Haiku Sonnet 9/30 #npm23

Today, I’m blending two of Margaret’s prompts to try a haiku sonnet about an endangered species in Michigan, the Mitchell’s Satyr butterfly, one of the world’s rarest butterflies, which lives in one of the world’s rarest ecosystems, the prairie fens (also called peatlands, bog fens, or sedge meadow).

The Mitchell’s satyr lives in just 13 locations in Michigan and 1 location in Indiana. Its habitat is already very limited due to human encroachment and destruction as well as “the suppression of natural disturbance regimes” like wildfires and flooding due to beaver activity. Its chances for survival aren’t helped by the fact that it seems quite finicky, rejecting most “hydrologically altered” wetlands and preferring very specific mixes of sedge and tree. It’s a weak flyer, which means it can’t easily migrate to find a more suitable home.

There is still much to learn about this butterfly. The scientific literature is full of statements like “Little is known of its development” and “No courtship behaviors have been recorded” and “There have been no reports of communication in this species.”

butterfly, emerge
from the mystery of your
lime-green chrysalis

dark eyes visible,
yellow-ringed on ventral wing,
banded by orange

warm yourself in sun
bob slowly through the sedges
weave among larches

nectar on milkweed,
mountain mist, black-eyed susan,
rest on green tussock

disperse, mate, then die
your brief life, an enigma


A haiku sonnet consists of four stanzas of traditional haiku followed by a couplet of some combination of five or seven syllables. I found it quite a bit more challenging to write than I expected. The research rabbit hole was delightful, however, and I’m indebted to several sites for information and language used in my poem: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Mitchell’s Satyr Butterfly, Michigan Department of Natural Resources’s Mitchell’s Satyr (Neonympha mitchellii mitchelli), Michigan State University’s Neonympha mitchellii mitchellii, University of Michigan’s Neonympha mitchellii, and the Center for Conservation Innovation’s 81-page Recovery Plan for the Mitchell’s Satyr Butterfly.

Visit the 2023 #ClimatePoemProject site for more prompts related to climate poetry.

For my National Poetry Project, I’m playing along with the poetry calendar created by Margaret and Molly.






4 responses to “Haiku Sonnet 9/30 #npm23”

  1. Juliana Ellington Avatar
    Juliana Ellington

    I have thought all day about your poem. It’s quite an accomplishment in form, but I love that you devoted all this composition time to writing about a barely known, barely surviving Michigan butterfly!

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      It was fun to fall down the rabbit hole of research of course. There is a nature preserve on the other side of the state where there is a population, but I’m not sure what the chances are that you could actually spot one.

  2. margaretsmn Avatar

    This butterfly looks like soft puppy ears, irresistible. The lovely rhythm of the haiku honors this rare beauty.

    1. Elisabeth Ellington Avatar

      Isn’t it lovely? From afar you probably can’t observe the subtle details that make it so beautiful.

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