Tuesday, February 6, 2018

January 2018 Poetry Challenge Winners

Calliope (Kalliope), engraving by Hendrik Golzius, 1592

Photo compliments of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C. 
I apologize for not getting the winning poems from January published sooner. There were a couple of glitches, including unexpected difficulty with email which for some unknown reason prevented the judge from receiving the poems  by email—even though my “sent” box showed that I had sent them. I waited too long to check in with him.

Larry Turner, whose poem, “In Love and War” was an example poem for the January Poetry Challenge, selected the winners. Of the first place poem, Turner said, “The fall and contrition are expressed very well.”

In a Time and Place of Forgottenness

It was in a Time and Place of Forgottenness,
There, where a dark-knuckled acorn,
Discarded, could father many leafy trees,
Where linen need not be reminded of
Its lineage to flax, there, in a
Place of Forgottenness, where the growl of a
Needy ego may water its own garden, there,
Sometimes, a hero can be made.

So it was, an Irish prince, Sentanta,
Young, born lesser, restless, finally
Estranged gently from all he knew,
Wandered in search of a stronger king,
Wandered without a weapon,
Wandered until he triumphed on
Every sun-lit field,
Wandered until he won a High King's
Favor, so that at his table, he
Grew, and grew, and grew,...

       ....one unholy night, when,
Tricked by darkness' masquerade,
Sentanta mistook King Culann's hound for enemy,
Mistook the kindest animal for prey,
'Till moonlight parsed darkness like a curtain drawn,
And Sentanta saw the king's hunting hound,
Laying still as haystacks at dawn.

Then, tears falling like ribbons of silver light,
He cried out his  heartbreak into an unfeeling night.
Humbled, Sentanta saw then the immensity of grief
Begotten by the Janus-faced blade of self-belief.
Weeping, then, Sentanta stood on that sullied ground
And accepted the name Cu Chulainn, promising he'd
Serve forevermore as King Culann's hound.

~ Sheila Elliott 
The poet wrote a note to readers: “ I have tried to evoke the tone, loose meter, informal rhymes and "awkward" phrasing that can occur when myths and legends passed down orally are transferred to the printed page.  This happens in many cultural traditions.  "In a time and Place of Forgottenness" is based on the story of the mythical Irish Prince Sentanta and the events that led to him receiving the name Cu Chulainn.  I used a version of the story found in "A Child's Treasury of Irish Stories and Poems" by Yvonne Carroll as a template.”

The second place poem is about one of the nine muses, Kalliope (often spelled Calliope).
Turner said, "The form, with repeated lines, molds this into a wholeness."


Her name, akin to carol or song,
brings to mind words, music, myth.
Oldest and wisest of the Muses,
she holds a tablet in her hand.

Pondering words, music, myth;
Kalliope, a daughter of Zeus
holds a tablet in her hand,
teaches her son, Orpheus, to sing.

She is a daughter of Zeus,
but has her own, assertive power.
She teaches Orpheus to sing, and
brings epic poetry to the world.

She is assertive and powerful.
doesn’t rely on any God
to bring poetry to the world.
She captures music, adds words; magic.

She relies only on herself.
She is the oldest and wisest Muse.
She captures music, adds words; magic;
creates song poems, strengthened from within.

~ Carol H. Jewell

Third place was taken by a persona poem:

I Become a Man

I awaken to the smell of smoke.
My father is tending the fire.
I quickly dress and help him cook the fish.
As we eat, we speak of strange things,
for this is the day I become a man,
the day we travel together to seek Manitou.

Father dresses me in my new robe,
decorated with colored porcupine quills.
Then he carefully wraps the fire’s hot coals
to carry on our journey.
Together, we travel through the forest,
eager to reach its end and choose the spot
for our sweat lodge.
I try to not think about my empty stomach.

There are fewer trees, now,
and the path has become stony.
My feet hurt so much, 
I have forgotten my stomach.
Soon we come upon small pools of water.
It is time to gather branches.
we build our sweat lodge.
Father breathes on the fire
and sets it ablaze with life.
We sprinkle water onto hot stones.
Manitou comes out in the steam.
I have become a man.

