Thursday, April 1, 2021

April 2021 Poetry Challenge: Insects

Insects with Common Hawthorn and Forget-Me-Not
Jan van Kessel the Elder
National Gallery of Art, London

It’s that time of year again – a sign of spring less welcome than the return of robins or red-winged blackbirds. The door is left open a bit too long and a fly gets in. An ant crawls across the kitchen floor. Some insects are considered nuisances—who wants to hear a mosquito buzzing around the headboard light as you prepare to turn it off for the night? Who wants aphids on their roses? When my son was quite young, he got the idea that bumblebees were bad but honeybees were good. He came into the house crying after he petted one of those “nice” bees! He was afraid to go out the back door through the patio edged with ageratum blossoms again for quite a while.

Insects are important to the environment, of course, and can be a worthy subject for serious poetry—or for humor. Here are a few examples:

Reverie

                    To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
                    One clover, and a bee.
                    And revery.
                    The revery alone will do,
                    If bees are few.
                                        ~ Emily Dickinson

Remember so you can answer
when your grandchildren ask,
what was the sound Yeats loved,
the sound of a bee-loud glade?
How big were the blueberries
you plopped into your cereal,
or served on ice cream?
What is this strawberry shortcake
you speak of with such nostalgia?
Explain that asparagus was green
and pointed, that its absence spears
your heart each spring.
Tell your grandchildren why
lovers called each other honey.
And when they pull out the collected works
of Emily Dickinson, say she was wrong.
Reverie alone is not enough
to make a prairie.

~ Wilda Morris

First published in “Reverie,” Smoky Blue Literary and Arts Magazine, 7 (Fall-Winter, 2017), https://issuu.com/sblaam/docs/sblaam_7, p. 110. 

 

The Amorous Fly

A fly on my computer screen
pursued the arrow up and down.
He thought it was a lady fly
with pretty pixels on her gown.

Around, around, the arrow went.
I moved it with my mouse in fun.
That fellow stayed on top of it.
It made me laugh to see him run

across the news, the weather page.
He lingered far beyond the day.
Then, with a hum and flex of wings,
he quit the game and zoomed away.

Though I had thought his heart was true
with blazing love at his command,
that silly fly did not return.
It must have been a one-night-stand.

~ LaVern Spencer McCarthy                                             

From her book, My Parrot Loves Me which is available for purchase at https://www.lulu.com/shop/lavern-mccarthy/my-parrot-loves-me/paperback/product-23039815.html?page=1&pageSize=4.

 

Although it is considerably longer than the preferred length of poem for this blog, I could not resist introducing you to the poetry of James Newton Matthews, once widely known and loved as “The Prairie Poet.” He was a good friend of James Whitcomb Riley, whose poems I read as a child, and might have become as famous had he not continued to practice medicine in the small Illinois town of Mason.

 

The Old House-Fly  

                                        I

Go throw the shutters open wide, and lift the
            windows high,
Let out the silence and the gloom, let in the
            jolly fly;
I’m weary of this stale repose, and long to
            hear again,
The sweetest sound of all the year, the fly
            upon the pane;--
I long to see him bobbing up and down the
            sill and sash,
I long to feel his tickling tread upon y soft
            mustache;
I love to see him tilting on his slender, tender
            toes,
I love to watch him bump, and buzz, and
            balance on his nose;
In all the universe, to-day, of merry song and
            glee,
O, tell me where’s another that is happier
            than he;
Then throw the shutters open wide, and lift
            the windows high,
Let out the gloom and silence, and let in the
            jolly fly.

                        II

O, the old house-fly! O, the brave house-fly!
A straddling o’er the butter-dish, a sprawling
            o’er the pie,—
A jogging thro’ the jell and jam, and jousting
            round the cream,
As prone to risk a summer sail upon the milky
            stream;
A roving life the rascal leads thro’ all the rosey
            hours,
A button-headed roustabout, a lover light and
            bold,
Who revels on the ripest lips that mortal eyes
            behold;
Who clambers up the softest cheek, and up
            the whitest arm,
And loiters on the fairest breast that ever love
            made warm;
Then throw the shutters open wide, and lift
            the windows high,
Let out the silence and the gloom, let in the
            jolly fly.

                                    III

O, the old house-fly! O, the jolly house-fly!
He was present at our coming, he’ll be with
            us when we die;
From Turkestan to Mexico, his broad dominion
            runs,
And his nature never changes with the
            “process of the suns;”
From the days of dusky Cheops, down thro’
            centuries of dirt,
‘Tis a matter of conjecture, if he ever washed
            his shirt;
He has dined with every poet from the
            patriarchal Chaucer,
He has often taken pleasure-trips in Billy
            Shakespeare’s saucer;
He dipped his saucy noodle into Cleopatra’s
            cup,
When the amorous Antonius his kingdom
            offered up;
Then throw the shutters open wide, and lift
            the windows high,
Let out the silence and the gloom, let in the
            jolly fly.

