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May 2014

Gossip is that casual conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true. The etymology of the word is from Old English godsibb, from god and sibb, the term for the godparents of one's child who were generally very close friends. And plenty of gossip comes from "friends."

Nowadays, the media is full of gossip with entire companies like TMZ and Eonline built on talking about the lives of celebritiesNewspapers were the earliest mass media for gossip and famous for their juicy headlines.

But gossip still comes over the backyard fence or is whispered in a classroom and high school hallway or in the workplace.

I was reading about George Green's book of poems, Lord Byron's Foota. Green is a professor at Lehman College (where Billy Collins spent many years teaching) and that is his first poetry collection.

The title is a bit of gossip itself coming from the fact that Byron had a deformed foot that caused him a lot of grief and was one of those celebrity secrets that probably generated plenty of gossip at social events.  The book is, to quote Byron, “a little quietly facetious upon every thing” written in blank verse.

The subject matter is not George Green but the world of celebrity that also interested poet Frank O’Hara. The people of art, movies, big cities like New York, celebrity and the ephemeral.

Green adds some formality to the poems, but the topics are loose and dishy.

For our sample poem, we looked at "Poem [Lana Turner has collapsed!]"by Frank O'Hara

One of Green's poems on another movie star says:

Marilyn killed herself because she thought
that middle age began at thirty-five.
In Liz’s case it did, but she kept going,
though Dick went down in flames (Exorcist II).

In a critical study of O’Hara, Hazel Smith says that gossip in poetry is “straddling the realm of the intimate … encourag[ing] voyeurism” and involving the reader in an “erotics of gossip.”

The article points to the tradition of “community portrait” poems and sequences by Thomas Hardy (Wessex Poems), Edgar Lee Masters (Spoon River Anthology), Edwin Arlington Robinson (various volumes), and Gwendolyn Brooks (A Street in Bronzeville, The Bean Eaters) and going back to party gossiper, Chaucer.

The assignment for this month's prompt was to do some poetic gossiping. It could be celebrity-style or the more everyday. You might want to start by looking at some of those gossipy sites mentioned at the top of this post for a headline starter.

For more on this prompt and others, visit the Poets Online blog.


Is gossip another thing that separates us from the animals?
I wonder if the birds are talking both to and about each other -
Did you hear she flew into the window AGAIN?
Blue jays always seemed particularly gossipy to me.
Mockingbirds? Obviously.
The ego of the cardinal cannot be denied.
But the triple coo of the mourning dove
is not gossip. It is a dole of truths.
They carry the sad news
and repeat it all day,
silencing the avian gossips for an hour
and causing me to bow my head
and make the sign of the cross
for no one I ever knew.

Pamela Milne


For twenty some odd years, the
other woman, who was, by the
way, a bombshell and a legend
in the parent- teacher association,
for something unmentionable she
performed on the night of her
senior prom... decided it was time
to tell the rest of her story to her
congregation, the local rag ,
her cheating triangle of ex-lovers
and a neighbor who responded
by falling into a dead faint, breaking
his heart and a hip simultaneously
when the secret life of his mother
turned out to be the main character
in a twisted rumor circulating about
the uncanny resembloence between
the two of them and their respective

Marie A. Mennuto-Rovello


Once heard over the back fence,
now over the Internet,
but it is much the same.
Gossip, rumors, innuendo,
tittle-tattle, canards, tidbits.
Things that happen to ordinary folks -
divorce, death, pregnancy, illness -
are elevated to the mountaintop of Olympus
when celebrity is involved.
It makes the local color
of neighborhood scandal dull,
the whispered suggestions of coffee breaks
seem stale by lunchtime

Charles Michaels


In the Orlando Sentinel are pictures from a charity masquerade
Which had as its theme
“The Dark Side” of STAR WARS.
So there’s Emperor Palpatine, with a face like melted wax;
And two Darth Vaders with their black arms around Boba Fetts;

And several young men and women uniformed as Storm Troopers,
The mindless functionaries of an evil empire.
All with drinks in their hands;
All for a good cause.

And I think of Joseph Campbell’s observation
That masks either conceal the person we are,
Mild mannered drudges with deep resentments,
Or they reveal the true nature we keep hidden.

As in the story the old men of Winter Garden tell
Of the movie star Clark Gable,
How when he stayed at the Edgewater Hotel,
Each morning before he went fishing at Lake Apopka,

He removed his ill-fitting dentures
And tugged a floppy hat over his Easter Island ears
So that no one would recognize
The Hollywood idol that he was.

