Poetry Friday– SOUNDS OF SUSURRUS… and Giraffes

Giraffe summer

Giraffe in Summer, © 2009 Michelle Kogan, pen and ink.


Happy Poetry Friday!

and Happy Summer!

 At the beginning of June Laura Purdie Salas, who is a poet, author, and member of a group of Poets known as the Poetry Princesses/Poetry Sisters/Poetry 7 posts, invited all their Poetry Friends who have been following their postings to join them in their monthly poetry challenge, which takes place on the last Friday of each month. Thanks to all the Poetry Sisters for extending this invitation! Here’s their challenge this month: “theme is susurrus, or an image of thick woods, whatever form we wish!”  I couldn’t escape susurrus-it’s sounds drew me in and wouldn’t let go… 


Susurrus surfaced some
200 years ago–shy six years…

It crept out quietly, 
from hum thrumming of cricket’s 
wings rubbing, while lost in lyrical love

It hung in evening air, filling all ears
with rushshshing hushshshing katydids
doing their stridulating summer thing

It beat its wings in bees, and
gave bigger winged one’s slooower beats,
and even looower busy buzzing

It hums through evening… Once thought silent, this
sleek giant, perhaps connects with others or catches dreams–
Let’s lift up our plummeting giraffe population…

Hum thrumming susurrus, wherever you come from
hum your heart away, and stay forever more…

 © 2020 Michelle Kogan

Make sure you turn your volume up, their hums are very low…


I came across this gem of a giraffe poem…

By Lucie Brock-Broido

In another life, he was Caesar’s pet, perhaps a gift from Cleopatra
When she returned to Rome   Her hair salty and sapphired
From bathing, the winged kohl around her eyes smudged
    From heat.   In another life, he was from Somalia
    Where he spent hours watching clouds
In shapes of feral acrobats tipping along their tightropes
Spun of camels’ hair and jute.
    His eyes were liquid, kind.
    His lashes each as long as a hummingbird’s tongue.
His fetlocks puffed from galloping, his tail curled upward
From the joy of feeling fleet across the tinted grasslands
    And the gold savannahs there.
             Do you find me colorful as well?
Once, in another life in the Serengeti, he stretched his neck
To feed on the acacia twigs, mimosa, wild apricot.
    He was gentle and his heart was as long
    As a human’s arm.
At night, the others of his species hummed to each other across
The woodlands there; no one knows how, exactly, to this day,
But you can hear their fluted sounds.
               Pliny the Elder wrote that,
In the circus of the hunting-theatres of ancient Greece,
    He would be safe.
    He was considered among the curiosities.
The House of the Medici found him novel,
And he pleased them mightily.
            Do you find my story pleasing, too?
Even on the ship to France,
            The sailors cut an oblong hole
Through the deck above the cargo hold to allow his head
    To poke safely through.
    When he arrived they dressed him in royal livery
To walk the seven hundred leggy kilometres
    From Marseilles to Paris to be presented
To the Queen     Who fed him rose petals from her hand.
At Thebes, in the tomb of the Valley of the Kings,
He was depicted in a hieroglyph, his forelegs gently tethered
By two slaves with a green monkey clinging to his neck like a child
Just along for the ride.
            Do you think I have imagined this?

Read the rest of the poem and hear the poet reading her poem here.

Karen Eastlund at her blog, Karen’s Got a Blog! is hosting this weeks Poetry Friday roundup, thanks Karen! She’s sharing some poems from her Norwegian heritage, and some very cut puppies too.

Visit Renée LaTulippe’s site No Water River to find out more about what Poetry Friday is.