                                    IV

O, the old house-fly! O, the naughty house-
            fly!
He dances on the baby’s lip, and on the dead
            man’s eye;
He’s first to taste the tawny wine within the
            tippler’s glass,
He prances on the prelate’s nose whene’er he
            goes to mass;
He’s found within the skipper’s hat, and in
            the gilded hall,
A giddy gambolier, who pays his compliments
            to all;
When our mothers rocked the cradles, in the
            cabins of our birth,
His happy chorus blended with the cricket
            on the hearth,—
And I love the recollection of the hours I’ve
            seen him crawl,
In the summer-time of childhood, up and down
            the whitened wall;
Then throw the shutters open wide, and lift
            the windows high,
Let out the gloom and silence, and let in the
            jolly fly.

~ James Newton Matthews

From Tempe Vale (Chicago: Charles H. Kerr & Company, 1888), pages 61-65.

Enough of that!

 

Online Examples:

Want more examples? Check out these websites:

-          A rengay sequence: http://www.graceguts.com/rengay/forgotten.

-          “Ten of the Best Poems about Insects,” from Keats, Blake, etc.: https://interestingliterature.com/2017/05/10-of-the-best-poems-about-insects/

 

The April Challenge:

PLEASE NOTE: THE SUBMISSION ADDRESS CHANGED RECENTLY.

ALSO, please follow the guidelines carefully. For example, if your name is at the top of the page or under the title instead of at the bottom, I might accidentally miss it when preparing to send the poems to the judge, and your poem could be disqualified as a result, since judging should be done bline. If it isn’t under your poem, I might mistype it. Also, if you don’t follow the directions in how to write the subject line of your email, your poem might be missed.

The challenge for this month is a poem about an insect or insects.

Your poem may be serious or humorous. The poem may be metaphoric, or literal. Title your poem unless it is in a form that discourages titles. Single-space. Note that the blog format does not accommodate long lines; if they are used, they have to be broken in two, with the second part indented (as in the poem “Lilith,” one of the May 2018 winners), or the post has to use small print. Put your name and a brief third-person bio under your poem. Please keep the poem on the left margin (standard 1” margin). Do not put any part of your submission on a colored background. Do not use a fancy font and do not use a header or footer.

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. Poems already used on this blog are not eligible to win, but the poets may submit a different poem, unless the poet has been a winner the last three months.

The deadline is April 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 and teens read this blog). No simultaneous submissions, please. You should know by the end of the month whether or not your poem will be published. 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. I do not register copyright with the US copyright office, but by US law, the copyright belongs to the writer unless the writer assigns it to someone else.

If the same poet wins three months in a row (which has not happened thus far), he or she will be asked not to submit the following two months.

How to Submit Your Poem:

Send one poem only to wildamorris4[at]gmail[dot]com (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”). Put “April Poetry Challenge Submission” FOLLOWED BY YOUR NAME 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 and/or attachment. If the poem has been published before, please put that information UNDER the poem also. NOTE: If you sent your poem to my other email address, or do not use the correct subject line, the poem may get lost and not be considered for publication. Do not submit poems as PDF files. Please excuse repetition in stating the rules. You might be surprised how many poets do not adhere carefully to the guidelines.

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 (Doc, Docx, rich text or plain text; no pdf files, please). or both. 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 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.

Bios:

James Newton Matthews (May 27, 1852 – March 7, 1910) was a poet and a country doctor. He was encouraged to give up his medical practice and go on the road as an entertainer, reading his poetry for the enjoyment of audiences, but declined to do so. He helped bring Paul Laurence Dunbar to the attention of the literary world, and carried on an extensive correspondence with James Whitcomb Riley. Numerous other well-known writers of the day visited his home in Mason, Illinois.

LaVern Spencer McCarthy has won many awards for her poetry. She has published five books of poems and three books of short stories. Her poems have been featured in many state society anthologies and newspapers. She is a life member of the Poetry Society Of Texas and is a member in several other state poetry societies.

Wilda Morris, Workshop Chair, Poets and Patrons of Chicago and past President, Illinois State Poetry Society, has published in numerous anthologies, webzines, and print publications, and has let poetry workshops for children and adults in several states. She has won awards for formal and free verse and haiku, including the 2019 Founders’ Award from the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. Her second poetry book, Pequod Poems: Gamming with Moby-Dick was published in 2019. She finds even annoying insects interesting.

