whiteout: letting your poetic words breathe freely


Poetry writing can become a bit stale if we fail to vary our method of execution. Yesterday, I brought an offering of magnetic poetry to the table. Sometimes it’s a haiku or three, maybe other forms of micropoetry or an ode, or sonnet, can be seen.

Today I am joining in with a bit of whiteout poetry where words emerge from shaded darkness whited out, looking to escape their confines and fly like birds, freed from a cage of conformity.

My first attempt has been inspired by a post on my adventurous poet friend, Kat Myrman’s site. The link up is available here if you also fancy some poetic fun, whereby we draw words out from a given poem, creating one of our own in the process. Here’s this week’s poem to work with….

February Elegy by Mary Jo Bang
© Mary Jo Bang

This bald year, frozen now in February.
This cold day winging over the ugly
Imperfect horizon line,

So often a teeth line of ten buildings.
A red flag
In the wind. An orange curtain is noon.
It all hurts her eyes. This curtain is so bright.
Here is what is noticeably true: sight.
The face that looks back from the side

Of the butter knife.
A torn-bread awkwardness.

The mind makes its daily pilgrimage
Through riff-raff moments. Then,
Back into the caprice case to dream
In a circle, a pony goes round.

The circle’s association: There’s a center
To almost everything but never
Any certainty. Nothing is
More malleable than a moment. We were
Only yesterday breathing in a sea.
Some summer sun
Asked us over and over we went. The sand was hot.

We were only yesterday tender hearted
Waiting. To be something.
A spring. And then someone says, Sit down,
We have a heart for you to forget.
A mind to suffer
With. So, experience. So, the circus tent.
You, over there, you be the girl
In red sequins on the front of a card selling love.
You, over there, you, in black satin.
You be the Maiden’s Mister Death.


Frozen February

Frozen now in February—this cold day

flapping in the wind—it all hurts her eyes

so bright…

Here is what is noticeably true:

the mind makes its daily pilgrimage

through riff-raff moments

There’s a centre to almost everything

but never any certainty

We were only yesterday tender-hearted

waiting to be something:

a spring, a mind to suffer with

You, over there, you be the girl

selling love

You, over there, you…

be the Maiden’s Mister Death


16 thoughts on “whiteout: letting your poetic words breathe freely

    • Thanks, Kat! I’m nowhere near as technically competent with these forms as you are but I hoped my readers would still see which parts I have drawn out of the original. I think we each seek a nugget we can relate to and build a poem from there! 🙂 x

  1. Hi Joy and Welcome to WOW! 🙂 I’m so glad you found Kat’s piece so interesting and decided to play along too 🙂

    I have to say, right off – I love the way you’ve presented this – the whole thing – your introduction and then the whited out piece, as well as the poet’s original, and then your new version – with the beautiful addition of a very striking visual! Great job this 🙂

    And the content? Absolutely amazing Joy 🙂

    I so love these play dates, because each person picks and chooses and plays and although sometimes certain lines or words repeat from person to person, the general gist and ideas are so different and unique to each one playing along.

    And I love what you’ve done with this – the words you’ve opted to take out and how then, you’ve left the others to fit themselves back – while creating something, this week, that still feels close to the original, and yet has your own unique print of it.

    I have to say, some weeks, given the original piece, entirely new, weird and sometimes very odd sounding new creations come to be birthed, so when we end up with pieces that are closer to the starting point, and yet subtly different – sometimes just a hint – a light spice, as it were, the nuances make all the difference. And this is definitely the case! I think you’ve done an amazing job Joy – and I’m so glad you played along. 🙂 I hope to see you again – and now, I’m just going to sit with this for some more enjoyment and savouring 🙂

    • Hi Pat, what a warm welcome you have given me to WOW! It’s lovely to meet you.Thank you so much for stopping by to encourage me with my first attempt at writing whiteout poetry. It’s great fun to do and I hope to be able to participate again next week, health and inspiration permitting! Your generous words of praise have given me hope I can do this more than once. I usually frame my poetry with a few introductory thoughts, and like to create a shareable image or two if possible, so this is very much part of that routine. Bless you for stopping by, new friend. 🙂 x

      • Hi Joy 🙂

        I think you’ve done a wonderful job with your first attempt 🙂 Really.

