Saturday, November 28, 2009

November Challenge Winner

Larry Turner who lives and writes in Fredericksburg, Virginia, judged between the top three poems for November. Turner is author of Eden And Other Addressesand Stops on the Way to Eden and Beyond.

Here is the winning poem:


Felt fedora
soft and gray
traveled into
town each day
sheltered Dad from
snow and rain
brought my father
home again
used a stepstool
by myself
and plopped his hat
atop the shelf

My father’s gone
I kept his hat
my little boy
knows where it’s at
first day of school
we have a spat
he’ll only go
in Grampa’s hat
I watch him go
lunch in his sack
my father’s hat
will bring him back

-- Judith Tullis

One thing I like about this poem is the way the hat moves to a third generation. After a time on the shelf, it gets a "new life." The ending of the poem is a bit of a surprise. Poems about the hats of deceased fathers are sometimes maudlin; this one is upbeat. The rhyme scheme also helps keep it light.

Larry Turner, made the following comments on "My Father's Hat": “Good concrete images. Conciseness good. Good portrayal of the passing on of family tradition generation after generation. “used a stepstool / by myself” is a little awkward without the “I.” Perhaps another quatrain would give freedom to fix that and to tell both what the son did and why.”

Congratulations to Judith Tullis! And thanks to Larry Turner.

The next poetry challenge will be posted on December 1.

© 2009 Wilda Morris

Sunday, November 1, 2009

November Challenge: A Poem About a Fashion Accessory

Two women may purchase and wear the same dress or pants suit—with a totally different effect. What makes the difference? The accessories, of course. One woman in a plain black dress will wear a bright red scarf and red slip-in shoes, and add a large red and black purse to her ensemble. Another will select a silver necklace with matching earrings, black pumps and clutch bag, and a black hat with a silver butterfly pin on one side. You might not even notice that their dresses are identical.

Identical male twins men may wear similar slacks and shirts, but if one wears a bolo tie, cowboy boots and a belt with a large buckle, he won’t look much like his brother who chooses black dress shoes, a belt with a subdued buckle and a bow tie.

Chaucer’s poem, “The Complaint of Chaucer To His Purse,” may be the first poem in English about a purse. Chaucer chose this light-handed way to ask his patron for more money, so it would be a stretch to consider “The Complaint” a poem about an accessory. Edgar A. Guest entertained his generation with “The Lost Purse,” a poem in which the mother is more upset on the numerous occasions when she can’t find her purse than when one of her young children wanders away. Again, the purse is not so much an accessory as a stand-in for the money it contains.

One of the most famous poems actually involving clothing accessories is “Warning: When I Am Old, I Shall Wear Purple,” by Jenny Joseph, the poem which spawned the Red Hat Society. “Warning,” which was voted Britain’s best loved poem by those who view “Bookworm” on BBC, is available as an illustrated book. See Warning: When I Am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple.

Two recent Poet Laureates of the United States have written poems about accessories. In Ted Kooser’s brief poem, “The Necktie,” a man stands in front of a mirror, as he finishes getting dressed. You can find the poem in his Pulitzer Prize winning book, Delights & Shadows

Billy Collins has two hat poems in Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems. “Candle Hat” is about the artist, Goya, who devised a hat that allowed him to paint after dark. “The Death of the Hat” describes the prevalence of hats in a previous generation, when they were an almost-mandatory part of men’s daily attire. At that time, men could make a living blocking hats for others, and there was a hat rack in every office. No man went out bare-headed on a cold night. The poem turns into a remembrance of the poet’s father, who wore a hat to work every day. At the end, the hat becomes a powerful metaphor for the earth, cloud and sky which now cover his father, and we realize that the title has a double meaning.

A brand new book, Empty Shoes: Poems on the Hungry and the Homeless, edited by Patrick T. Randolph, has several poignant poems referring to accessory. They include: “Empty Shoes,” by Patrick T. Randolph, “Feet on the Subway,” by Wilda Morris, “Designer on the Street Corner,” by Gretchen Fletcher, and “The Bracelet” by Mary Jo Balistreri.

Below are two poems about accessories. Marilyn Huntman Giese writes about a “ho-hum” interview with an editor. The hat only appears in the last stanza. Social commentary is much more blatant in William Marr’s little gem about a man’s tie.

The Editor Speaks

The editor
sipped her coffee
Stepped out, came back
sat down. . .

“Tell me about
your book—
What do you want
to say?”

My twenty-five minutes
tumble away
as I mumble incoherently
if she is thinking about
her kids as I try
to recall the vision
that inspired me.

“What is different
about your novel?”
she asks, redraping
her legs before her.

I muddle details as
hours of tireless research
becomes a molten mass
of ho-hum.

“Promising,” she says,
looking at the clock.

I lift my broad sunhat
to my head.
The jaunty wide brim sways
with a southern flavor.

At last, she gives me her
full attention.
With a burst of enthusiasm
she exclaims, “GREAT HAT!”

-- Marilyn Huntman Giese

© Marilyn Huntman Giese


Before the mirror
he carefully makes himself
a tight knot

to let the hand
of civilization
drag him

-- William Marr (Fei Ma)

Autumn Window, 2nd edition (Arbor Hill Press, 1996), p. 16. For those of you who read Chinese, Fei Ma has published the original version on his bilingual Website at Autumn Window can be purchased through William Marr’s Website listed on the sidebar to this blog.

November Poetry Challenge

The challenge for November is to write a poem about a fashion accessory: a hat, scarf, tie, belt, pair of shoes, jewelry—whatever you pick. You can write about an accessory for a man or for a woman. You may write a formal poem or free verse. Your poem may be humorous or may involve serious social commentary. However, the accessory should actually BE an accessory, unlike the purses in Chaucer’s and Guest’s poems.

Submit your poem through the “comment” feature below, through my Facebook page, or through wildamorris(at)ameritech(dot)net by November 15. I will select one or two winners to post on this blog. Submitting a poem implies permission for the poem to be posted. Authors retain ownership of their own work.

Wilda Morris

© 2009 Wilda Morris