One of my favorite pictures is of my cousin and my little brother whose fishing adventure brought them a real prize: a paddlefish.
American Paddlefish are protected in many areas now, but back then in the 60s they were a prize catch in the Mississippi River drainage system, which covers much of North America. We lived along the Missouri River in North Dakota, a whirl pool filled muddy river where once cities of Native Americans lived. The river carries immense sediments and so is nicknamed the Big Muddy.
Paddlefish are ancient relics of prehistoric times— 125 million years ago– so catching one is a shock because of their strange shape. The are related to sturgeon, also ancient fish.
For more info on the paddlefish, see this video: Paddlefish: An American Treasure
The two cousins rigged their poles, hoping to catch a Northern Pike for dinner, but instead were treated with a big surprise. And so, a poem for them.
I chose a poem format of a lined poem– with a certain number of words on each line, Line 1 with one word, Line 2 with 2 words, for nine lines with this word pattern: 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1. I hoped that each line would provide a different who, what, when, where and the action and surprise.
I finally arrived at one version and then considered how to revise it. Here’s my process, starting with changing the starting and ending lines so they connected [fishing/paddlefish]. I then reorganized the first few lines so the setting is established, and then the action finishes in the last five lines.
Dreaming Northern Pike
Big Muddy – Missouri River
Cousins cast, waiting for dinner—
Pole tip dips low
Grab and tug
Give a try for a word/line format poem on a photo or topic of your choice in which the unexpected occurs. Here’s the format I tried:
- Line 1: one word — topic
- Line 2: two words — when
- Line 3: three words — the hope or plan
- Line 4: four words — where
- Line 5: five words — who and what
- Line 6: four words — an event
- Line 7: three words — an action
- Line 8: two words — a surprise
- Line 9: one word — topic related word