Diary: An Etheree #WritingwithWoolf #NaPoWriMo2020 #NationalPoetryMonth

Before yesterday, I had never so much as heard of an etheree. I discovered it by reading Mary Lee Hahn’s lovely Gratitude poem, written for her April poetry challenge, The Flipside. Her post sent me to the original prompt from Liz Garton Scanlon. And I notice today that my friend Glenda Funk shares a bit more about the history of the form and her own striking example of an etheree poem at Ethical ELA’s Verse Love Challenge.

My own poetry challenge this month is to write poems inspired by Virginia Woolf’s Diaries. I had thought I might range over several volumes of the Diaries (there are five volumes), but I’ve managed to write three poems from one entry alone–which feels like the closest of close reading and oddly meditative.

A manuscript page from one of VW’s Diaries

What is an etheree? It’s a ten-line poem that starts with a one-syllable line and adds one additional syllable to each line so that the final line has ten syllables. It’s a fun form to work with, and I will definitely be trying more of these this month.

Early in the 1925 diary, VW laments her struggles in following through on consistent journaling. She writes once in January, then not again until mid-March. Like so many of us, she goes on vacation intending to write a lot but writes nothing. She has a set time daily for writing in her notebook (after dinner), but after an eleven-day gap in writing, she notes that “the mood for writing has left me, only just brushed me. & left me.” Still, something clicks in that entry and she manages to write six entries over the next two weeks and several entries per month for the rest of the year.

Day #3: Diary: An Etheree

in this diary
sacred half hour
after dinner writing
words roam through past and present
moments of perfect happiness
the day’s errands and irritations
in time to come I’ll read and remember





7 responses to “Diary: An Etheree #WritingwithWoolf #NaPoWriMo2020 #NationalPoetryMonth”

  1. TammyB Avatar

    I was working on this type this morning as well!
    Thanks for sharing yours! It is lovely.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thanks, Tammy! I found it to be a fun form to work with.

  2. margaretsmn Avatar

    I watched a SCBWI workshop with Kate Messner yesterday and she suggested giving yourself 10 minutes a day. If you are not invested after 10 minutes, put it aside, but usually you will continue writing. I love this philosophy because starting is often the hardest part. I think all writers are like this, even famous ones like Kate and Virginia.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I love this idea too. 10 minutes a day seems so doable, doesn’t it?

  3. Leigh Anne Eck Avatar
    Leigh Anne Eck

    Beautiful. And what a reason to write but to read and remember the day’s errands and irritations. I also love the thought of “after dinner writing.” I need to try this form as I have seen it a lot during the SOL challenge and now the April challenge.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      I was quite amused by a line in her diary where she is admonishing herself to write by noting that in the future she will be entertained reading her old diaries. It really is a good reason to write!

  4. karpenglish Avatar

    I am quite shocked that even Virginia Woolf had trouble writing daily! I love your etheree!

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