Ron Yazinski

Gossip has it, the neighbor boy
is the Bat Man. The youngest, not
quite right in his head – leaving all that
graffiti on the bridge over the bike trail
where bats roost, and the powers-
that-be wanted to put up nets to keep them
out? And somebody tagged the bridge
like it was gang territory, bright green paint
SAVE THE BATS. And across all
six lanes of freeway, crimson spray-paint
And that big-box store where swallows
nested and the manager was going to
blast them with a fire-hose – in funereal
black, high on the storefront, SAVE
THE BIRDS! What’s next for a boy who
doesn’t have normal understanding
of how things work? who
writes messages in places he couldn’t
even get to, unless he had wings?

Taylor Graham


The two well-dressed ladies
audibly whisper
"drug addict"
as they walk past
the faded flower
who pushes
her cart
of simple treasurers
poor health
home eviction
and lost jobs
down the street.

Every night
the faded flower
sleeps peacefully
beside her
shopping cart
out in the open
under the bridge
for all to see.
And every night
she prays
for the sake of all beings.

Now, the well-dressed ladies
have their own baggage,
but their baggage
is safely stashed away
out of the sun
the wind
and the rain.
Still, they sleep fitfully at night
behind secured windows
and locked doors.

For me, the significant differences
between the ladies
and the faded flower

are two --

The ladies have doors.
The faded flower has peace of mind.

Bobbie Townsend


The email says
"Did you see what he said about you?
as its subject line and the tweet said
"Look at this video of you I found online"
and I knew that there was no video
and that he said nothing about me.
There is no He any more.
No one takes videos of me
and the ones from years past
wouldn't interest people
as much as a cat
playing with a ball of string does.
There's no gossip about me on
or off line these days
and I am okay with that.
But I did wish for a moment
that those two boys
(thirty years younger than me)
at the other table last night
had been saying something
rather shocking anout me.
And I wish it were true.

Lianna Wright

for Steven

I’m beat, I’m dead, got lost along the LIE
drove twice back again—to Fort Lee
now, to feast on sardines from a can

I spend those balmy nights stuck indoors
sipping Glen Livet
and wait around for those awful bores

it stinks in here—a dust bowl heaven
am curious to know
why they love my food—unleavened

jump up—must grab the ringing tone
crap, must listen to Donna’s drone
poor soul in one room squalor
how foolish—giving me a holler

Don’t mean to cut you short
I’m just the listener lacking
a short attention span
Oh, why, can’t they just all—SHUT UP?

Oh, no another ring
can’t wait to see. . .
Who has chosen to idolize me?

H-e-l-l-o, hey babe, Phil, my man
hold on for just a sec,
my cell is ringing in another fan

Hey Phil, got Jamie on the other line
no, it’s great stuff,
you’ll only need a dime

Quick, I must flee
back to reality
my kids—who raise themselves
perhaps, they live on earth in HELL

We’ll talk to you later, just take care,
now to nestle down in my lair
interrupted by another ring
Ok, I’ll see you half-past ten
we’ll party babe, here in my den.

Lisa Salerno Honecker

Why’d you do it?
Or did you do it?
So many words to filter,
so much blather to deal with!
How did you, such a
refugee from the lights
allow your intimate laundry
to wash and dry in public?
Well, I guess you brought it
on yourself
romancing your adopted daughter,
which lit a flaming torch
under your erstwhile wife.
And now how can we know
whether Mia’s dagger words
stabbing all your sins
are real or not.
In fact, in a rainstorm of words
how to say which ones are truly wet?
Oh Woody, what’s a devoted fan
to do?
I’m afraid I don’t know, so
I’ll just go to the movies!

R. Bremner


Lights, Camera, Action.
Bright white lights frame your face.
Eyes cast out towards the sea of spectators.
They’re watching you, closely.
Waiting and waiting for you to...
Mind gone blank, words go obscure.
You can’t wrap your mind around the words.
One… wait I meant to say 5 seconds.
Hold on…what does that say?
You’re a deer caught in the headlights.
Guys...I’m the worst reader.
#Never leaving my contacts,
at home again, #lesson learned.
Then again we all make mistakes,
even a Karadashian.

Breanna Calvin


There are things that make you question certain people.
From their motives, to what they tend to do that doesn't look right.
Some of them make you think: Man, that’s stupid.

Dallas Anchor Offended by Michael Sam NFL Draft Kiss!
Makes you question: Why must this still be a problem?
Prejudice against the gay community never seems to die.

If the clouds in the sky were shaped a wrong way,
would you be offended by them too? Say the clouds
put an image out there that was Wrong?

It’s just like politics. It goes around and around,
never seeming to stop, or get that much better.
What makes it worse: The Anchor is openly gay.

Jeremy Garcia