Friday, August 26, 2011

Poetry Friday: Good Friends, Strange Dolls

Poets on the Ferry Boat to Friday Harbor 2010
I adore the people in my writing groups - yes, I have two groups: one of writers for children, one of poets for adults. I used to call the effort to write for both audiences "straddling the fence," and I still feel that way on good days. It's exciting on that fence, being able to see all directions. On days when I'm tired, though, I usually think it's just schizophrenic.

But the people in my writing groups? I never tire of them. In fact, I adore them. They're one of the big reasons I like writing - I like being around creative people. My friends are energetic, talented, generous and very funny. I have to admit, the writers for children are a tamer bunch (i.e. normal - sweet, generous, helpful) next to the writers for adults, who are a little more competitive, a little more acerbic, and who are always looking for a strange take on things, a startling new style, a deconstruction of language and then a whole new construction process. The writers for children examine projects that are in the process of become finished products. That's a good thing. With the other group, the process is the pleasure, and that's a good thing, too. I get the best of both worlds.

My poem today was produced as the result of an assignment given by one of the members of my writing-for-adults group. She shared a used books she'd found about rare dolls - this book was filled with really odd and often disturbing dolls - stiff, scary, strange.  She asked us to write a poem about one them. The photo of the pincushion doll (not the one below, which I found online) had me riveted to it - not sure why. This poem was published recently in the online review, Numero Cinq, so be sure to go there if you want to read the whole poem.


That matte skin
is what bothers people most –

she’s like a ghost
with no shine, all bisque,

in need of a brisk walk
to bring the peaches to her cheeks.

But since she has no legs,
that begs the question.

Below the waist
she’s chaste, all ballast,

filled with sawdust, not a model
for anybody’s body.

The striped fan in her hands
meant to be elegant

is simply sad. Half a woman...

[Click here to read the rest at Numero Cinq]

Today's Poetry Friday round-up is being hosted by Irene Latham over at Live. Love. Explore!  Head over there to see what other people have posted.


  1. My favorite line: "girl, you better tremble." Wonderful. And as a fellow "straddler" I appreciate your particular brand of schizophrenia. Thanks for sharing!

  2. What a powerful poem, Julie. The direct address, the advice given to the doll, is haunting. Congrats on the publication.

  3. Very powerful and (pardon the pun) sharp. Gorgeous writing - thanks for sharing, Julie.

  4. at first i thought, what a sad commentary on the way women were treated in the past, forced to stab pins in effigy. then i thought about voodoo dolls and their purpose -- equally stuffed human forms stuck with pins -- and wondered if, somewhere, these two dolls don't have a shared ancestor.

    love the wordplay, as always, julie. the legs beg, the waist chaste. wonderful.

  5. Oh that's a beautiful teaser for the poem. And the photograph is lovely as well. I particularly enjoyed your description of your writing groups. I feel that it is important for writers/creatives to have this space where they could simply enjoy and relish the feel of being with kindreds. I am glad you have found such wonderful space with your two sets of friends.

  6. Julie,

    I used to belong to a writers' group with teaching colleagues who worked in the same school system with me. They were a great help to me--and so supportive. Today, I usually get writing help from my good friends Grace Lin and Janet Wong via email and telephone. These two ladies have given me excellent advice and lots of encouragement.

    Love your Pinchusion Doll poem!

  7. Elaine, how wonderful to work with Grace and Janet - two poets full of energy and imagination. Loved your Dzidzi poem over at Wild Rose Reader today.

    David, I wish you could have seen this doll - actually voodoo-esque come to think of it. So lifeless. Ooh.

  8. Julie, your poem is wonderful.I want to try this form - addressing an object. I also read back in your blog and thank you for reminding me of Millay's lovely poem. I'm going to work on nature poems with my grandson this fall. Millay's Counting Out poem will be wonderful inspiration.

  9. I like "waist...chaste." Creepiest of all, during the era I write about, some children simply used a chunk of wood as a doll....