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Poetry Friday.

Chinook, Hines Emerald Dragonfly, and Irises, Endangered Species” WIP, © 2017 Michelle Kogan (Shared with permission from Michelle Kogan)


The scent of salmon lingers.

Creek waters ripple over
smooth stones. Cedar and
moss fill the air. At dusk,
near water’s edge, bears feast.

While snow covers the ground,
eggs wait in nesting pockets.
Winter turns to spring and in
gravelly redds, alevin hatch.

Spring warms to summer.
In quiet pools, fry –the
size of pine needles–
swim, searching for food.

Summer passes.
Fry mature to parr,
camouflaged with dark
rounded patches on their sides.

Fall chills to winter, then
snow melts again and parr
lose their patches, turn
silver, become smolt.

Waters rush and tumble,
carrying smolt away with
the scent of their home
buried deep within.

Surrounded by hazards, they
journey to an estuary to
complete smoltification,
making ready for salty seas.

In salty seas, they travel far
surviving deadly perils —
nets and whales and
otters and seals.

Until one day,
from deep within,
they hear the call
of their mountain creek.

Carrying seeds of life, they
homeward turn against currents
of fresh water, leaping falls and
rapids, overcoming grave dangers.

No stopping on this final race
for life. They must return to
the place of their beginning
before snows fall again.

They’ve a nest to dig,
spawn to release,
a cycle to complete,
to start again.

At dusk, near water’s edge,
bears feast. Cedar and
moss fill the air. Creek water
ripples over smooth stones.

The scent of salmon lingers.

© 2018 Alice Nine  All rights reserved.

Columbia River Gorge, looking east near Crown Point

Writing about my writing

In February,

During the month of February I participated in a daily poetry writing challenge extended to a FB writing community — Laura Shovan’s 6th Annual February Poetry Project. On Day  22, our prompt was a lovely painting — “Chinook, Hines Emerald Dragonfly, and Irises, endangered species” by Michelle Kogan. Michelle wrote: “This is a watercolor and watercolor pencil, painting I’m working on. I began it as a demo of washes for my Watercolor class that I teach.”

Living in the Pacific Northwest, I was immediately drawn to the chinook and drafted a life cycle poem about chinook salmon. From the beginning of the draft, I wrote with the end in mind. [This is not always the case; sometimes I have a beginning and then the poem writes itself.]

My subject was perfect for a circular poem. I actually wrote my first line and following stanza first and then before writing the “body,” I played with the phrase order and used the same words/lines as my last stanza and last line.

Salmon have a keen sense of smell. It is that sense of smell which ultimately guides them back to the stream where they hatched. Also, research has established that salmon are sensitive to the scent of their predators. One study showed that salmon will flee when a fisherman rinses his hands in the stream. New research shows another interesting aspect: salmon know when a predator is around because they can tell that it has eaten salmon. The scent of salmon is on the predator. My opening / closing line contains these thoughts, as well as the thought of the death of the salmon. How living and dying are intertwined. How everything that lives, must die. And how everything that dies continues to contribute to living.

Having a beginning and an ending, I then wrote the body of my draft from my general knowledge of salmon. Knowing it was a draft and working under the challenge of writing a poem every day, I did not take time to do any fact checking.

In Mach and April,

I  returned to the draft frequently — to fact check, to be purposeful about vocabulary, to add details. Each time I let the poem rest for several days, maybe a week, letting it get cold. Then I would read more about chinook, have a new understanding or inspiration, and return to the poem to revise again. This I repeated numerous times.

In May,

I did still more revision work. I determined to share on a Poetry Friday in May. Deadlines always add a bit of productive pressure to my work. Since I’m participating in Margaret Simon’s photo/poem swap for May 25th Poetry Friday, I had to share by May 17th.

So this week, I’ve been tweaking words and fussing with line breaks. And I’ve been wrestling with stanzas. After trying many possibilities, I chose to divide the poem into four-line stanzas, each stanza loosely representing a stage in the cycle of a chinook’s life.

I think it is worth noting that in all of my revision work, I did not alter my original opening and closing lines.

Nearly three months after penning the first draft, I publicly share this draft. Perhaps it will be my final draft.

In my classroom


Life Cycle Map.

Follow the cycle from upper right (Eggs) to left (Parr), to lower left to right, (smolt), and around to upper right (spawning).

 For the fisherman

In my research, I happened upon this descriptive account of fly fishing for trout while shooting the rapids in Black Canyon.

Rebecca at “Sloth Reads” is hosting the week’s Round-Up. Thank you, Rebecca!

Poetry Friday Schedule
January – June 2018