~ Deetje J. Wildes

Note from the poet: Information on the Native American myth of Manitou may be found at en.wikipedia.org

Poems by Annie Jenkin and Angélique Jamail were awarded honorable mentions.

The poets whose work is posted here own copyright on their own poems.

Now what?
The February Poetry Challenge has already been posted. Scroll down to see what it is, and consider entering a poem.

Sheila Elliott is a poet, writer and educator who contributes frequently to the print and spoken word forums in Chicago and its west suburban communities.

Carol H. Jewell is a librarian, teacher, musician, and poet living in Upstate New York with her wife and eight cats. Her first collection of poetry, Hits and Missives, was published in 2017 by Clare Songbirds Publishing House, Auburn, NY.

In addition to writing poetry, Deetje J. Wildes enjoys making music and experimenting with visual arts. She is an enthusiastic member of Western Wisconsin Christian Writers Guild, and a regular contributor to “Faith Walk” magazine (Eau Claire, Wisconsin Leader-Telegram).

© Wilda Morris

Thursday, February 1, 2018

February Poetry Challenge - Musical Instruments

The Music Lesson by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675)

NOTE: Due to some difficulty with email communication, the winner of the January Challenge has not yet been announced. I apologize. Hopefully the results will be available soon.

My Daughter at the Piano

Your fingers are long and slim,
like mine, as you lay them down
on the piano keys:
Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater...
Eden is a garden of the mind,
an amusement park where every ride is free.
“Would you like to learn another song?”
I ask, but you are smiling now,
apple in hand.
“Only on the black keys,”
you answer. "I like them best."
Together we play the dark
harmonies of earth.

~ Kathleen Kirk

First published in After Hours, Summer 2010. Used by permission of the author.

At the Piano

My father asked how often I play now,
remembering me at the piano.
“Not often,” I answered, then tried to say why

but it was like trying to lay flat the pages
of a book of songs while keeping the melody going
with one hand, or watching the sheet music slip off

in the breeze of a door opening
and closing again, something invisible passing
through and pulling shut with the click of a latch.

Sometimes when I have the evening to myself
I flick on the piano light and play
three or four measures in joy before the sorrow

arrives, left hand, bass clef. I close up the music,
twist the light back off, and turn away
from the chamber of soft hammers I’ve built in my heart.

~ Kathleen Kirk

First published in PoetsArtists: From Motion to Stillness, February 2013.

These fine and poignant poems are part of long tradition of poems involving musical instruments. Think of the psalms of Hebrew Scripture. Psalm 57:8, for example, has both a lute (psaltery, in the King James Version) and harp.

There are many poems featuring musical instruments on the Internet. Here are links to a few that you might enjoy reading:

“Little Flute,” by Rabindranath Tagore - https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/little-flute/

“My Violin” by Bruce Lansky - https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47146/my-violin.

One of my very favorite poems featuring a musical instrument is "The Broken String," by Grace Schulman, the title poem of one of Schulman's books. Unfortunately I did not find the poem on line, but it would be worth a trip to the library (even an interlibrary loan request) to read this poem about a Itzak Perlman's performance of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto on November 18, 1995 in which he played the concerto despite the fact that one of his strings broke.

The February Challenge:

The February Challenge is to submit a poem featuring a musical instrument (or musical instruments). It may be free verse or formal. For this challenge, do not use the instrument or instruments as metaphors or similes for elements of weather or nature (as Emily Dickinson often did).

Title your poem unless it is a 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). Read previous poems on the blog to see what line lengths can be accommodated.

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 February 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 (some children read this blog). 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.

The poet retains copyright on each poem. 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 “February Poetry Challenge Submission” in the subject line of your email. Include a brief bio that 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 multiple 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.


Kathleen Kirk is the author of seven poetry chapbooks, most recently ABCs of Women’s Work (Red Bird, 2015), with The Towns forthcoming from Unicorn Press in the spring of 2018. Her work appears in many print and online journals, including After Hours, Another Chicago Magazine, Crab Creek Review, Nimrod, Poetry East, and Sweet. A past co-editor of RHINO, she is currently the poetry editor for Escape Into Life.

©  Wilda Morris