Scenes from The Whipping Club

It was another TweetSpeak Poetry Twitter party last Tuesday, and 13 intrepid souls braved the shock of their Twitter followers and tweeted away, creating lines of poetry. The prompts were all taken from The Whipping Club by Deborah Henry, the novel published by T.S. Poetry Press and listed as one of Oprah’s Hot Summer Reads.

This Twitter party started in the woods, moved quickly to the ballroom, and then sailed back to the woods. Here are the first five poems assembled and edited from the tweets; we’ll have more next week.

Scenes from The Whipping Club

By @llbarkat, @mmerubies, @BrighterSideBlg, @charsingleton, @lanearnold, @Doallas, @chrisyokel, @VaporWhisp, @lwlindquist, @gyoung9751, @jen_rose, @pathoftreasure, and @GBrodhurstDavis. Edited by @gyoung9751. Overslept: @duane_scott.

The Woods

He imagined the woods,
with their orange mushrooms,
scented pines deep and dark, a thousand
miles from the sea, beyond desert.
He learned his way through the woods
tree by tree
He learned his way through the dark
star by star
to where the weeping willows are.
And tree by tree, he gathered moss
He learned his way through the owl’s hoot
and the soft cooing of the whippoorwill.

The willows whisper behind fluttering leaves.
The sky a skirt of storm cloud sweeping trees,
the oaks stiffly bow and dance to please.

Trailing by tip toe, body long and lean,
he glanced and saw, his hands reaching
up through the snow, steady falling
down a thousand miles from the willows,
touching a sign scored in the grain
of the wood, its bark stripped like his heart.
He takes the heart to every girl;
it only fit just the one.

The glance reminds him of second chances,
second chances and second fields, reminded
him of first shoes removed and new bare feet;
only bare feet feel holiness of the ground, and
shoes are not for leaving , by the way.
The second glance is what convinces him:
the aspen leaves had quaked their secret,
the leaves slipping over their gathered bark,
the branches stretching a thousand miles more.

For another glance he would give the moon away
and sacrifice the sun which makes it day.

The Ball in the Woods

And what do the mushrooms wear?
Tattered lace and ribbons, shawls weaved
of lavender in a midnight moon, a dress
of gathered bark, a slip of rain, shoes
of stars, a belt of cooing. Mushrooms
bob their button-hatted heads, trailing
a thousand more ribbons from a hat
that could make you cry.

When they are going to the ball?
Ah, soon, they shall go to the ball!
Full of dance they learned from the trees.
Dance high! Dance high! Leave your troubles
with your shoes, on the side. Yes dancing
the wild dance they learned from the trees,
the trees and the breeze and the buzzing
of bees: they go to the ball as they please.

Dressing for the Ball

I polish my nails with twinkling lights.
I powder my face with the sand
beside the sea. I weave sunbeams
through my hair, and you could
never hope to climb as high as me.
Touch the ruffle of my hem,
look to the fields, look to the stars.
I wear black-point shoes and I twist
my hair so tight the bun holds back
everything, every single dream
a dancer dreams. I learned to dance
on a September day, in a circle
of trees colored still green,
life green, their branches reaching
out to me, singing me their song.

Ruffles of Hemlock

Ruffles of hemlock skate the night,
leaves crumble and dry, poison
already praying to kiss my lips.
Kiss my lips as if I were a tree,
hold tight and roughen me.
My words will one day dance
across your pages. You will
read them and know a part
of me that even I can’t touch.

Two Osprey

Two osprey soar beside the live oak,
bearded in Spanish moss. They soar
tree by tree and stone by stone.
The sky wears a skirt of storm clouds.
The rain falls; the osprey hear
the whisper under thunder; the osprey
breathe the sharp acrid smell of new life.

Photo by Rvdh. Creative Commons, via Flickr. Post by Glynn Young, author of Dancing Priest.


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  1. says

    Wow… now that was fun, all over again! Thank you for your weaving it all together … it’s like magic. This phrase took my breath away –

    “My words will one day dance
    across your pages.
    You will read them and
    know a part
    of me that even
    I can’t touch.”

    … and its truth seems to be found out here, in these poetry party lines that have found each other.

  2. L. L. Barkat says

    Lol! I loved the “overslept” slipped in. Somebody needs to tell Duane 😉

    Lovely poems. Really showing, I think, that some of the participants have been writing together over time. Can’t believe some of the synchronicity here.

  3. says

    This whole connection of dancing and balls and woods reminds me of scenes from Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke. Does anyone know what I’m talking about?

  4. says

    Glynn – I am always amazed at how these poems come together so beautifully under your pen. Like LL, it’s amazing that the voices of so many writers blend so beautifully together – the community has taken on a voice of its own.

  5. Kathleen says

    Ruffles of Hemlock is brilliant. I also like this line very much, in my gut….. I twist
    my hair so tight the bun holds back
    everything, every single dream
    a dancer dreams.

  6. Laurie Flanigan says

    The lines are put together beautifully. I love “I twist my hair so tight the bun holds back everything”. It resonates a familiar feeling.


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