Joanna Thomas

Joanna Thomas writes uncommon books, and this one, bluebird (bloo-burd), is no exception. What great fun to find it this week in my mail.

As explained at the website for Milk & Cake Press, blue-bird (bloo•burd) employs the lipogram, a poetic constraint which requires that a poet not use a certain letter of the alphabet. Using words starting with “B” as the title of each poem, the poems themselves, written as lyrical, lovely dictionary entries, exclude it.

Joanna invited me to write a blurb for her book, and, not understanding that b’s were banned, this is what I wrote — or a fragment of it (I seem to recall going into rhapsodic excess):

bes·ti·ar·y (bes-chi-er-ee) adj. 1. a blast of burgeoning delights. 2. an imaginarium containing bluebirds, hawks, magpies, unicorns, and wing nuts with actual wings. 3. pages that light up like whirligigs.

But you really have to see it for yourself to believe it. So, a sample poem, the first in this delightful collection:


baf·fle (bafēl)

n. 1. something that aids the eye in aiming. 2. a plethora of afterthoughts; or, a finger pointing at the moon. 3. a final lap, when used as a hassock or a pillow:  Confusion rested its weary tangle upon the tongue’s baffle. 4. the knowing of warp from weft; this from that; come from go; soup from nuts. 5. a fat girl in fishnets. 6. the sound of lips smacking sweet. 7. anaphora, spewed from full lungs; also, thunder, when it’s stolen

Need I add, this begs to be a writing prompt? For more ideas see my blogpost about her book, Rabbit, an erasure poem, or visit her uncommon blog:

Joanna Thomas

RABBIT: AN ERASURE POEM, Joanna Thomas. Dogtown Press, Ellensburg, WA, 2018, 22 pages, $5, paper.

I met Joanna Thomas two years ago at Litfuse. She does this really arty, fun stuff with erasure poems and visuals and — because I generally don’t do those sorts of poem — I almost skipped her workshop.

I am SO GLAD I went. More than the keynotes or anyone else I encountered that year, Thomas’s work burned a hole through my imagination all the way down to my bootsoles. She is a wonder. If you can’t get your hands on any of her limited edition books (exquisite little gems you’ll want to keep and give to friends), then you should invite her to give a workshop for you. (Adults and our delights aside, I think these would inspire some pretty wicked home school lessons.) To read more, visit Thomas’s very visual blog:

Because the poems don’t run down the left hand margin, my blog space will just make a botch of it; hence, the photograph. In short, Thomas has erased  Webster’s Elementary Dictionary: A Dictionary for Boys & Girls (New York: American Book Company, 1941), and she shares the image from the dictionary, then duplicates the poem (and its peculiar layout) on the facing page.