads.

So, the fragment…  This stanza is from a longer poem I wrote entitled “Small Things,” which is in my collection Playing House (publication date coming soon).


hatchling turtles now
leap from flagstone cliffs
in your makeshift pond

And here are some photos of today’s renegade turtle, before and after rescue.

hanging out in the road, because of course

How about let's enjoy this nice front yard instead?
How about let’s enjoy this nice front yard instead?


I'm ready for my close-up -- no, no, not ready, not ready!!
I’m ready for my close-up — no, no, not ready, not ready!!


-- Are you okay? Can you walk? -- I can walk out of here!
— Are you okay? Can you walk?
— I can walk out of here!



GOP Debates Haiku

So, here in the US the presidential campaign starts a couple of years before the election. And since everyone and their nephew has decided to run for the GOP nomination — with the exception of Rick Perry, who was doing it but who has since dropped out — we’ve been having debates. Big Kid Debates and Little Kiddie Table Debates (not my epithets), in fact. You have to be in the Top 10 to get into the Big Kid Debate, and the LKDs happen earlier in the afternoon for the lower-ranking candidates.

Back in July, HuffPo decided to quit covering Donald Trump’s campaign in the politics section. They’re still covering it completely, but just in the entertainment section, because Trump is, as they said, “a special case.” They didn’t want to give him credibility as a serious contender. Yet he manages to persist. Quite a phenomenon, as US politics seem to be filled with these days.

So back in 2012, I held a haiku contest on this blog during the Democratic nominating convention; it was fun and entertaining, and I’d like to invite you all to share your thoughts on the debates with us this time around. All political perspectives are welcome. Leave a haiku (any interpretation of that form you can validate) in the comments section below, and if you leave your email address too (or send it to me in a private message to forest of diamonds at gmail dot com with “GOP debates haiku” in the subject line), I’ll send you a free copy of Finis. (ebook) for participating.

Let the fun begin!


March Poetry Contest: Short Form Resolutions

Remember back in January when I held the haiku contest about New Year’s resolutions?  Zillions* of you submitted entries!  It was awesome!  I had to split it into two contests, though, in part because there were so many entries that I wanted everyone to have a better chance at winning, and I didn’t want the post with the entries to be so long you’d stop reading before you even got to the massive poll.  It was easy to split the entries along the simple line of who had really conformed to the guidelines of the outlined form and who hadn’t.

This is the contest for the people who took more license with the form.

The entries are great, the prize for the winner is a copy of Strange New Words by Ari Marmell, and you have until midnight central time on Sunday, March 16th to vote.  You may vote once a day.  Please spread the word and share this contest with others who might like poetry.

And — especially if your poem is one of the entries here — be sure to keep checking back on this blog to learn the results.  I will announce the winner in a new post soon after voting ends, and the winner will need to contact me by email to give me a mailing address to send the prize to.

Good luck, all, and happy voting!  🙂  Here come the entries…


by Mystic RK:

think differently,
intent to live;
my life


by Kuheli (@AamiKuheli):

my new year’s
resolution; pedal out
our sufferings


by Aaijoni Das:

one resolution;
regular exercise,
an illusion.



keeping old promises
onto winter winds
new resolutions spring on wings


by surajvinay:

stroke of midnight..
the year’s last puff with fireworks
is new years first


by Ajaya Mahala:

to clear the cache before
starting afresh


by B. Lee Brown:

Snow lays like spilled milk
pooled in brown fields. The crows
don’t cry, nor will I.


by Poornima:

new years morning
I resolve not to sing
your songs


by Charishma Navneet Gupta:

new year’s eve –
my resolution sets
at sunrise




*  Okay, not actually, “zillions,” per se, but a heckuvalot of you — more than ever before — and I do appreciate that.

January Haiku Contest Winner and A Valentine Challenge

First off, congratulations to Sky Vani, who is the winner of our most recent haiku contest!  Here’s her winning entry, on the theme of New Year’s resolutions:

failed resolutions
with joint forces strive to goal
~ living happily

Sky Vani, please send me an email (to forest [dot] of [dot] diamonds [at] gmail [dot] com) with your address so I can send you your prize.

