Poem: Why Is December Called December?


Why Is December Called December?


December is coming
December is here

After December what month is it
December hasn’t changed

December was white
December was gray

December must do
December has days

December is not a noun
December is what season

How is December for Taurus
In December is it cold in Cancún

Where does December come from
What is December going to be like?


These autofill poems are such fun to create; many of the lines are ones I'd never come up with on my own. When I was putting together "Why is December Called December?," I once again got a line like one in "November Lost & Found": "December is Spanish." As much as I wanted to use it again, I set it aside. This month's poem asks a lot of questions—such is the nature of a Google search—so perhaps a companion poem could be made of answers. I'll have to think about it. At any rate, this is one way to create an autofill poem:


1. Go to Google.

2. Type in a phrase with the word “December” in it, like “December is.”

3. Before clicking on the results, read what the autofill comes up with.

4. Pick out the best stuff & write it down.

5. Repeat with another phrase.

6. If you speak another language, try using an international Google (for example, Google Spain) to get different results, and translate them into English.

7. Choose the best lines, arrange them, and see what you come up with!


The Poetry Friday roundup for December 3rd is at Michelle Kogan's blog.

Photo by ST. Pomme de New York, sculpture by Claude Lalanne.

Girl Scout Badges


I found Chloe Martinez's work through the Of Poetry podcast, hosted by Han VanderHart. On the episode I heard, Martinez read the poem "Not-Yet-Official Girl Scout Badges," and I just loved it, remembering my grown son's Cub Scout adventures and my own Girl Scout days. The list poem offers a touching portrait of a young girl and her mother's love for her, and I look forward to reading more of Martinez's work.

Her poem begins,

Forgetting to Eat Breakfast While Reading Badge
Luxuriating in Bed on Sunday Morning Badge
Catching Lizards by the Tail and Releasing Them in Safer Places Badge

You can read the rest at Moist Poetry Journal, which VanderHart edits. Check out Of Poetry, "kitchen table conversations with poets," too!


The November 26th Poetry Friday roundup takes place at the blog  There is no such place as a God-forsaken town.

Photo by ST. One of the murals at the Jackie Robinson Alternative Education Complex, Madison Avenue, East Harlem, NYC.

Ours Poetica

I just recently found out about Ours Poetica, a video series produced by the Poetry Foundation and Complexly and hosted by the poet Paige Lewis, but it has been around a couple of years. (Complexly is Hank and John Green's company.) These are poetry videos from a reader's point of view: take a look at this one, in which the poet Jenny Xie reads Frank O'Hara's "My Heart," and you'll see what I mean. It takes about a minute and a half.

The Poetry Friday roundup is at Beyond LiteracyLink today.

Where the sidewalk reads, in which I make a poem out of trash

Chapter 101 erasure poem 1
Chapter 101

The only possibility was

buzzing and festive.

Before,  it was

unfathomable shadows.

A tiny voice

inside the street noise

wouldn't stop—


Spooky, right?  Above is a blackout poem, also called an erasure. I learned how to make this kind of thing from Austin Kleon's blog, and here, my source is a page of a paperback that had fallen apart; it was blowing around a sidewalk in New York. Before I made the "new" work, I had no idea which book Chapter 101 had come from, but after googling a chunk of the original text, I discovered it was a novel by James Patterson. It's either Black Market (1986) or a slightly rewritten version, Black Friday (2000). I vote for Black Market because the pages look old and foxed. The original Kirkus review said it's an "abysmally dumb terrorist novel whose plot would embarrass a Superman movie." Ouch. "Chapter 101" makes a fine title, though.

The Poetry Friday roundup is over at Matt Forrest Esenwine’s site, Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme.

Updated to add: the Guardian just looked at erasure poetry, too. "Especially when challenging dust-thick prejudice and received opinion, it has the potential to be transformative." See "Blanked verse: the power of erasure poetry," by Carol Rumens.

November Lost & Found

November Woods

November is national what month

November is what month

November is what awareness month

November is Spanish.


November is not Christmas

Sweet November is not goodbye

Why is November not the 9th month?

Does Christmas start in November?


November is which sign

November election who is running

November when does it get dark

November please be nice to me.


Over on Twitter, I saw Mary Lee say that it was almost Poetry Friday, and I had forgotten. Oh, dear. There were decisions to make. I could either send readers to Robert Frost or I could do a Google search and see what happens when the autofill starts to roll. Voila! Found poetry saves the day.

The Poetry Friday roundup is at A(nother) Year of Reading.

Photo by ST. November 2021.

Gwendolyn Brooks, on Library Way

Gwendolyn Brooks plaque

A brass sidewalk plaque with a quotation by Gwendolyn Brooks on Library Way, 41st Street between Fifth and Park Avenues, in Midtown Manhattan. The artist is Gregg LeFevre. This and the other 95 plaques honoring a variety of authors (Twain, Yeats, Emily Dickinson, and Lucille Clifton among them) were installed in 1998. Brooks died in 2000. 

The Poetry Friday roundup is at the blog Teacher Dance.

Some poetry bests

Super Slide

Publishers Weekly recently announced its list for best poetry books of the year:

The Essential June Jordan, edited by Jan Heller Levi and Christoph Keller (Copper Canyon)

Frank: Sonnets, by Diane Seuss (Graywolf)

Playlist for the Apocalypse, by Rita Dove (Norton)

The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us from the Void, by Jackie Wang (Nightboat)

A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure, by Hoa Nguyen (Wave)


A few weeks ago the National Book Award for Poetry contenders were long-listed; then the finalists were posted. The roster of the latter overlaps with Publishers Weekly on two books.

