Friday, July 2, 2010

July Poetry Challenge

William Marr who was born in China and lives in Illinois is a very prolific poet. He has published numerous books of poetry in his native Chinese, under the pen name of Fei Ma. He is quite well-known as a poet in Taiwan, Hong Kong and China. His work has even been included in textbooks on poetry in China. Marr has also published two books in English. His work has found homes in over one hundred anthologies. Most of Marr’s poems are short, concise and thought-provoking. Some are humorous. In addition to writing and translating poetry, Marr is a painter and sculptor. You can read many of Marr's poems in Chinese or English, and see some of his art work by clicking on the links to the right on this blog.

From 1969 until his retirement in 1999, Marr (who has a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Wisconsin) did research in energy and environmental systems at Argonne National Laboratory.

In his book Autumn Window, Marr has a set of four poems about birds, each reflecting a season of the year.

Birds * Four Seasons


If you wish to know
the shortest distance
between two trees
on this bright, enchanting day
any of the small, swift birds
can tell you with their twitter

It’s not a straight line


At noon
struck by a flaming light
a small bird
plummets through
dense leafy shade

Until slowly awakening
to discover himself
standing on a tree
lush and luxuriant

All that can be green
is green


When did the eyes
become so blurry

A bird flying higher and higher
its own reflection in a pond
the smaller the clearer


The last thread of mist
drifting in the air
finally joins
the icicles beneath the eaves

In this winter
how can I criticize
a small bird’s song
brief and evasive

-- William Marr

From Autumn Window

Marr’s most recent book of poetry in English, Between Heaven and Earth, can be purchased from at

A much longer cycle of four seasonal poems is “The Seasons" by Kristijonas Donelaitis found at Donelaitis, a Lithuanian poet, wrote this sequence about the lives of peasants in the mid-eighteenth century in hexameters (a total of almost 3000 lines!).

The July Challenge

The challenge for July is to write a series of four brief poems representing the four seasons. There are to be no more than 12 lines in each poem. Select a theme which will tie the four together (in the way birds tie Marr’s poems together). You may use free verse, haiku, or a rhymed form. Poems published in books or on the Internet are not eligible.

Send your poem to wildamorris [at] ameritech [dot] net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for [dot], and don’t leave any spaces). Or you can access my Facebook page and send the poem in a message. Be sure to give me your e-mail address so I can respond. Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog, if it is a winner.

Some Seasonal Poems You Might Want to Read

* Haiku generally includes seasonal references. See for instance: The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, & Issa (Essential Poets); and Haiku Moment: An Anthology of Contemporary North American Haiku
* "Daffodils" by William Wordsworth, in William Wordsworth - The Major Works (Oxford World's Classics)
* "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day" by William Shakespeare, in Shakespeare's Sonnets (Yale Nota Bene)
* “in Just” by E. E. Cummings in E. E. Cummings: Complete Poems, 1904-1962 (Revised, Corrected, and Expanded Edition)
* “Spring Comes to the Suburbs,” “Good Humor Man,” and numerous other poems by Phyllis McGinley, in Times Three
*“The Fifth of July, by Grace Schulman, in The Broken String
*“Returning Birds,” in Wistawa Szymborska’s Nobel Prize winning book (translated from the Polish by Stanislaw Barańczak and Clare Cavanagh, Poems New and Collected
* “Snow,” by Naomi Shihab Nye, in Fuel: Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye

* Numerous poems by Mary Oliver, including “Summer Story” and “Summer Morning” in Red Bird* Many poems by Jane Kenyon, including the series, “Walking Alone in Late Winter,” in Collected Poems and The Boat of Quiet Hours (Poems)
* The akam poems, which (like haiku) have seasonal references, in Poets of the Tamil Anthologies (Princeton library of Asian translations)
* “Cottonwood” by William Stafford, in Even in Quiet Places: Poems and History is loose again: Poems
* “November Bargain,” and “Winter Etude” by June Nirschl, and other poems in the joint collection by Nirschl, Nancy Rafal and Judy Roy entitled Slightly Off Q
* “April Fools,” by Christine Swanberg, in The The Tenderness of Memory: New and Selected Poems
* “Language of the Birds,” by Gladyce Nahbenayash in Dreaming History: A Collection of Wisconsin Native-American Writing
* “Kamperfoelie” (and translation, “Honeysuckle,” by J. C. Bloem, in Turning Tides: Modern Dutch & Flemish Verse in English Versions by Irish Poets
* “The Fall” by Heather McHugh in Hinge & Sign: Poems, 1968-1993
* “September afternoon at four o’clock,” and “Snow, snow,” by Marge Piercy, in Circles on the Water

July Challenge Deadline: July 15, 2010

Dorn Septet Challenge: A rhymed Dorn Septet with a minimum of three stanzas. No poems previously published in books or on-line. Deadline September 15, 2010. See the June Challenge for the rules of the Dorn Septet and an example by Glenna Holloway.

© 2010 Wilda Morris