 

 

 

© Wilda Morris

 

 


 

 

 

 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Fruit - March 2021 Winning Poems

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

 

The United Nations has declared 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables so it is appropriate that our March challenge was for poems about fruits. Patrice Boyer Claeys. whose poem was used as an example this month, agree to serve as judge. For Second Place, she selected the following poem:

Golden Delicious

It’s January
boots in school hall.
I pull an apple
from my bag.
 

I see our tree
obscured by blossoms in spring
courting pollinators.
During summer visits
thistles pierce bare feet.
In August I examine hard green balls,
festoon my pants with burrs.
Leaves fall, first snow
frosts each gold orb.

We fill bushels,
leave the rest for deer.
They come at night
stretch high like dancers
eat warm sun
buried deep within
cold fruit.

-Jan Chronister

From Caught between Coasts (Clover Valley Press 2018).

 

Here are the comments the judge made about “Golden Delicious”:  This is a poem of concision. But what it lacks in length, it makes up for in images that strike us with a simple beauty. In a matter of 20 short lines, we are taken through the four seasons of an apple tree. We see the winter apple brought out from the school bag, the spring tree obscured by blossoms, the hard green balls of August, and autumn’s first snow that frosts each gold orb. But it is the final image that quickens the heart. The abundant crop is shared with deer that stretch high like dancers / eat warm sun / buried deep within cold fruit. The poet’s reverence for the natural cycles of the earth comes across with lyrical grace in the yin and yang of the warm/cold dichotomy. The poem ends with a quiet peacefulness as the apple sustains life for the coming winter. This is a poem of gentle natural rhythms that slows us down and perhaps allows a moment of breath, space and appreciation. 

 

For first place, Claeys selected the following:

When Our Guest Makes Breakfast

It’s not that I’m bored with toast and jam,
just that our guest has sliced a papaya
for breakfast this morning, and those red-orange slivers,
flushed and wet, lie curled on a plate
in the center of our table, offering themselves.

Just that I’m drawn to his hand on the knife,
the grace of his wrist as he peels and carves,
drawn to this blaze of mango, papaya—
and the speckled green kiwi
he tosses on top like a handful of coins.

Not that I yearned for a taste of the tropics
or favor pulp over toasted rye;
just that—this moment—I cannot resist
the cactus pear on the edge of the plate

that he’s pared and opened
and placed within reach of my fingers.

~ Lori Levy

“When Our Guest Makes Breakfast” was published previously in Nimrod International Journal,  Spring/Summer 2013, Vol. 56, No. 2.

 

Comments by Claeys: This poem got me from the opening line, It’s not that I’m bored with toast and jam. This type of statement usually means exactly the opposite of what it says. It creates a tension from the very beginning, at the same time conveying a certain tone, in this case one of sly playfulness on the part of the narrator. As we read through the stanzas, the narrator reveals time and time again how attracted he or she is to the fruit described in luscious detail. The papaya slivers lie curled on a plate…offering themselves. And later, the cactus pear on the edge of the plate is opened / and placed within reach of my fingers. This is the language of temptation, and it is my take on this poem that the narrator desires more than the fruit. The mysterious guest slicing and plating these tropical beauties is revealed only through his hand on the knife / the grace of his wrist as he peels and carves. And yet, these details are as sensuous as the flushed and wet fruit itself. When a poet achieves two plains of action/ thought occurring together, we have a work of skill and interest that rewards on several levels.

Congratulations to Lori Levy and Jan Chronister! And thank you to Patrice Boyer Claeys for judging the contest, and to everyone who entered. If you entered but did not win, good luck in finding a home for your poem.

Bios:

Jan Chronister is a retired writing instructor who has been inspired by the beauty and starkness of northern Wisconsin for over forty years. She has authored two full-length poetry collections and four chapbooks. www.janchronisterpoetry.wordpress.com

Patrice Boyer Claeys is the author of The Machinery of Grace (2020) and Lovely Daughter of the Shattering (2019). She collaborated with photographer Gail Goepfert on Honey from the Sun (2020), a book exploring the secret life of fruit. Recent work has appeared in Indolent Press, The Night Heron Barks, little somethings press, Burningword, Inflectionist Review, *82 Review and Relief: A Journal of Art and Faith. She was nominated for both Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes. Find her online at www.patriceboyerclaeys.com.

Lori Levy's poems have been published in Rattle, Poetry East, Confrontation, Mom Egg Review, Paterson Literary Review, and numerous other literary journals and anthologies in the U.S., the U.K., and Israel. She and her family live in Los Angeles. She enjoys her four grandchildren and is happy to have another one on the way.

Watch for another Poetry Challenge on April 1.

© Wilda Morris