The Challenge

Adiantum Pedatum

We’ve just started working on poetry in my writing class, and (meanie that I am) I decided that we would start with an ode rather than with free verse. Although I love the versatility of a free verse poem, I thought it would make an interesting challenge for my students to start with more, rather than less, structure. Also, considering the sometimes moody nature of teenagers, I wanted my students to really focus on a positive subject. Finally, I figured that I would cure myself of my antipathy for rhyme.

What I remembered while writing my own ode, is that rhyme is not easy and that conforming to an iambic pentameter rhythm sets certain constraints on how you express an idea. In short, writing an ode is no easy task. It is an intellectual puzzle. It requires patience, thoughtfulness, and skill. The emotion is still there, but, is dressed in more sophisticated garb. Also, I have learned to appreciate the subtlety of rhyme.

The Glacial Ishkinish


Adamantine, turbulent Ishkinish

Carving granite troughs through boreal groves

Of shadowed fir, mossy pine.  Relinquish

Your leaping, swirling, foaming fandango,

And pool aloof amidst the opulent

Black-stockinged adiantum pedatum.

There, sing of pragmatic and poignant

Travels … serpentine, green and darksome.

Teal coated transient of veiled origin

Stay. Drink. Partake. Until elsewhere bidden.


Unspoiled, scarlet-tongued, dewy maids of spring

Growing to frilled, black-gartered madams

Of summer.  Linger long in cascading

Syllables of effervescent freedom

Then furl your pinnate fans…

Impudent coquettes.  Wayward tomboys. Dip

Your emerald skirts into depths unfathomed

And from glacial waters let earth acquit –

Oh, you red-shoed girls with faces aglow

Teasing cool Ishkinish to sweet furlough.


Curling round in a lazy promenade

Through sun-sweet shadow and dawn’s breaking mist

The colonial beauties his measure sought ~

All ~ to charm inscrutable Ishkinish.

Fruitful in part. The mighty river pooled

In shallow eddies on their fields of green.

Marshy maidens let down their hair – tenfold –

Then, the brackish beck, his solitary stream

Continued. . . Leaping, lunging, laughing

Into the adamantine spray…