Writing with Charles & Irene: Dictionary for a Better World

Unlike Linda Sue Park’s singular sijo form book, TAP DANCING on the ROOF, which I visited, with wonder, in July, today the topic is 26 forms. They’re tucked into the surprising and succulent, DICTIONARY for a BETTER WORLD.IMG_8779

This summer I decided to try to take each of the DICTIONARY forms for a spin with rich material I’d collect in outdoors family walks. I began with the Abecedarian. It’s a form I’ve played with pleasantly. And I’d end with Villanelle. But in June, zilch from my pen.

Next I wanted to work with a form name from this collection whose very word could zing!  me. I felt frisson at the form name, byte. Never read of that form, before. But it bit me. [I’ve heard there are at least 600 recognized poetry forms.]  And so I wrote ~~

A byte poem about a bite that didn’t happen

 We walked this shoreline in clear Atlantic

waters, wavelets lapped above our ankles,

yet below knees.

Now we stepped out. To see up the beach

a compact coral, sea-tossed upon the sands,

a piece stuck with jewel barnacles.

That’s when the shark ~~

[photography copyright all rights reserved JGAnnino]

WRONGO. But what’s wrong?  I forgot that Charles Latham & Irene Walters, the peaceful poet writers of this creative volume,  DICTONARY for a BETTER WORLD, [illustrated cleverly creatively coolly by Mehrdokht Amini] lead us to understand that a byte poem is 140 characters, or fewer, not 140 words. Characters.


 So then I decided to put other words into a form from their book that I knew I already loved to read, the ode, a poem of praise.

In praise of nature walks


If hot streets hem us in

it is you, tree-lined trails,

that pull us near.


If too much screen time

scrambles our brains, it is you,

shoreline, who soothe our neurons.


Okay. But. Just. Okay. In their poems, presentations & in person these poets inspire me to reach for the better word, the reader reward line, the surprise line, the ah,ha! moment. So I sat down and reread the meat of this important book, which I first sat with when it came out in 2020. I read how each poem represents not only a different poetry form, but also represents something bigger, something more wonderful than poetry.

Each poetry form presents a word of action, or a way of being, a mode of thinking, feeling, to relate to events & people, that will help us each, create a better world.

It was clear. I resolved each poem that I might create from one of the 26 forms Charles & Irene generously, creatively, engagingly suggest, should also be a poem that can make the world better. So, back to byte. The word still rocked me.

 A post office byte 

At the window I asked for

more stamps than I needed,

leaving 5 of Harvey Milk’s

friendly face

at the lobby counter.

For others.

~ 2022  jgannino


To learn during a long weekend with this dynamic duo in person. take a look at what Highlights Foundation offers. If you act soon, you can meet a deadline to send material in advance, for critique. [It’s great to tell them that you read it here.]

Charles Waters 

Irene Latham

DICTIONARY for a BETTER WORLD teachers guide

Charles’ & Irene’s generous tip sheet on poetry revisions , via Highlights Foundation.

Poetry Friday is hosted this weekend by word guru extraordinaire, TANITA DAVIS at http://tanitasdavis.com/wp/








3 responses to “Writing with Charles & Irene: Dictionary for a Better World”

  1. What a delightful post! I love your ooooops and how you pushed on to more great lines. And, isn’t it like you to pay it forward with smiling faces?! Yes, yes it is.

    Liked by 1 person

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