Monday, May 1, 2017

May Poetry Challenge: Immigrants, Emigrants and Refugees

Emigrants Coming to the "Land of Freedom"
Circa 1902. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Like a majority of North Americans, I have immigrant ancestors. Some of my ancestors first came to North America in the 1600s; others came later. Some came for religious freedom. Some came for the economic opportunities provided on the North American continent. They all hoped to make better lives for themselves and their children.

Bakul Banerjee, who is a scientist/engineer as well as a poet, immigrated to the U.S. from her native India. I find it interesting her poem title uses the term “emigrating” rather than “immigrating.” To me, that nuance emphasizes the loss the bride feels as a result of leaving the land she knows and the people she loves in back home as she arrives in a new place that is strange to her. This is an autobiographical poem.

Arranged Bride Emigrating – Washington D. C.

The blue river below
wears a collar of snow
winding streets
lined with fir trees

The airplane tilts
pivots and reveals
rows of homes
with pitched roofs
laid out in repose

I have no home
but a cache of gold
to fend the cold
I have no warm coat
but wear a silk sari.

The engine throttles
the plane circles
down it swoops
my journey ends
uncertainty begins

I have seven dollars
plus an address

~ Bakul Banerjee

From Bathymetry: Poems by Bakul Banerjee (Sumak Press: 2017), page 31.

“The Arrival” is part of a series of poem written by Marjorie Rissman about her grandmother who immigrated to the United States. Her poem takes us back in history. Unlike the bride flying into Washington, D.C., the subject of this poem came by sea to Ellis Island, a much different experience.


She came at sixteen
alone on a big boat
gold coins sewed inside
the hem of her skirt
from Europe to Ellis Island
almost an unbearable month
shuttered inside a stateroom
where food was left at her door
like a prisoner or a family’s pet dog
left scraps in a bowl on the porch.

Sometimes she snuck on deck
when darkness protected her
the hood on her cloak obscuring
her delight in breathing the fresh
sea air laden with salt like her tears
of loneliness and fright
all too quickly she returned
to the relative safety down below.

At long last a symphony of fog horns
announced New York Harbor and
the boat became a beehive of activity
passengers gathered up their bundles
headed up the stairs to await the vision
of the Great Lady in the water
their first welcome to America
She was a grand sight filled with
promise and dignity
kindness and compassion.
The Mother she had left behind.

~ Marjorie Rissman

From The Fanny Stories: A Collection of Poems Dedicated To My Grandmother, Fanny Kassof

Banerjee and Rissman own the copyright to their poems.

Over the long stretch of history, many people have chosen to move from one country to another. Others have been forced by circumstances to abandon their homes and become refugees. Still today, there is much movement from one country to another. I have met Kenyans who immigrated to Indiana, Canadians and Minnesotans who emigrated to Mexico, Argentinians who immigrated to the U.S. – to mention just a few.

Refugees face more difficult challenges. They leave war-torn countries, or flee persecution based on religion, tribe, ethnic background, or tyrannical governments. One of my favorite professors would have been arrested and undoubtedly killed when Nazi soldiers rounded up his seminary classmates in Norway, except that he was playing the organ for a funeral. Notified that the soldiers were looking for him, he took refuge in an attic until Christmas eve, when he escaped across the mountains on skis. Eventually he immigrated to Illinois.

Often refugees flee with only the clothing on their backs, perhaps even having to hide in the woods and travel at night. Their stories are different from the stories of those who choose to leave their homeland and are able to do so with money in their pockets.


One of my daughters suggested that I add a link to a poignant song about immigration: "Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears. She recommended The Irish Tenors, but this link is to Celtic Women. I agree with my daughter: it is a really poignant expression of the hopes, fears, gain and loss that many immigrants to the U.S. experienced. Here is the link: Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears.

The May Challenge:

The May Challenge is to submit a poem about immigration, emigration or refugees.

Title your poem unless it is haiku or another form that does not use titles. If you use a form, please identify the form when you submit your poem. Single-space and don’t use lines that are overly long (because the blog format doesn’t accommodate long lines). Please do not indent or center your poem on the page, put it in a box or against a special (even white) background.

You may submit a published poem if you retain copyright, but please include publication data. This applies to poems published in books, journals, newspapers, or on the Internet.

The deadline is May 15. Poems submitted after the deadline will not be considered. There is no charge to enter, so there are no monetary rewards; however winners are published on this blog. Please don’t stray too far from “family-friendly” language. No simultaneous submissions, please. You should know by the end of the month whether or not your poem will be published on this blog. Decision of the judge or judges is final.

Copyright on each poem is retained by the poet. If a previously unpublished poem wins and is published elsewhere later, please give credit to this blog.