About Michelle Kogan Art, Illustration, & Writing

Michelle Kogan is an artist, illustrator, instructor, and writer, creating colorful allegorical figure, flora and fauna paintings and children's illustrations, which have a sensitivity to endangered species, and the environment. She is an art instructor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the Evanston Art Center and offers Plein Air Painting Workshops at nature venues in the Chicago area including the Lincoln Park Conservatory, Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, and Lurie Gardens at Millennium Park. Visit her online Etsy Shop at: http://www.MichelleKoganFineArt.etsy.com and her website: http://www.michellekogan.com
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20 Responses to Poetry Friday– SOUNDS OF SUSURRUS… and Giraffes

  1. kareneastlund4898 says:

    Thanks for this susurrus poem, Michelle. It is such a rich idea to consider… busy buzzing and hum thrumming. Love it!

  2. Tricia Stohr-Hunt says:

    First, I adore giraffes, so I love everything about this post. I love the context of your susurrus poem and am enchanted by the internal rhyme and the way the words trip off my tongue. My favorite part is “hum thrumming of cricket’s / wings rubbing.

    Thanks so much for playing along!

  3. Liz Garton Scanlon says:

    I could not be more thrilled that you joined us with this gorgeous, susurrian origin story! Thank you!

  4. Oh, my goodness! What a beautiful poem–it’s so full of wonderful sounds, which is perfect, considering the prompt. The second and third stanzas particularly capture me:>) And, maybe it’s just me, but the giraffes’ nocturnal humming sounds more like light snoring to me!

  5. margaretsmn says:

    I’ve been to Africa where I saw the magical, mystical giraffes. When they move through the desert grasses, you hear the susurrus. Your poem is perfect. I love the stretching out of words to create the sound. Your pen and ink drawing is so delightful. I’d love a print for a grandchild’s bedroom. Do you have this one on your Etsy?

  6. lindabaie says:

    I love the approach you’ve written to ‘susurrus’, Michelle, creating a being of it. And that giraffe poem, wow. This is how I imagine when I go to the zoo, for each animal’s yearning: “when his life was circled by a mane/Of warmth in a bright Numidian sun”. Thank you!

  7. cvarsalona says:

    Michelle, what a splendid poetry piece to open my day. I love the alliteration you used, the wordplay you introduced, and the illustration to share the wonder of giraffes. You even have a call to action line to share your environmental advocacy: Let’s lift up our plummeting giraffe population. I also enjoyed the video and the amazing poem by Lucie Brock-Broido,

  8. maryleehahn says:

    Giraffes! I had no idea they hummed! Thank you for your gorgeous poem celebrating all of the hushed hummings and thrummings of sussurus. LOVE your use of language! The other poem makes me unspeakably sad for all animals we’ve zooed in foreign places.

  9. I love how your entire poem becomes a susurrus, full of whispers and hums. I never knew giraffes hummed and was thrilled to hear them. The New Yorker poem is gorgeous and sad. Thank you for sharing that and the reading of it. Wonderful post!

  10. rosecappelli says:

    Thanks for teaching me a new word! I love this, and the giraffes are wonderful!

  11. katswhiskers says:

    Susurrus is surely onomatopoeia in silent action – like your sounds and wordplay throughout your own poem. Such a gently joyful print, too. Thank-you. (I’m with Mary Lee on the sadness of the other poem.)

  12. mbhmaine says:

    Oh, you captured me from the first with your wonderful drawing. I love it! I also am enchanted with how creatively you used sound and language in your poem. These lines really popped for me:
    “with rushshshing hushshshing katydids
    doing their stridulating summer thing”
    What a great response to the prompt!

  13. Fran Haley says:

    Michelle: Love these poems – the history of susurrus – when I first heard the word I realized it was the language of the pines surrounding my home, whispering, whispering. How I strained to understand pine … And giraffes! That IS a gem of a poem. Regal creatures, yes. I recently watched a documentary showing a group of giraffes crossing the African plain to find a dead member. They stood and mourned. It was profoundly moving.

    Thank you for these offerings on the poetic humming of life … Fran Haley

  14. Joyce Ray says:

    I love your poem with all its susurration – a completely new word for me, and I love the sound of it. Thanks for sharing it and the poem “Giraffe,” too.

  15. Pingback: Showcase Art – ‘Giraffe in Summer’ – Illustration by Michelle Kogan | Art, Photography and Poetry

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