Apologies to Shakespeare and Dr. Seuss


shakeseuss sonnet

When I consider every thing that grows
One fish two fish red fish blue fish
Holds in perfection but a little moment
Black fish blue fish old fish new fish
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
This one has a little star
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment
This one has a little car
When I perceive that men as plants increase
Say! what a lot of fish there are
Cheered and check’d even by the self-same sky
Yes. Some are red and some are blue
Vaunt their youthful sap, at height decrease
Some are old and some are new
And wear their brave state out of memory
Some are sad. And some are glad
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay
And some are very, very bad
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight
Why are they sad and glad and bad?
Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay
I do not know. Go ask your dad
To change your day of youth to sullied night
Some are thin. And some are fat
And all in war with Time for love of you
The fat one has a yellow hat
As he takes from you, I ingraft you new
From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere.


This work is a combination of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 15 and an excerpt from One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, the classic children’s book by Dr. Seuss. A spin on two of the late Bernadette Mayer’s writing experiments, the poem is now 28 lines long. I removed the end punctuation, except in a couple of places, to open up the possibilities of interpretation. I am also assigning the pronoun “they” to the speaker. As I noted in a more academic explanation (for the class in which I originally wrote this), "The [combined poem's] speaker is prone to overexplaining."

Yes, it is silly. Some of the inadvertent combinations work well, like "When I perceive that men as plants increase/Say! what a lot of fish there are," and some not so much. It's super fun to play around with, though.

The Poetry Friday roundup for December 8th is at Patricia J. Franz's blog, Reverie.

Photo by ST. Detail from a new mural by @keydetail in Bridgeport, CT.

A Case of Nerves at the Armadillo Hair and Nail Salon


Photo: Nine-banded armadillo, by http://www.birdphotos.com, 2008. From Wikimedia Commons.


A Case of Nerves at the Armadillo Hair and Nail Salon

Stay out of the way, it’s opening day
We have some big work to do
Rule number one, remember have fun
And no rolling up in a ball
Us armadillos, we know, will only go
To the side with the manicure station
What we lack in hair, we give great care 
To others who seek a coiffure
Let’s now take suggestions and open up
Questions, get ready, get set, yes?

“If a snake comes in and
Sheds his skin
Shall we tell him it’s okay?”
Of course we do
It’s nothing new
You know they outgrow
And need to let go
Those tight skirts and pants

“And how ‘bout the skunk
With her dreadful smell,
That odiferous trail, inhaled
From a mile away?”
Again we say yes
She’s in need of finesse
And won’t spray us
As long as we’re kind.

“The possum’s problems
Truly can we solve ‘em?
His tresses are messes
The teeth need braces
At least a retainer or two”
Dentistry we ignore
It’s not at the core
Of services that we provide
The hair, don’t despair,
It’s really all there
In the Armadillo book of instructions

Combs, clippers, air fresheners, dryers,
Scissors, shampoos, tiny capes, mirrors, 
Schooled and trained, we’re specialty specialists
Artisan artists, colorful colorists, vibing vibrationists
Now open the door, you’ll see we’re in store
For a treat, well, c'mon and usher those animals in.

Draft, Susan Thomsen, 2023


This kooky little poem grew out of a conversation with a friend about armadillos—and their long, manicure-worthy nails. I didn't envision writing a poem about the matter, but the armadillos took over and here we are. Maybe it's a companion piece to "The Dance of the Moonlight Jellies" from a couple of months ago.

Catherine Flynn hosts the Poetry Friday roundup at her blog, Reading to the Core, on October 13th.


Astoria_Park_pool _Queens_NYC

For Poetry Friday I chose this lovely poem, "Romance," by Susan Browne, from the July/August 2023 issue of Poetry Magazine. Here's an excerpt:

I watch other bodies slip through the blue,
how fast the young are
& how old they become, floating, floating,
forgetting the weight of years
while palm trees sway above us,

I've recently returned to swimming after talking entirely too much about how I wanted to get back to swimming but hadn't been swimming in forever, etc., etc. Yawn. Y'all, it's not that hard. I simply drove over to the beautiful pool at the local Y, where I'm still a member, and jumped in. Perhaps it's my age, maybe it's endorphins, but I can completely relate to Susan Browne's words about "embracing the whole magic show."

