Tuesday, December 29, 2009

December Challenge Winner

There were several good attempts at providing advice for the new year: advice to a husband, to a nephew, and to people in general. The winning poem describes life through a series of metaphors: a movie in fast-forward, musical chairs, a tunnel, and so on. The judges weren’t totally convinced by the title and end line, but nevertheless, the poem offers some good advice. Congratulations to Jason Sturner for submitting the following poem:

Trout Swimming Upstream for Nickels & Dimes

The world outside my window
moves like someone hit fast-forward
and broke off the pause button.

We race for our seats
on musical chair mornings,
jump in the ring with clocks.

But today my soul pinched me,
woke me up with a beautiful, simple idea,
and I'm here to share.

My friends,
one word
into a sword—


Like drought in a rose garden,
like sour on a sweet kiss:

We tolerate too much,
we tunnel drive through life;
each of us holding an entire world on our shoulders.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

We can spread our arms, ride the wind, enjoy life.
Remind ourselves that money is not air,
that computers will never hug us.

So write a list of things you love,
things that make life good for you.
And tape it to your forehead if you must.

For a daily pinch is a daily reminder
that you're NOT a fish
swimming upstream for peanuts.

Jason Sturner

The consulting judge this month was Beth Staas, President of Poets and Patrons of Chicago. There is a link to the Poets and Patrons Website on this blog (upper right).

Watch for a new poetry challenge to be posted on or near the first of January.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December Poetry Challenge

According to the calendar most widely used in the Western world, a new year will begin on January 1. Traditionally New Year’s Day has been a time for celebrating and for making resolutions. The two poems below, both by Wisconsin writers, are not written as resolutions; they provide advice to others as they begin the new year.

This Year ...

Borrow from the Universe
an elixir of choice.
Interpret your dreams
as Daniel did for Nebuchadnezzar.
Startle your partner
with open mouth kisses.
Memorize poems and
think in foreign phonemes.
Shake the shoulders of silence
while you deadhead the dianthus.
Harvest forgiveness and
bundle the benefits of doubt.
Crumble purple lavender
into an alchemy.
Coax the bell of morning glories
to ring mid-afternoon.
Clap the hens from the
cool weather garden.
Feel the flesh of words
as you pray without ceasing.

Jenna Rindo

First published in Free Verse.

Jenna Rindo suggests that we have choices in how we meet the new year--why would one give advice if one did not believe that? Alliteration, assonance, interesting images and Biblical allusions enrich her poem. The juxtapositions of lines (such as moving from interpreting your dreams to startling your partner) are interesting. Beginning with the ninth line, Rindo uses a lot of gardening (or farming) imagery.

All Year Long

This year as the world comes apart…bit by bit
day after day…give your heart away
remembering that the watered-down light
of the moon is stronger than darkness

This year when the lines in your face outnumber
those in the palm of your hand or the ones
you meant to put on paper…do not have them notarized

When the lock on your door finally gives out
and everyone comes to sleep in your living room
turn over the deed for your house to the first one
willing to make coffee or a pot of soup

This year when you plant your garden…hold the seeds
carefully in the womb of your mouth…Spit them
one by one into the welcoming earth in the name
of everything you have done or failed to do

This year as the world becomes larger and you shrink
to the size of the small winter sapling in your backyard
know that the skeletons of trees still hold the breath
of your grandmother and need no disclaimer.

Ellen Kort

Wisconsin Poet’s Calendar: 1999, edited by Yvette Viets Flaten (Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, 1998), p. 125.

Ellen Kort, who was the first poet laureate of Wisconsin, generally does not use punctuation. She substitutes extra spaces where other poets might use periods, commas or dashes in the middle of a line. Unfortunately, blogspot will not print extra spaces, so Kort gave me permission to substitute the dots.

Kort’s poem seems to assume that, to some extent at least, the world will come apart. Indeed, all of us experience disappointment, loss, and even tragedy, often through no fault of our own. We have no choice about that. But Kort, like Rindo, reminds us that we can choose how to respond, and find meaning in our lives as we give our hearts away. This idea provides a central focus for the poem.

“All Year Long” has rich metaphors and images. It makes excellent use of repetition, without overdoing it (note that the third stanza – the one in the middle – does not use the repeated phrase “This year”). Kort also makes good use of comparisons: “the watered-down / light of the moon” is compared with darkness; the number of lines on your face versus those on your palm; the world growing as you shrink. There is also the juxtaposition at the end of the fourth stanza of “everything you have done” with what you have failed to do.

December Poetry Challenge

After reading these poems, I’m determined to coax those morning glory bells to ring—and to appreciate “watered-down light.” I’m also wondering what advice I might offer to others, advice that might make help 2010 a memorable year.

The December poetry challenge is to write a poem of advice for the new year. It may be advice for anyone who might read it, advice to a particular group (department store clerks; members of a sports team; poets or novelists; students at your school or those with whom you work; all the members of your church, mosque, synagogue or temple; etc.) or individual (such as your spouse or children, or a new-born). Or perhaps you could combine the New Year’s resolution idea with the advice idea, and write advice for yourself. You may use a form (other than a shaped poem, considering that blogspot doesn’t accommodate the needed spaces) or free verse. Your poem may be serious or humorous. Just make it poetic and 30 or fewer lines!

Entries must be submitted by December 15. Submitting a poem implies permission for the poem to be posted. Authors retain ownership of their own work.

Submit your poem through the comment feature below (be sure to include your name and e-mail address), through my Facebook page, or via e-mail (remove the spaces from the following address: wildamorris @ ameritech . net). At least one winning entry will be posted on “Wilda Morris’s Poetry Blog.”

© 2009 Wilda Morris