Gossip: A Tanka #WritingwithWoolf #NaPoWriMo2020 #NationalPoetryMonth

For National Poetry Month, I am writing poems inspired by Virginia Woolf’s Diary, Volume 3 1925-1930.

For someone who longed for the pleasures of solitude, Virginia Woolf spent an awful lot of time in company. Her diary of spring and early summer 1925 details an apparently endless round of visits, dinners, and engagements, and it is clear that standards for conversation were very high. Nothing was lost on Woolf–no intellectual weakness, no contradiction, no flaw. She engaged in an evening of gossipy conversation with friends, and then came home and captured the people and the talk–not always kindly–in the pages of her diary.

Day #4: Gossip

she nets butterflies,
spreads the wings of their secrets,
preserves their foibles.
her friends are her specimens,
characters mounted, displayed.





6 responses to “Gossip: A Tanka #WritingwithWoolf #NaPoWriMo2020 #NationalPoetryMonth”

  1. Leigh Anne Eck Avatar
    Leigh Anne Eck

    The metaphor of the butterflies to her friends is nothing short of spectacular! That last word – displayed – really packs a punch to the downfalls of gossip. Well done, Elisabeth!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Thanks, Leigh Anne! I don’t know if I’ve ever done an extended metaphor before, but I had filed your poem away to try something like that at some point in the future, and then it worked for this poem. Hooray!

  2. lindabaie Avatar

    Dear Elisabeth, sorry that it took me a while to figure out that you were posting, too! That Virginia Woolf recorded her thoughts in such frightful ways is sad to read. I have read some about her before, not a happy woman. You’ve written her attitude beautifully, if frighteningly, too.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      She often seems to be practicing her descriptive skills in her journal, trying to create these word portraits of her friends and acquaintances. I wasn’t sure I was going to do a poetry challenge this month, but I’m glad I picked a project.

  3. Juliana Ellington Avatar
    Juliana Ellington

    I don’t understand the poetic form you used, so I can’t comment on that, but I can understand your metaphor, and it is brilliant! And I think that VW might be amused by your view of her.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      A tanka is a five-line poem, and each line has a particular syllable count: 5 7 5 7 7. There is supposed to be a shift or turn in the final two lines. I have no idea why VW trying to capture her friends in words connected in my mind to lepidropterists, but it did.

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