        The prompt is a bit “odd” – it asks us to see things differently, and sometimes, even to “let go” of our own methods and means of creating – so it can be interesting from many angles. As for how you like to “frame” your words and ideas? What works for you is what counts – and that’s amazing 🙂 It’s your voice and ideas and particular uniqueness that I’m sure brings people back to read what you create 🙂

        I do hope you are able to play again, health and inspiration permitting ….. and feel free to check out some of the prompts that have come before, if you are so inclined. From week to week I search out different forms and types of writing – some weeks are “easier” to pick apart than others, and sometimes what we create doesn’t “flow” smoothly or “polished” – but that’s okay too – whatever lives in your comfort zone and works for you, in the moment etc. 🙂

        I hope you have a wonderful weekend Joy – and it’s always great to make new friends. 🙂

      • Pat, I’ve just been rooting around in your WOW archives. Lots of goodies there! Though wrangling words from a Leonard Cohen poem would be tricky, given his supreme mastery of the poetic and delicious way with words! How to write well without aping the Master? I think letting the flow become broken up, disjointed and obscure might prove a challenge for me, but we will see… Thanks for encouraging me to join in. Have a wonderful weekend yourself! 🙂 x

      • Actually, Cohen’s WOW piece offered up some really stellar works by everyone who played along. Of course, he is indeed a truly gifted poet – but every single artist starts somewhere, and I think it’s about learning to not be intimidated by others ….. so, yes, initially, reading “Cohen” may give you pause for thought, but that shouldn’t deter you. You could always try it just to see what happens, even if you don’t want to post – remember, it’s okay to simply work with what makes you feel like you’re having fun Joy 🙂

        And thank you – I hope to have a good weekend 🙂

      • I can see how that might happen, Pat. Great poetry inspires greatly, helping us to frame our own thoughts with deeper nuances. And you’re right about us all needing to start somewhere, while aiming to be inspired rather than intimidated or daunted by those who go before us and whose poetic gift we so admire. I’ve enjoyed our conversation and will be taking these thoughts to heart as I write and share my work: “it’s okay to simply work with what makes you feel like you’re having fun.” Amen, friend! we can all exhale and aim for enjoyment as we practise the art of poetry. Happy writing, creating and composing! 🙂 x

  2. Dear Joy,
    This is truly fascinating! I love the way that you distill the essence of the poem down to its very center. Beautiful! All of your forays into different methods are certainly inspiring! I’m thankful that I can “learn” from your writing, just by visiting here at your place. Thank you for taking us all along with you on the journey! Blessings, love and hugs to you, my friend!

    • Dear Bettie, I was fully aware I’d already posted the day before and was cutting it fine to bedtime when I wrote this post, so I wasn’t sure whether it would be well received or not! Thank you for taking time to read and leave a lovely comment. Until I read your words, and those of Pat above, I had no idea that I’d been able to “distil the essence of the poem down to its centre”; so it shows that God was very much in charge of its execution! I love to be able to inspire others with their creativity, though I wouldn’t want you to feel any pressure whatsoever to attempt a new poetic stream. It’s more my need to charge things up a bit myself, because we can easily fall into being predictable rather than penning new things. Blessings, love and hugs to you, lovely supportive friend! xo ❤

  3. What a great exercise! Especially for those of us (me!) who tend on the wordy side. If two or three words will do,I often keep them all, hate to leave one out. (Notice one of the two last phrases could have been cut.) i’m going to try it on some of my poetry. BTW, hate to say it, but the white-outed version of your poem does seem cleaner and more powerful to me.

    • Deborah, you are not alone. Verbosity ought to be my middle name! I rarely use a word where three would suffice..lol… I’m grateful for your thoughts, though sorry to hear the whited out poem seemed cleaner and more powerful to you. I was attempting to do just that with using fewer words in the normal, darker text. Oh well.. one can only get better with practice, I guess! 🙂 x

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