How to Submit Your Poem:

Send one poem only to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”). Put “May Poetry Challenge Submission” in the subject line of your email. Include a brief bio which can be printed with your poem if you are a winner this month. Please put your name and bio under the poem in your email.

Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog if it is a winner, so be sure that you put your name (exactly as you would like it to appear if you do win) at the end of the poem. Poems may be pasted into an email or sent as an attachment (no pdf files, please). Please do not indent the poem or center it on the page. It helps if you submit the poem in the format used on the blog (Title and poem left-justified; title in bold (not all in capital letters); your name at the bottom of the poem). Also, please do not use spaces instead of commas in the middle of lines. I have no problem with poets using that technique (I sometimes do it myself). However I have difficulty getting the blog to accept and maintain extra spaces.

Poems shorter than 40 lines are generally preferred but longer poems will be considered.

© Wilda Morris

Sunday, April 30, 2017

April 2017 - Winning Cloud Poems

Clouds off the coast of Martha's Vineyard - Photo by Wilda Morris

“Clouds” turned out to be a popular subject for poets. I enlisted Linda Wallin, President of Poets & Patrons of Chicago, and Marilyn Huntman Giese, author of two books and member of the Illinois State Poetry Society and the Naperville Writers Group, to read the poems blind and select those they thought best. Four poems were selected as winners. The judges were surprised when I shared the bios with them. You may also be surprised, so please read to the end of the page.

The first poem is written from the perspective of a cloud.

Perception of Precipitation

A child stares at me
and questions my form.
Sometimes I'm a flower in the eyes of one,
a dog in another.
I am an animation of their imagination,
as my white ruffles transform
against the cobalt blue of the sky.

An adult glares at me
when I turn grey.
Propping their dull umbrellas
and refusting the rain sifted
through my murky body.
The child however,
never fails to splash in my puddles,
even when I am shapeless above.

~ Zoey Ruzic

Shapes in the Sky

Floating swirls high in the sky.
They crawl in the blue,
moving with the wind.
Big ones roam too.
Like friends with arms around each other,
they move in a group.
There are shapes hidden in their fluff.
Lay on the grass and spot them.
Whether they bring rain,
or create shade,
they will come.

– Kiara Korten

Mama, She’s Sitting Right There

I wiggled my toes, letting dirt seep
into my rosewood sandals and stretched
my fingers until they grazed above
to the blue hues I envisioned were leaking
from my dainty nailbeds.

I thought of my spindly fingers
as willowy paintbrushes sketching
an endless canvas. I imagined
bristles of air molding from my palms
and creasing into the air, creating
white marble sewed into blue satin.

I let my head unravel
and turn to my mother who sat
with narrow legs crossed and fingers
plucking petals from
white tulips,

“Mama, no need to be sad.
I’ve painted a sky full of clouds
for grandma to rest on.”

~ Ilana Sabban

Lenticular Cloud over Mount Rainier, Compliments of the National Park Service

Clouds over Mount Rainier

In the yellow glow
of evening light,
I nearly miss this art
by Nature drawn.

Lenticular saucers
aligned more perfectly
than by any artist’s brush.
My eyes fix upon

a wonder seen but once.
In the mountain’s shadow
the Hand of Heaven bids me,
come lose yourself in awe.

~ Michael Escoubas

Poets whose work appears on this blog retain copyright of their work. Please do not distribute their poems without their concent.

Michael Escoubas began writing poetry for publication in August of 2013, after retiring from a 48-year-career in the printing industry. Early in life his mother said, You have a gift for words; you should do something with that gift. He writes poetry, in part, because of his mother’s encouraging words. Michael also writes poetry because he believes poetry brings people together and that poets are menders of broken things. Michael has published one chapbook, Light Comes Softly, which is available as a free download on iTunes.

Kiara Korten is a 6th gader at Miami Arts Charter School. Her focus is creative writing. She was published in the Austin International Poetry Festival's 2017 Diverse-City Youth Anthology.

Zoey Ruzic is a freshman in high school attending Miami Arts Charger, majoring in Creative writing. She has won two silver keys in the Scholastics Competition and first honorable mention from the Poetry Society of Virginia. Her work has been published in Creative Communications and in Balloons Literary Journal. She lives in Miami where she enjoys adventure and making short films. She hopes to go to college in New York after her senior year.

Ilana Sabban is a pursuing writer based in Miami, Florida. Currently, she is studying at Miami Arts Charter School as a ninth grader, where she has won multiple awards for her poetry and prose. Other than her strive and passion for writing, Ilana also has a profound infatuation with yoga and would to start working toward her teacher certification.

©  Wilda Morris