Everyone else who entered the contest but whose entries were reserved for a new contest in March, please check this blog again over the next few weeks for when that round begins.  And thank you to everyone who participated by sending in an entry (or more than one) and by voting.

And since tomorrow is Valentines’ Day, I’m going to make my annual request that, even if you aren’t part of a couple and even if you dislike the holiday on general principle, you go a little out of your way to do something nice for someone this weekend.  Kindness Day and all.

It doesn’t have to be romantic: you could just tell a friend how much the friendship you share means to you.  It doesn’t even have to be personal: just be nice to a random person you might otherwise ordinarily walk past because your eyes are locked on your smart phone screen.

Of course, if you want to write a sweet love poem to someone, well, that’s a charming gesture, too.  🙂

Happy weekend, everyone!

Voting for the January Haiku Contest Now Open!

I know you’ve been waiting for the poll to open on this haiku contest; thanks for your patience while I’ve been slogging through my day job’s week from hell.

There was a small conundrum with the entries for this contest, but first let me say how wonderful it was of everyone to submit so many poems!  The problem, though, is that a bunch of the entries, albeit thoughtful and interesting and fun, didn’t really conform to the format/style guidelines outlined in the contest rules.  That is, some of the entries weren’t 5-7-5 syllables.  So all those poems which didn’t fit the guidelines have been reserved and will be part of a new short poem contest in March, with the same prize as this contest.

But many of the entries fit the haiku form I outlined beautifully, and these viable haiku are presented here for you to enjoy and vote on!  Voting will be open for a week, until Wednesday night next week.  You can vote once a day, so it’s like approval voting — and so remember that voting for all of them is like voting for none of them.  Feel free to share this post with others, too, so lots of people can enjoy the haiku and vote.

And if yours is one of the entries listed below, please make sure to check back on this blog to find out who wins.  If it’s you, I’ll need your contact info so I can mail you your prize, a copy of the new anthology Strange New Words by Ari Marmell.


January Haiku Contest Entries


from veronicahaunanifitzhugh:


Do you resolve to
hold me when I pull away
and kiss still my tears?

from JoanneBest:

what I may intend
isn’t always in my reach
still I keep trying


from Greg:

My New Year’s resolve
to eat less, exercise more
lasted till Friday


from Sky Vani:

failed resolutions
with joint forces strive to goal
~ living happily


from mjlamarche (#1):

resolutions; clouds
wind-threshed, light-slivered. squeezed by
goals other than mine.


from Tshering Dolkar:

to let go of me
that you I like river flow
like flower just be


from laine:

My mind says “Achieve!”
or the year will be a waste.
My heart disagrees.


from Mjlamarche (#2):

each year’s promise drops
its seed on dry, frigid ground.
the harvest? pure joy.


from David Hutt:

resolutely hitchhiking:

packet of Gauloises,
she passes me some red wine.
won’t quit hitchhhiking.


from Maria:

Hope burgeoning, blooms
The new year clears life’s losses
Clouds bursting, Renewed


A Few Notes…

Today my post is just to touch base with all of you about a few interesting things going on right now.

First, an update on the current haiku contest, which I know you’re all dying to hear about.  For the month of January, I’m asking you to send in a haiku on the subject of New Year’s resolutions.  The deadline is midnight on January 31st, central time, which means this coming Friday night.  So far lots of people have submitted entries, which is wonderful!  Not all of them are actually haiku, unfortunately, but I really appreciate that people took the time to enter, so I’ve decided to hive off the ones that don’t adhere to the submission guidelines into a separate short poem contest, because part of the challenge of writing a haiku is to create something beautiful while sticking to the form.  More details on that spin-off contest later.  If you want to read more about the haiku competition and see the entries so far and even enter one yourself, please click here.  Only entries submitted on the original post (the one I just linked to in that last sentence) will be considered.  The winner will be determined by a reader poll, so please keep watching this blog for information on how and when to vote.

