Hail and Farewell Southpark Toastmasters

The farewell toast speech I offered to the Southpark Toastmasters group in the form of a Glosa poem during my last Monday meeting with them at the end of August.  I’ll find another group, but this group was and is something special.


Through many seas have I traveled

leaving me only ancient customs to honour you

Take from my hands these sad gifts covered in tears

Now and forever, ave atque vale

— Gaius Valerius Catullus

Gifts of verse and rhyme are what I offer

to those who have offered me so much more

As I part for another adventure

on unknown shores

My ship’s horn has trumpeted

As the Toastmaster has gaveled

I will not forget the laughter

nor memories made

From the many speeches babbled

Through the many seas we’ve traveled

You have offered me a confidence boost

in addition to camaraderie

You have offered me a chance to learn

in addition to expressing —

my knowledge and myself

Something to look forward to

On a Monday afternoon

Week in and week out

There is nothing more for me to do

I’m left only with ancient customs to honour you

So, I raise this glass

and offer you a toast

boasting to all in Wholefoods

of Southpark Toastmasters

Of a group, I will dearly miss

I say Cheers

A group to learn and grow with

A group to share part of your soul with

I say Cheers

and take from my hands these sad gifts covered in tears

Words of wisdom in a final token of verse

before I take my leave from this dock

Continue to forge ahead

through the ums and ahs

Take on new roles and–

Expand your vocabulary

Go a little crazy with those Tabletopics

And be unrecognizably awesome

Should I return from down in Alabammy

Now and forever, ave atque vale


Full STEAM Ahead: Engineering Poetry

Writing poetry can be like solving a problem from math or engineering class. Math and engineering problems often have a set of parameters or design parameters (mass, weight, velocity, acceleration, distance, time) asking you to solve for something specific like the missing parameter. Think of the classic, “two trains leave different cities heading toward each other at different speed, when and where do they meet?”

Poetry is no different. In poetry, you have design parameters of rhythm/cadence, rhyme scheme, the number of lines, the and the number of syllables per line asking you to “solve” for a poem that either creates and image or tells a story. For example, the English Sonnet or Shakespearean Sonnet is a 14 line (the number of lines) poem divided into three sets of 4 lines and a rhyming couplet written in iambic pentameter (rhythm/cadence) with the rhyme scheme of abab/cdcd/efef/gg. If you’ve read Shakespear, you’re familiar with the English sonnet and the stories and images that can be created like the famous Sonnet 18 which opens “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day.”

A limerick is another form of poetry that you may be familiar with that has similar design parameters as the English Sonnet, but a completely different poem you are trying to “solve” for or objective.  A Limerick is supposed to a comic or humorous poem. It also has a restriction in length, but instead of 14 lines asks for a much shorter poem of five lines with a rhyme scheme aabba. The rhythm/cadence is not specified for a limerick like a sonnet; however, the first, second and fifth lines are longer and rhyme together, while the third and fourth lines rhyme together and are shorter.

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, ‘It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!

(From “There was an Old Man with a Beard” by Edward Lear)

Now that you are more familiar with how similar writing poetry is to solving the engineering and math problems that you are all comfortable with from you too can write poetry. Why not start with something short and simple as a haiku. A haiku is nonrhyming, three line poem. You often hear that the first line has five syllables, the second seven syllables, and the third five syllables again (5/7/5). This rule is not set in stone and allows writers of modern haiku greater flexibility and creativity for writing poetry of different variations (4/6/4 or 3/5/3).  The haiku is often about nature and the seasons, but try writing about the modern nature that surrounds us (technology and machine) and tweet me your creations @jennsealscooper and @zennjenn.

inspired by
engineering poems
we write onward

(Haiku from the  STEM Poetry Presentation at the Society of Women Engineers Region D Conference March 10, 2017, by Jennifer Seals Cooper)