Summer is over, school has begun, and I am happily enjoying more time to write. To kick off the season, I signed up for Spark! Four times a year, organizer, Amy Souza, matches artists and writers who send each other pieces to inspire the creation of new work over 10 days. It’s a fabulous way to find inspiration and community.

I was matched with artist Marilyn Ackerman, who sent me this piece:


I was immediately taken by the man pointing with his very pointy hand at the planet, the green and brown colors, and the materials which appeared to be reused and arranged in a collage. For me the piece pushed me in the direction of thinking about climate change. I often find it challenging to write about issues without being heavy-handed or predictable. I tried a few different approaches that felt either too easy or too pedestrian. For me, this early part of the process is always the hardest. Though I’ve written many, many poems, not knowing how to start can feel stressful. When I wasn’t happy with my first few efforts, I reminded myself I could start over. I tried another option, with the goal of untethering myself from reality a little more. That’s when I came up with this:


What if?

What if the Earth
was small
as a beach ball,
light enough to toss and catch
and tuck in your lap?

What if it was
so small
a butterfly could hover
over continents?

What if we could see
our globe’s white poles dissolving
into pools of blue that nibble
at the edges of green and brown puzzle pieces,
smoke rising from pinpricks,
storms swirling above the surface,
all at once in front of us?

What if we
were as large as gods,
as wise as farmers?
What would we do
with this tossable ball
in our hands?

© Elizabeth Steinglass 2019


Next week I’ll share the inspiration piece I sent Marilyn and her response.

For more Poetry Friday, visit Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong at Poetry for Children. Happy reading!

25 replies
  1. Margaret Simon
    Margaret Simon says:

    I love this poem. It’s so profound. Butterflies hovering over continents!? We could see the ice melting. We would do something! I’d like to use this poem with my students as a model What if poem. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Michelle Schaub
    Michelle Schaub says:

    Liz, Spark! sounds like a great way to, well, SPARK creativity. Thank you for sharing your poem. My favorite lines were “light enough to toss and catch/ and tuck in your lap.” Such great alliteration and assonance!

  3. jama
    jama says:

    Wonderful poem, Liz. Much to ponder. I like how you balanced a serious subject with fanciful touches — asking the reader to think and consider without any preaching.

  4. Ruth
    Ruth says:

    Great job! I love the idea of Spark!

    And thanks for your comment on my blog. I was suffering from a serious case of poster’s remorse about my poem, and your words helped restore some of my confidence.

  5. Linda Baie
    Linda Baie says:

    I enjoyed hearing about your ‘aches and pains’ when writing a new poem. What to do, how to begin? And this is a poignant look at our problems, what if we could “see” in a different way? I do love what everyone shares from Spark, always enlightening. “What if we could see. . . all at once in front of us.” Thanks, Liz!

  6. Joyce Ray
    Joyce Ray says:

    Isn’t collaboration a great way to spark creativity? My artist friend and I have been collaborating lately and we’re both pleased with the results. I particularly like these lines:
    What if we
    were as large as gods,
    as wise as farmers?

    Crops are threatened in large portion of the planet, and farmers have a lot to tell us. I love your poem, and your choice to ask questions does so much to get a reader’s attention. I think kids will love using this as a mentor poem!

  7. Linda Mitchell
    Linda Mitchell says:

    So much power in the question, “what if?” I love how delicate you paint the world without using the words delicate or small or frail….we need to treat it so much better than we have been. A really lovely poem. I’m going to sign up for spark. It looks wonderful!

    • lsteinglass
      lsteinglass says:

      I’m so glad you’re going to give it a try. The times I’ve done it I’ve written poems I would never otherwise have written.

  8. bookseedstudio/ Jan Godown Annino
    bookseedstudio/ Jan Godown Annino says:

    I believe this poem Liz. My answer to all the potent questions your post is – we can do more, we will, we will.

    The artwork from Marilyn Ackerman makes me want to look up her genres. I am especiaqlly transfixed with the hands, as if they are pen nibs.

    A huge challenge to join & you’ve handled it with such mastery. Appreciations for sharing.

    KAY MCGRIFF says:

    What if? I love how you shrink our planet to a size where we can see and grasp what we are doing to it. I sometimes wonder if the reason some are so resistant to the idea of climate change is because its causes and effects are almost too big to grasp–it’s easier to pretend not to see it or explain it away as something else.


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