Matt Esenwine has the Poetry Friday roundup for October 6th.

Image: Astoria Park Pool, Queens, New York, via Wikimedia Commons.

Poem: Seasonal Situation


Seasonal Situation

How much attention do fleas have?
Because I have that.
Smaller than I can put into words
I’d say microscopic but
That might be too big
It started with,
I don’t know what it started with 
But it’s shrunk down to this
Have I read a book?
I have not, fleas don't read books
Fleas scroll through Instagram reels
And decide they want to roller skate
Because, look at all these beautiful skaters
Until a surfer rides by, all casual and cool
On the lip of a wave curling perfectly
And the flea suddenly needs a surfboard
And for that matter a wave 
Every single summer I am going
To get more done and every single summer
Instead, the flea takes over 
And hangs ten. 

—Susan Thomsen, draft 2023


The Poetry Friday roundup for September 8th is at Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's blog, The Poem Farm.

Photo by ST. Seagull mural by Javier Eastman, Norwalk, CT.

Poem: Pull Up a Chair

Table and Two Chairs MET DT8822

Pull Up a Chair

I just need to sit with a poem
Standing tires us both
Jumping demands such stamina
Whirling distracts us from the task
When we sit, we can talk
If we run, one of us is breathless
And we struggle to put syl
lables in the right pace,
Make that place,
So that’s why sitting
is going to work out fine.

Susan Thomsen, draft 2023


Linda Mitchell generously offered the first line during her recent "clunker" exchange. Thank you, Linda.

The roundup for Poetry Friday on August 11th is at Tabatha Yeatts' blog.

Art: "Table and Two Chairs" (1946), oil painting by Horace Pippin, Metropolitan Museum. Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. Via Wikimedia Commons.



Happy Poetry Friday! Today's poem is a fun one by the one and only J. Patrick Lewis. "What to Wear Where" begins,

When I was a boy
In Looziana,
We wore blue jeans
And a red bandanna.

To read the rest of the poem, do visit the Poetry Foundation. After a recent trip to the Green Mountain State, I was tickled to come across "What to Wear Where.” You’ll find the Poetry Friday roundup for July 7th at the blog of  Marcie Flinchum Atkins;  for July 14th at Linda Mitchell's place; and for July 21st at Margaret Simon's Reflections on the Teche. (Yes, I got behind! I was unable to link this on the 7th, so here it is today.)

Photo by ST. Green Mountains, Manchester, Vermont.

Moonlight Jellies


Copyright © 2023 Kate McFarlane. All rights reserved. Used with permission. See more of Kate McFarlane's fabulous art on Instagram at @katejmcfarlane.


When Is the Dance of the Moonlight Jellies?

And may I attend without an invitation?
I’ve always wanted to see them dancing
And yet my schedule has not allowed it
I can bring chips, some Coca-Cola
For breaks in the dancing as I imagine
They will need some kind of refreshment
Should they prefer Dr Pepper, let me know
The Bev Barn lacks nothing at all
Once I saw them drifting, but it was sunny
So I hope that the moonlight will soon send
The message that, yes, we will dance now
And of course you can join in.

—Susan Thomsen


The line "when is the dance of the moonlight jellies?" came from the autofill suggestions of a search engine when I was looking for phrases related to the moon. This one refers to an event in the Stardew Valley video game, and I thought it was irresistible. My poem has nothing to do with the game; it's just a riff on that question.

The moon-themed Poetry Friday roundup for June 30th is at author Irene Latham's blog, Live Your Poem.

Autofill Luna(r)cy


Photo by ST: Sculpture "As Long as the Sun Lasts" (2021), by Alex Da Corte, at the Metropolitan Museum Roof Garden, NYC, Summer 2021.

On Friday, June 30th, Poetry Friday goes lunar. In association with the publication of a new book, Irene Latham, that day’s host, asks participants to contribute a “favorite moon poem (yours or someone else's), a moon story, a moon memory, a moon dream...or whatever your moon-heart desires!” (Irene’s latest picture book, The Museum on the Moon, will hit the shelves later this summer, on August 8th.) The poet would like to provide lots of moon-related poems in the educator resources she’s working on.

