Ubi Sunt with Paint Chips

I can’t believe it’s Friday already, but here we are. And we’ve moved on to the U section of the poetry dictionary. There are only two entries to choose from and one is unstressed syllable. So we’re going with the other one, which is actually pretty interesting. We’re writing ubi sunt, which John Drury defines as follows:

UBI SUNT (uh’-suhnt’, “uh” pronounced as in “put”; Latin, “where are”) Poetic theme in which the poet asks “where are” certain people, where have they gone. The theme began in Medieval Latin, with the formula ubi sunt used to introduce a roll call of the dead or missing and to suggest how transitory life is.

The best-known ubi sunt poem [is] François Villon’s ballade whose refrain is “But where are the snows of yester-year?”

the poetry dictionary, pg. 330

The Challenge

For the challenge today, I would like you to write a poem that asks this timeless question: “where are?” You could write about someone you know who is no longer with us. Or you could write about one or more famous people. Maybe you want to write about someone who was once a big part of your life but who you don’t see anymore. There are a lot of options. I don’t think the subject of your poem has to be dead, though the example of Villon involves women who are.

The actual form of your poem is your choice. You could write couplets or free verse. You could practice another terza rima or sixain because you enjoyed them so much.

The paint chip words you have to work with are peachy, illumination, graphite, rattlesnake, spring, octopus, and pizzazz. Interestingly, there are no phrases among the randomly pulled cards this week. I would like you to use at least three of the words. Extra bonus points if you use them all, but again, the bonus points aren’t worth much other than bragging rights.

My Poem

I’ve decided to write a little free verse this week. I thought about writing about family members who have died, but the paint chip words inspired me to go a different direction.

Where Are You Now?

In the depths of winter darkness gray as graphite
I wonder: Spring, where are you?
It can feel like you are gone forever
and that chilly days are here to stay.

But then comes the pizzazz of crocus,
heather, and early bulbs poking through the earth.

Joy abounds and winter fades.
Summer follows spring.
Peachy roses bloom, gracing me
with their fragrant beauty.

Sunshine illumination on the year's longest day
has me asking: Winter, where are you?
Is it possible you are gone forever?

One can hope, but it's not so.
God has set the seasons to follow one another
and by faith we know it will be.

Your Turn

Now it’s your turn to write on the theme of ubi sunt, in any form you like. You can share your poem in the comments. Or, if you prefer, post your poem on your blog or website and drop a link in the comments. Please share this prompt with your friends and readers so others can come join the fun.

I am a Jesus Freak, and I don't care who knows it. I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, daughter, and friend. My blood family is only part of the larger family of Christ that I belong to. I love to write, especially about my dear Savior.


30 Responses

  1. Linda, I totally missed this week’s prompt. One death, (a client), one funeral, one memorial service, one last goodbye to friends moving far away. I just read the prompt and I guess I felt the stress of each and so many unanswerable questions. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to engage. Will continue with the next, Lord willing.
    I love your poem.

    • Mary, I am so sorry for your loss. Perhaps you can return to the ubi sunt prompt when you’ve gained a little distance from your initial sorrow and write a private poem to honor client and friends. And may God bring you comfort and peace in full measure.

  2. I’m excited to try this! In my French literature class, we read a few poems by François Villon and did an analysis on “Où sont les neiges d’antan?” ❤️

  3. I like how you reminded us that God has set the seasons and we remain faithful.


    I used “spring”, “pizzazz” and “peachy” in this poem.

    Ubi Sunt

    Long ago we studied here when it was still a place.
    Your name I have forgotten, but I still can see your face.
    And others, too, their words we heard. I hear them still today
    with spring pizzazz and peachy smiles before we went away.

  4. I love your opening line “In the depths of winter darkness gray as graphite”
    I am also intrigued by this form, and I already have a few ideas rattling around in my brain (waiting for one to gel). I immediately thought of the song: Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

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