Poetry Month Challenges Day 8: Gossip and Graciousness

Graciousness in Gossip by Maria L. Berg 2023

Gossip & Graciousness

The dictionary defines graciousness as the quality or state of being benevolent, courteous, and kind; characterized by comfort, ease, or luxury. And gossip as light, familiar talk or writing; idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. Gracious people wouldn’t idly talk about the personal or private affairs of others, would they?

In an article from Time called “Why do People Gossip” I found this interesting idea:

Some scholars view gossip as evidence of cultural learning, offering teachable moments and providing people examples of what’s socially acceptable — and what’s not. For example, if there’s someone who cheats a lot in a community or social circle and people start to talk about that person in a negative way, says Robbins, the collective criticism should warn others of the consequences of cheating. And as word near-inevitably trickles back to source of said gossip, it can “serve to keep people in check, morally speaking,” Robbins adds.

How do I find the graciousness in gossip and the gossip in graciousness? I guess the graciousness in gossip is that gossip supposedly works to teach us to be more gracious to each other. But as Bertrand Russel said, “No one gossips about other people’s secret virtues.”

Yesterday, I stumbled upon the wonderful texts of William S. Sadler, M. D., and in The Mind at Mischief I found this wonderful passage explaining the pleasure people find in gossip as projection:

“Thus, a person may ascribe to others what is characteristic of his own unconscious self, and may condemn it in others all the more strongly because it is part of his nature that he thinks undesirable. This may partially account for the prevailing attitude in society toward the criminal. Projection is also illustrated by the universal tendency to believe that the person we hate, hates us; that the person we love, loves us; that the person we have broken faith with, is unfaithful to us. Such beliefs are satisfying and often enable the individual to avoid self-reproach. Projection also accounts in part for the pleasure people take in gossip and scandalmongering. In this way they get a vicarious expression of their own desires.”

Today’s Images

So what does finding graciousness in gossip and gossip in graciousness look like? Gossip feels noisy and busy to me. I could find two sticker shapes that look like they’re talking to each other and put them over the plastic filter. Graciousness seems calming, pastel, balanced. Do I want to use flash to lighten and blend my colors? I can try putting two of my wire faces facing each other as if one is a gossip and the other somehow gracious.

Gossip in Graciousness by Maria L. Berg 2023

The Prompts


Today’s prompt is “Twenty Little Poetry Projects.” The challenge is to put all twenty little projects into one poem. My opening metaphor took me on a wild ride.

1.  Begin the poem with a metaphor.

2. Say something specific but utterly preposterous.

3. Use at least one image for each of the five senses, either in succession or scattered randomly throughout the poem.

4. Use one example of synesthesia (mixing the senses).

5. Use the proper name of a person and the proper name of a place.

6. Contradict something you said earlier in the poem.

7. Change direction or digress from the last thing you said.

8. Use a word (slang?) you’ve never seen in a poem.

9. Use an example of false cause-effect logic.

10. Use a piece of talk you’ve actually heard (preferably in dialect and/or which you don’t understand).

11. Create a metaphor using the following construction: “The (adjective) (concrete noun) of (abstract noun) . . .”

12. Use an image in such a way as to reverse its usual associative qualities.

13. Make the persona or character in the poem do something he or she could not do in “real life.”

14. Refer to yourself by nickname and in the third person.

15. Write in the future tense, such that part of the poem seems to be a prediction.

16. Modify a noun with an unlikely adjective.

17. Make a declarative assertion that sounds convincing but that finally makes no sense.

18. Use a phrase from a language other than English.

19. Make a non-human object say or do something human (personification).

20. Close the poem with a vivid image that makes no statement, but that “echoes” an image from earlier in the poem.

Jim Simmerman

Poem A Day

Today’s prompt is to write a homographs poem.

Homographs are two words that are spelled the same but have different meanings and often are pronounced differently. Last NaPoWriMo I used homographs on Sundays to inform collages of my photographs from the week.

The Poem

Gossip is a beaver gnawing

Gossip is a beaver gnawing at the trunk of a healthy tree
with each historic ring the beaver reveals, the beaver travels
through time, tasting the tragic events, the wars, the inventions,
hearing all the voices, the gossip of each age.
The bark shifts into patterns of elaborate codes.

The forest begins to smell of warm sawdust and oil and smoke.
More gnawing releases a train whistle, then all the murmurs in a dining car:
“Mrs. Ramsay is traveling to the Isle of Skye, but where is her husband, her children?”
“I hear she lost her corporeal abilities, and yet doesn’t have the decency to depart.”
The gossip makes the leaves fall from the trees and the sap turn bitter.
The tree wasn’t healthy after all, poisoned by the gossip of the ages.
The beaver does it a favor gnawing through.

After one bit of ugly gossip from 1912, the beaver pauses
and steps back in an act of floccinaucinihilipilification,
but  the long-toothed beaver with graciousness doesn’t elaborate
The flat tail pounds and pounds the sounds into the ground
where the echoes will  cause no harm. Then unsure digs a hole
to see, but was wrong. They still whisper down there.

Contusia, she trips and stumbles through the thick forest,
wanting to join in the fun, a little “he said- she said” and “did you know?”
to be in on the secrets and share a collection of her own,
but there will be no sharing for her today, because she will be very afraid
of beavers—a gnawing long-toothed many-voiced beaver—and run away.
And the fearsome beaver will be too busy gnawing to ever know she was there.

Graciousness is finding value in the valueless gossip-filled tree trunks of this world.
Tout le monde respecte les castors.

And finally, the tree falls, but doesn’t bruise like the stumbling Contusia
The beaver watches, proud of his work, but knows he has much more to do.
The stump’s rings radiate, vibrating through ages of loose lips, and empty hearts.

3 thoughts on “Poetry Month Challenges Day 8: Gossip and Graciousness

  1. Beautiful poem. I loved it.
    It’s interesting to see the different renderings of people who actually DID follow the prompt!
    It gave me a headache before I even started, some prompts didn’t make any sense, so I let it go and went elsewhere, where the muse took me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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