What Noise Against the Cane, by Desiree C. Bailey (Yale)

Floaters, by Martín Espada (Norton)

Sho, by Douglas Kearney (Wave)

A Thousand Times You Lose Your Treasure, by Hoa Nguyen (Wave)

The Sunflower Cast a Spell to Save Us from the Void, by Jackie Wang (Nightboat)


Last week the T.S. Eliot Prize committee announced the contenders for 2021's award; these books are from British and Irish publishers. I do recognize one name, Kevin Young, as American. Young is the New Yorker's poetry editor and the director of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture.

All the Names Given, by Raymond Antrobus (Picador)

A Blood Condition, by Kayo Chingonyi (Chatto & Windus)

Men Who Feed Pigeons, by Selima Hill (Bloodaxe)

Eat Or We Both Starve, by Victoria Kennefick (Carcanet)

The Kids, by Hannah Lowe (Bloodaxe)

Ransom, by Michael Symmons Roberts (Cape Poetry)

single window, by Daniel Sluman (Nine Arches Press)

C+nto & Othered Poems, by Joelle Taylor (The Westbourne Press)

A Year in the New Life, by Jack Underwood (Faber)

Stones, by Kevin Young (Cape Poetry)


I think of these lists as great starting places for learning more. For instance, Kevin Young's name is the only one I know on the Eliot list, but now I have a bunch of other authors whose work I might like to check out.

The Poetry Friday roundup is at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

Photo by ST, 2021.

October in the park

Pond at the park

I am so happy that a search for a poem to go with this photograph has led me to "The Properties of Light," by Eric Gamalinda, which has me looking forward to reading more of his work. The poem begins,

Mid-October in Central Park, one of the elms
has changed early, burning with a light
grown accustomed to its own magnificence,

You can read the rest at the Poetry Foundation.

Before signing off, I'll add another recommendation: Paige Lewis's Space Struck (Sarabande Books, 2019). Publishers Weekly says, "Like the natural environment that they often reference, Lewis’s poems are sincere, strange and vulnerable, a combination that makes this work both fragile and vital." You can hear their wonderful interview with Franny Choi and Danez Smith at the VS podcast here. I'm hoping to recommend a collection of poetry each week, and I'd love to know what you're reading, too. 

The Poetry Friday roundup, with links to more verses and poetry talk is over at Bridget Magee's place.

Photo by ST: The pond, Central Park, mid-October 2021.

Tempest, a poem about tea

Today's post is a rerun of a prose poem I wrote some years back.




Take trip to Ireland. Read Edna O'Brien. Drink lots of tea. Return home. Think of nothing but tea. Make tea with tea bags. Terrible. Not it. Unable to read Edna O'Brien. Lunch with friend who spent year in Australia drinking tea. Friend says bought teapot after similar tea experience. Friend also recommends English Breakfast. Resolve to purchase teapot. Find two-cup teapot for eight dollars. Bargain. Realize loose tea is key. Milk and sugar cubes, too. Buy loose tea in tin at fancy deli. Have never in life made tea without tea bags. Have never made much tea, period. Cast yearning glance at unresponsive Mr. Coffee. Panic. Australian adventurer unavailable for counsel. Remember not knowing how to bake potatoes. Who knew? Fannie knew. Consult Fannie Farmer Cookbook on tea. Fannie knows. Fannie tells. Love Fannie. Boil fresh water. Warm teapot with boiling water. Pour out. Add big spoon of tea, more water. Strategy involved but do okay. Let pot, tea leaves, water sit. Five minutes later—tea. Breathe sigh of relief. Read Edna O'Brien.

by Susan Thomsen
published in Tea: A Magazine


The Poetry Friday roundup for October 8th is at author Irene Latham's blog, Live Your Poem.

Fannie Farmer

Photo by ST. My well-worn copy of the Fannie Farmer Cookbook.

Richard Wright's Haiku

Wright Haiku

Although I associate the author Richard Wright more with Mississippi (his birthplace) and Chicago (the setting of Native Son), he did live a number of years in New York before moving permanently to France. One of the places he lived, in the 1930s, was on Carlton Avenue in Brooklyn. He used to spend hours writing in nearby Fort Greene Park.

In addition to his works of fiction and nonfiction, Wright wrote some four thousand haiku. Currently the Poetry Society of America is sponsoring "Seeing Into Tomorrow," a project in which seven of these have been turned into public art in and around downtown Brooklyn, not far at all from Carlton Avenue. Several more are on the way, too. I recently spent an enjoyable fall afternoon traipsing around the Borough of Kings to see them.

The poems in the project are reprinted from Haiku: The Last Poems of an American Icon (Arcade, 2012), and in an introduction, Wright's daughter Julia says that writing these poems kept her father "spiritually afloat" during the last years of his life. After seeing the work in Brooklyn, I now want to look at that book! At her School Library Journal blog, Betsy Bird reviewed a children's book about Wright's haiku, also called Seeing Into Tomorrow (Millbrook Press), back in 2018. Featuring the photographic illustrations of Nina Crews, it sounds good, too.


You'll find the Poetry Friday roundup at Reading to the Core on October 1st.

Wright apt house

Photos by ST. Upper: Wright haiku at the Jay Street–MetroTech subway station in downtown Brooklyn. Lower: Front door and steps of a building in which Wright lived in the Fort Greene neighborhood of Brooklyn.