With great enthusiasm I went looking on various search engines for moon paraphernalia and prompts. I like to see what Google, Bing, and Duck Duck Go have in mind, courtesy of autofill, when I type in various phrases. I wasn’t disappointed. Here’s just a short list of what’s out there:

Moon is in Capricorn what does this mean

The moon in my room

Where is the moon tonight

Where is the moon NYC

Who is the moon named after

The Moonbeam company manufactures toasters

Any of these could start a poem (or short story), but one, not mentioned above, stood out. I used it for the first line, and came up with twelve more lines on my own. Although my poem is not for kids or educator resources, I have Irene to thank for the inspiration. On Friday, June 30th, I’ll include it here. I look forward to seeing your lunar poetics, too.

On Friday, June 16th, the Poetry Friday roundup is at poet & artist Michelle Kogan’s place.



Photo of buildings in the South Bronx and Manhattan, taken from the train on Wednesday, June 7, 2023. ST.

"I've Been Burned," by Jeannine Hall Gailey, seemed like the perfect, sad poem to go with the week that the East Coast and now other areas have been having, given the effects from the wildfires in Canada. Yesterday New York was glowing orange when I was there, as was my town in Connecticut when I got home. As I write this, our air quality is rated only unhealthy instead of yesterday's hazardous. The West deals with haze and smoke from forest fires far more often; now I know what it's like. One of my second-grade friends reminded me today, "Be sure and wear a mask outside!" Such caring advice. (And I do.)

You can read "I've Been Burned" at Chestnut Review.

The Poetry Friday roundup for June 9th is at Buffy Silverman's blog.

2023 Poetry


It's June! And here in Connecticut, it's almost summer. I always look forward to the Sealey Challenge in August, which is an endeavor to read a collection of poetry a day. Plus, after next week, I'll have more time in general for hunting down books and reading. Sometimes it can seem hard to track down lists of what's been published and what's on the horizon. Maybe you're searching for new titles, too. Here are some poetry-book resources to check out:

Spring 2023 poetry books, Publishers Weekly 

Fall 2023 poetry books, Publishers Weekly

Best Poetry 2023, Book Riot (from March)

Best New Poetry Books for Adults, New York Public Library (books from 2022)

Best New Poetry, Winter, 2023, bookshop.org

2023 Forthcoming Poetry Books by Queer People of Color, Shade Literary Arts

HipLatina's list for 2023

BuzzFeed's "13 New and Upcoming Poetry Collections"

Lambda Literary Awards, Finalists in four categories: lesbian poetry, gay poetry, bisexual poetry, transgender poetry (scroll down)

New Black Poetry Books, Book Riot

New Canadian poetry collections, CBC

Poetry Book Society (UK)

Ms. Magazine


Lantern Review Blog, "An Asian Poetry Companion: Future Titles to Dream Toward"

Southern Review of Books, recent and forthcoming poetry collections

Literary Hub: 7 Poetry Books to Read in June


The Poetry Friday roundup for June 2 is at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Peony photo by ST

Portraits of Harriet Tubman, in art and words


Above is "I Go to Prepare a Place for You" (2021), Bisa Butler's quilted portrait of Harriet Tubman, at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, in Washington, D.C. Last weekend I saw it in person, and it's stunning.

From the artist's website: "Using vibrant colors, Butler transforms photographs that capture the souls, personalities, and humanity of Black men, women, and children into vibrant textile quilts that offer an in-depth, alternative portrayal of the Black experience while uplifting and celebrating the American popular art of quilting."

A new exhibit, "Bisa Butler: The World Is Yours," is up at the Jeffrey Deitch Gallery in New York through June 30th. I hope to go soon.

I chose Sonia Sanchez's series "Haiku and Tanka for Harriet Tubman" for a fitting accompaniment to this portrait. Here is an excerpt:

Picture her saying:
You have within you the strength,
the patience, and the passion
to reach for the stars,
to change the world    ...    

