Does It Have Pockets and #TankaTuesday

This week, Colleen’s #TankaTuesday prompt is to write a syllabic poem inspired by your Celtic tree. I had never heard of this before. It seems similar to an astrological sign in that your birthday determines the tree. My tree is holly, which I had never thought about before. I mean, I know the holly berries and leaves design for Christmas decorations, but that is about it. I discovered:



Among the Celtic tree astrology signs, the Holly is one of regal status. Noble, and high-minded, Holly signs take on positions of leadership and power. If you are a Holly sign you take on challenges easily and overcome obstacles with rare skill and tact. When you encounter setbacks, you remain vigilant to obtain your end goals. People look up to you and follow you as their leader as you are rarely defeated. You are competitive and ambitious even in the most casual settings. You are quite generous, kind and affectionate. Highly intelligent, you skate through academics where others may struggle. Holly signs may look to Ash and Elder signs for balance and partnership.

No doubt these descriptions are set up to flatter, but there are aspects of this description I can relate to. Taking on challenges, (trying to be) kind, things like that. But the ruler? My husband would laugh himself silly because we both agree that while some are leaders, some are followers, there are those like me that are neither. I don’t like being a boss as in: do this, do that, don’t do that, I’ll judge you, etc. I do like the “noble and high-minded” thing, though. Whether it’s simple flattery or something more, I can take a guess 😉 but one of my literary role models (and here I use literature to mean Broadway musical haha) is King Arthur in Camelot. He has to choose between the legal choice for the good of the country (meaning lots of people) or his love for his wife. Really really admire that character.

I thought I would try a tectractys today, and I’ll tell you why in a minute. So here it is:




must come from tact

and the ability to see both sides.

Tectractys is a five-line poem with this syllabic configuration: 1, 2, 3, 4, 10.

The literary journal Does It Have Pockets? has published a Red Riding Hood story of mine that is darker than anything found in my chapbook Our Wolves. “Why I Always Wear Red” is flash fiction that finishes with a tectractys, making it a hybrid genre. You can read it here:

If you missed my reblog of Rebecca Budd’s podcast interview of me, here is the Spotify link. You can also find it on Soundcloud.

You can also follow Rebecca’s Tea Toast & Trivia series for more author interviews.


Filed under #amwriting, #OurWolves, #poetrycommunity, #TankaTuesday, #writingcommunity, Fairy Tales, Flash Fiction, Poetry, Poetry book, Poetry Collection, Writing, Writing prompt

48 responses to “Does It Have Pockets and #TankaTuesday

  1. Super tectractys poem, Luanne. Congratulations on the Does it Have Pockets publication.

  2. I love this form, I completely agree with your poem message.

  3. Aha King Arthur…that makes sense to me…enjoyed the poem, too!

  4. Congratulations on the publication of “Why I Wear Read”! I’m taking it as a story of female empowerment. When I first saw the title of your post, I thought it was going to be about a new art project!

  5. This is not an easy form to write!!! I like your poem! You are such a creative spirit that you can master most any form of poetry!

  6. Luanne, I really enjoyed how you deconstructed this and left such a pretty fringe of meaning.

  7. Luanne, what a lovely discussion of the holly. I always enjoy your commentary. Your Tectractys is perfect!

  8. A good leader allows the people to believe that they have choices.
    Off to your story… I’ve done dark too, but not often.

    • Good point!!! I hope you like my dark story!

      • I couldn’t figure out how to leave a comment there. My Dad always told us kiddo’s alternate fairy stories. So I’ve written a few – I like versions that challenge the norm. Though really most fairy tales are actually dark to start with. Only the big ‘D’ has sugar coated most of the stories. 🙂

        • You are so right about Disney!!! Nothing like a Grimm brothers or Perrault story to keep you awake at night. For a lifetime haha. For me, the two scariest that have stayed with me were The Juniper Tree and Bluebeard. So scary.

  9. Amy

    So what is the reason for these prompts? And what are all these poetry forms that you rely on? I am trying to understand the goal—to inspire a poem, to solve a puzzle, to enter a competition, something else, or am I missing the point? I am not at all being judgmental—just trying to understand since poetry is a foreign art to me!

    • Yes, to inspire a poem. The idea of a prompt is to give an idea that gives you a “seed” for a poem. But also “writing constraints” are another way. Colleen’s prompts are both inspiration prompts, but also writing constraints because you have to use a syllabic form. For me they operate almost as exercises to strength the writing muscle, if that makes sense. And the form of the flash story here, the dark Red Riding Hood one, is thanks to Colleen’s prompts because I wanted to create a hybrid genre of fiction and poem, so I settled on the tectractys to end the story.

