It’s National Poetry Month, but have I written any poetry? Sadly, no. I’m forgiving myself though and blaming the cat. Figuratively speaking, of course, since I’m allergic to cats.
Once again, it’s Elfchens (eleven-word poems) to the rescue!
The idiom, cats got your tongue, has some disturbing literal origins, and for those reasons I will let readers dabble with them on their own. https://allthatsinteresting.com/cat-got-your-tongue.
For my context today, I’m taking the childhood silly saying to mean, I have no words right now.
pierced and pawed,
muffled by fur.
Gleaming cat eyes warn,
No words at all? That’s not necessarily true either. I have been writing away in the fiction corner of my life, and though a year ago I easily balanced both poetry and fiction, the latter seems to be monopolizing all my brain power. Hence, the very reason I am forgiving myself. I still feel poetic lines and phrases shifting and stirring in my head, but with my fiction book, Seam Keepers, debuting in literally 2 weeks, 3 days, 3 hours, 12 minutes, and 10 seconds (from the time I’m writing this post…yes, I have a countdown app), then I am allowing myself a little grace.
Thankfully, a kind poet friend, Charles Robert Lindholm, introduced me to the world of Elfchens! These tiny eleven-word poems, originating from Germany, have been a friend during busy times. They’ve allowed me to seize small moments when I haven’t had the capacity to delve deeper and write longer pieces. Elfchens are five lined poems with one word on the first line, two words on the second line, three words on the third line, four words on the fourth line, and one final word on the fifth and last line. Eleven words total, which makes sense because elf is German for eleven, and –chen on the end of a German word makes it wee or small. Thus, Elfchens are little poems.
As a teacher on the side of my writing life, I taught my students to write Elfchens too, and they are addictive. In class, we are writing them for every occasion now, including the most recent, Earth Day!
Here’s an Elfchen I wrote after my spring walk on Earth Day. I had taken a picture from underneath a patch of daisies to capture the breathtaking blue-sky contrast.
Now and always
Until the last petal
Deep down, I wanted to write something longer…I could feel myself receiving more than just eleven words. But with limited creativity time, writing an Elfchen soothes the longing, and allows me to go back one day to extend my smaller poems further. They’re like treasured keepsakes I can take out to reminisce when the right time calls.
By no means am I saying Elfchens are easy or require less attention or creativity. I would argue the boundaries of form poems are challenging not to breach. It takes intentional thought to decide flow with only eleven words down five lines. But there are limits to a short form, and those are the parameters that speak to me when I’m otherwise occupied with additional styles of writing. Elfchens allow for a brief and suspended moment in time. And I can wrestle with each line on a walk or throughout the day without getting lost in the depths of my typically longer, free-flowing pieces. For me, this is what’s needed when I can’t necessarily amble through the poetic side of my soul right at the moment. These tiny poems are like little promises to return.
Breadcrumbs…to find my way back.
find themselves safe,
folded within heart pockets;
Cats can do that, right? Though they may wander themselves, they find their way home when the time comes. And when that time beckons for my poetry side to return, to sit down and delve deeply, I will cat-stretch and settle in as if awaking from a good night’s rest.
For now, I have a bit of fiction to get back to. Just for now, though.
Happy Writing (because at least you’re writing),
Celaine Charles, April 25, 2021
Image Link Credit:
A couple past links to enjoy some poetry for National Poetry Month:
Here’s a website to enjoy fifteen poets writing lovely poetry from last year’s National Poetry Month: https://stepsinbetween.com/2020/04/05/let-the-words-roam-national-poetry-month-april-2020/
Here’s an Elfchen Potluck with nineteen poets celebrating this short form of poetry: https://stepsinbetween.com/2020/02/02/youre-invited-elfchen-poetry-potluck/
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