In other news, The Milk of Female Kindness: An Anthology of Honest Motherhood, an anthology I was recently published in, is now available for purchase on (or from me directly, if you prefer), and the second edition, which includes even more writing, is now out as well.  Two of my essays and two of my poems are in the first edition, and the second edition contains those plus another one of my poems.

Milk of Female Kindness front cover

Next, I’ll be giving a reading on February 13th as part of the LitFuse Reading Series!  So if you’re in Houston (or know anyone who will be in Houston you could pass the word on to), please consider joining us at this event.  The series takes place on the back patio of Kaboom Books (3116 Houston Ave. in Woodland Heights, Houston, Texas 77009, 713.869.7600).  If the weather isn’t good, the reading moves inside, so no worries about the rain, if there is any.  Here’s the Facebook page with more information, including bios of the two other authors reading with me that night.  I would love to see you there!  (And just so you know, copies of The Milk of Female Kindness will be available for sale that night at the reading.)

Some of you may remember how I told you a while back that my Fashion Friday series was going on a bit of a hiatus.  It was taking up a lot of time that I needed for other writing projects, but I didn’t want it to go away forever.  Well, it is coming back, just occasionally, as promised.  I have some fun hat stuff for spring coming soon in that forum.  (Don’t forget this is also a great opportunity for guest posting here, so if you’re interested, query me about it.)

Finally, look for some news this spring about a new publication of mine, a novelette called FINIS.  It’s an unusual story that’s too long to be a short story but not long enough to be a novella, and its genre is magic realism.  (Try finding a publisher for that!  Yeah, it takes a while, no matter how good the writing is.)  More details on that — and an excerpt — coming in the foreseeable future.

So stay tuned, everyone, for more details on these and other exciting tidbits.  See you again soon, same bat-time, same bat-channel…

January Haiku Contest

Hello there!  I’ve been thinking it’s time to do another haiku contest, and in honor of New Year’s Month, the theme of the contest is New Year’s Resolutions.

Here’s a quick reminder of what the haiku form is all about:  it’s a poem with seventeen syllables divided into three lines offering both description and comment.  The first line contains five syllables, the second line contains seven, and the third line contains five more.  Traditionally haiku often were about nature in some aspect, but within their brief imagery the poet often embedded some sort of opinion (the comment I referred to before).  You can take on as much of that form into your haiku as you like, but for the purposes of this contest, please use the three-line/seventeen-syllable format, as part of the challenge is to express your idea in that tight space.

The subject of your haiku is to be New Year’s resolutions.  The winner will receive the excellent new anthology (in paperback) Strange New Words: Tales of Heroism and Horror by Ari Marmell, celebrated author of fantasy and horror and other speculative fiction.  Anyone who has won a contest on my blog in the last six months is not eligible to win this prize, though you are more than welcome and even encouraged to participate by submitting a haiku for fun and by voting on the entries later.

You may enter as often as you like by submitting your haiku in the comments section of this post.  Please make each entry a separate posted comment; any entries posted together will be considered one entry.  (This just makes it easier to figure out what your intentions were when I’m putting the voting together.)

The deadline is, naturally, the end of New Year’s Month!  So you have until midnight U.S. central time on January 31st to get your entries in.  After that, I’ll put the voting together, and you the readers will determine who wins the contest.

Happy New Year!  I look forward to reading your haiku!


UPDATE 1/14/14:  There has been such a wonderful response to this contest so far.  Thank you all!  Please stay tuned to this blog for more posts about this contest, for more information about voting, etc.  I intend to communicate with all entrants via this blog as much as possible, but I will also be posting updates on my Facebook author page, which you can get to by clicking on the link in the sidebar to the side of this screen or by clicking here.  Remember, the deadline to enter the contest is January 31st, and the voting will happen soon after that.  Keep checking back — or better yet, subscribe to this blog to get my posts sent straight to your email (and make sure your settings are arranged to get my posts “immediately”).  Thanks again!