For National Poetry Month, I am writing poems inspired by words, ideas, and images in Virginia Woolf’s Diary.
The working title for the novel that would eventually become The Waves was The Moths, and for many pages of the Diary, that’s how Woolf refers to it. As she contemplates beginning to write the novel, she often returns the image that anchored the book’s origins: a window opening, a moth coming in.
I decided to try a nonfiction poem about a moth I just learned about this week in Joyce Sidman’s wonderful biography of naturalist and painter Maria Sibylla Merian. But it turns out that facts are few and hard to come by about the white witch moth. It ranges from Mexico to Uruguay with the occasional stray seen in Texas, and it’s the record holder for world’s largest insect with a wingspan of nearly a foot! But scientists haven’t ever observed it in its egg, caterpillar, or pupa states. Almost nothing is known about it. So this is not a poem of facts after all.
It’s written in the form of a rubliw, which was developed by Richard Wilbur based on the cinquain. A cinquain is a five-line poem with lines of 2-4-6-8-2 syllables. The rubliw adds a line with 10 syllables and then counts back down again to 2.
Day #22: Moth
great owlet moth
your origins shrouded in mystery
milky wings scallop-edged in brown
dark patterned underside