Poem of the Week–Bear Butte, and a discussion on format

Bear Butte

Wind talks to me


through shy

covered lips

speaks of Sioux
and holy

long winters
full of deer trails

prayers drifted
as winged

cones tumbled through
thick branches

thunking the ground
to roll downhill


of possibilities

by Sheryl Nelms
Dallas Branch, TX

Editor’s Note:

The Pen Woman magazine, free to NLAPW members and available for purchase to the public, has just gone to press and will be arriving in members’ mailboxes in the coming weeks. Visit our Bookstore to purchase the magazine or our other Pen Women Press publications.

Poetry followers will notice a change in the formatting of the poems in the magazine: the byline now appears below the poem. One reason for the change is that because we include the branch information of our members, having the byline after the body of the poem prevents that additional info from breaking up the flow between the title and the body of the poem.

Another question I have been asked is whether a title should include the form of the poem in parenthesis after the title, such as Mad Girl’s Love Song (a villanelle) by Sylvia Plath. My personal opinion is that in common forms, such as villanelles, sonnets, and haiku, it is not necessary, and you’ll notice Sylvia Plath didn’t include it. For more “obscure” forms, such as a sestina, or to specify a specific form, such as Petrarchan sonnet or a Mason sonnet, it might be a good idea, depending on the audience. Some editors find it distracting (Would you put Free Verse next to a title?) or even insulting (Really? I wouldn’t have known this was a sonnet if you hadn’t told me). On the other hand, the form might also be an integral part of the title. as in Sonnet for a Rainy Day, or see A Kind of Villanelle by Joyce Sutphen).

What do you think? What have you done in your own poetry? What do you like, not like?

Treanor Baring


  1. Bet Wooten says:

    I have seen in the Olympics figure skating what having “one foot” wrong will do. So I say that naming the form is dangerous. “One foot” out of sync will put the poem off its designated form and possibly therefore out of the competition. If the form is not named, the “feet” have leave to take the poet’s path.

    • ITA, if the poem adheres to the form, readers will either recognize it or enjoy it anyway; if it doesn’t, it becomes a distraction. Also depends on context–as a teaching tool, pointing out the form is good, but that can be done by the professor, and not the poet herself. Still think use of the form name directly in the title can be interesting, as in “A Kind of Villanelle.”

  2. Mona Locke says:

    I agree with the new policy of placing the byline at the bottom of the poem. When a poem’s form is designated in the title of the poem, so be it. There is no need to include it after the title in parentheses, and doing so would definitely (in my opinion) interfere with the flow between title and poem.

    • ITA, the flow is part of the shape of the poem, and the byline, and especially the branch name, isn’t part of that. Thanks for the comment!