The Poetry Friday roundup for May 26th takes place at Patricia Franz's blog, Reverie.

Photo by ST.

Bilingual Cento, Gracias a Gabriela Mistral


Centón: Mi antorcha vieja

El mundo fue más hermoso
Este verde campo tuyo
Esta verdad con frescura de flor
Siempre dulce el viento
La rosa colorada 
y el pez de luces
color de sol y de azafranes
No es un cuento, es verdad
El mundo fue más hermoso.


Cento: My Old Torch

The world was more beautiful
This green countryside of yours
This truth of a flower in bloom
The wind always sweet
The red rose
And the glittering fish
The color of sunlight and saffron
It’s not a story, it’s the truth
The world was more beautiful.

—Translated from the Spanish by Susan Thomsen

Source: Various poems in Selected Poems of Gabriela Mistral: A Bilingual Edition Translated and Edited by Doris Dana, Johns Hopkins Press, 1971. I used my own translation for the English version here, not the one from the book.

Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957) won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1945. She was the first Latin American author to do so. The name Gabriela Mistral was the pseudonym used by Lucila Godoy Alcayaga, a Chilean diplomat, poet, and educator. I was working on another project and came across the book referenced above again, and decided to use it to create a cento, or in Spanish, un centón. Each verse and the title are from Selected Poems, though I did tweak a couple of the lines for better continuity.

Photo by Susan Thomsen of the NYC public-art installation "Flowers of Turtle Island" (2021) by fiber artist Naomi Lawrence.

The Poetry Friday roundup is at Robyn Hood Black's Life on the Deckle Edge.

April 28th Haiku Report


Streamside echoes of
waterthrush singing spring notes,
seeking company


One of our earliest avian migrants in the spring is the Louisiana waterthrush, and like a Carolina wren, it's a tiny bird with a big voice. Seeing one last week inspired this haiku. I have written a haiku almost every day in April, and while I don't have a perfect record, I'm glad that I've continued through the month. Word choice, syllable count, and reining in silliness have all been challenges that I've enjoyed wrestling with.

The Poetry Friday roundup is at the blog There Is No Such Thing as a God-Forsaken Town.

Image credit: Louis Agassiz Fuertes (artist), Frank M. Chapman (author)., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Traveling Poetry


Love this poem! I saw it in the shuttle that connects Grand Central Terminal and the equally enormous Times Square subway station. "Passage" is a good title to adorn that particular train; for one thing, it connects the east and west sides of Midtown Manhattan. Victoria Chang is the poet; her most recent collection, from which the poem is taken, is The Trees Witness Everything (Copper Canyon, 2022). I haven't read that one yet but was moved by her 2020 book, Obit (also Copper Canyon). To learn more about her, read Chang's profile in the New Yorker, written by Kamran Javadizadeh.

The poster's art is by Firelei Báez; you can see the large original tile mosaic at a station further uptown. Its title is "Ciguapa Antellana, me llamo sueño de la madrugada (who more sci-fi than us)," 2018.

Sponsors of Poetry in Motion, the project behind "Passage" on the Times Square shuttle, include the Poetry Society of America and the MTA Arts & Design department.

The Poetry Friday round up is over at Karen Edmisten's place on April 21st.

Erasure Poem: We Will Flee

Robber JPEG poem

We Will Flee

The riotous crew shivered,
took an ax and a light.
One called out, “Run away,
Step over the sleepers
Without mishap.”
The peas and lentils
Shot up in the moonlight.

—Susan Thomsen


This poem comes from a challenge by Jone Rush MacCulloch to use a classic text and create a new poem from it. I opened an old copy of Grimms' Fairy Tales to a random page, and it turned out to be the disturbing "Robber Bridegroom." I xed out the more grisly references, and like how the weird ending popped up.

You'll find the Poetry Friday roundup and Classic Found Poem Palooza at Jone's blog on April 14th.


Source text: Grimms' Fairy Tales, by the Brothers Grimm. Translated from the German by Mrs. E.V. Lucas, Lucy Crane, and Marian Edwards. Illustrated by Fritz Kredel. Grosset & Dunlap, 1945.