      • Amy

        Thanks! I never knew there were so many different forms of poetry! I only remember learning haiku, sonnets, free verse, and “regular” poems with iambic pentameter and abba quatrains or abab. or abac etc. 🙂

        • TBH, even in grad school we did not study syllabic forms. I learned to “scan” poetry for meter and learned all manner of figurative use (metaphor, etc.), even rhyme schemes as you mention. Sonnets, villanelles, sestinas, etc. But we never touched any syllabic, even haiku. I hadn’t really read much haiku since we had it in 6th grade. The only real reference in grad school I can remember is that Marianne Moore wrote syllabic poetry, but she was more one we read about than read her work.

          • Amy

            So what exactly is syllabic poetry? And can you explain its purpose? I’ve never quite understood the reason for the restrictions of haiku; it seems to be more about making writing a poem a game than to achieve some aesthetic purpose. But then…I am not a poet.

            • In the English language poetry is usually written in meter, even if it’s free verse where the poem captures the sound of spoken word. That’s how English works. The iambic foot is the basis of how we speak, although we vary it with trochees, etc. Duh-dum. That’s iambic. Trochee would be Dum-duh. Anapest is duh-duh-dum. Oh, I’ll stop myself with that. Many other languages, like French and Japanese, are based on specific syllable counts. So most syllable poetry originated with other languages. In fact, for me syllabic poetry was a slowly learned taste. I grew up with ballad stanzas (mostly in iambs, 4 line stanzas, often rhyming ABAB. And I sonnets are a more complex version of that. And, as I said, even in grad school we didn’t do much with syllabics. But syllabic poetry is another way to write poetry and it’s very popular. I think it works best in English when we merge “spoken sound” or stress-based WITH a syllable count. There is a beauty in the constraints of the syllabic form and the way the poet has to squeeze more juice out of language to accommodate it, thus creating a thing of beauty and meaning. And writing syllabic verse can appeal to people who like puzzles, so there is that, too. I don’t think syllabic poetry will ever replace my favorites: free verse and the forms of formal poetry like sonnets, ballad stanzas, villanelles, etc. Also, pantoums are another way of writing a poem. They rely on a certain repetition of lines to achieve meaning. While the rules might seem random, by working with the forms, a poet is often able to achieve more by challenging herself this way. Also, the rules for pantoums and villanelles and sestinas (which are impossibly difficult) somehow work to produce gorgeous poems and this couldn’t be achieved through free verse in the same way. Now if you want to ask me about free verse, I’ll just say, that in free verse the poet makes up her own rules for how to form her poem. Period.

              • Amy

                I just saw this response from two days ago. (You can tell that I am not online nearly as much as I once was.) Thank you for this explanation! I think that because I don’t write (or really even read) poetry, I wasn’t sensitive to the ways that poets work. I do remember learning all those different feet and having to identify them in various poems, starting with Joyce Kilmer’s Trees, a poem I find so corny that I can’t understand why it’s so well loved. Since I don’t write poetry, I never thought about the fact that playing with words, syllables, sounds, and images is all part of the process. Silly me!

              • “Trees” is the punching bag for a lot of poets, believe me! Silly you, no. Smart you, yes!

  10. Love how you constructed this Luanne (congratulations on the publication too) 🙌

  11. Love the poem, the explanation of Holly – I’d never heard of the Celtic tree, I’ll have to check out what mine is:)). And the story is a masterpiece. Thank you so much for sharing!

  12. Hi Luanne, I like your poem for the poetry challenge and am intrigued by the attributes of holly. I read your Red Riding Hood flash fiction and I like it very much. It is darker but there is real justice there. I haven’t listened to your discussion with Rebecca yet. That must wait until I am back home later this week. I look forward to it.

    • Thank you so much, Robbie. I am thrilled that you saw the justice in the RRH story! and that you liked the holly tectractys. Hope you’re going somewhere fun!

  13. Luanne, I enjoyed reading how you claimed some of the attributes of the holly tree. It’s an interesting insight into oneself. Also loved the message in your poem.<3

  14. Ellen Morris Prewitt

    The very name “Does It have Pockets?” wants me to read whatever it offers. Congratulations on the poem–I love its punch at the end.

    • Thank you! Haha, I know I love the name of the journal. When I posted about it on (gasp) Facebook (I know you’re not on there any more), Facebook asked me if I wanted to buy an ankle-length cargo skirt covered with pockets for $600!

  15. I’d never heard of tree astrology. So, I am an oak. I can live with that.
    I read the poem Why I Always Wear Red. Always interesting to read this kind of work and interpret what is in the writer’s mind. I’m reading it as taking control of “trauma” so that “it” does not control your life.

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