Friday, October 29, 2010

October 2010 Challenge Winners

The October challenge was a popular one. There were more entries than any previous two months combined. The poems, including the four printed below demonstrate that the prompt, to write a poem on the subject, “where I come from,” can inspire an interesting poem regardless of the poet’s cultural context.

The poems were judged by Barbara Eaton, Vice President of the Illinois State Poetry Society and Contest Chair for Poets & Patrons of Chicago. She has a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. She teaches part time at the College of DuPage and serves as a dramaturg for the First Folio Shakespeare Company in Oak Brook, Illinois. She picked winners for first, second, and third place and, as we discussed the poems together, we agreed to add a fourth place winner.

Note that two of the lines in the fourth place poem, "I Come from the Grace of a Farm," were too long for the blog format and folded onto the next line. Also, the uncapitalized lines in the third place poem, "Maddening," should be indented. Unfortunately, I am not able to indent on this blog.

The poem has some rich images and an ending which fits very well. It was one of several poems with rural backgrounds.

I Come From the Grace of a Farm

Small hands lie gently over a trembling sparrow trapped in the barn window
Fragrant hay dust dances in the shaft of sunlight
The low bellow of steer and muffled stomp of cows
Accompany the flutter of the sparrow’s wings as I release her to the day
I am witness to her flight

I walk, knee deep in color
Daisies tickle my fingertips
Indian paintbrushes flutter their reds and golds to the wind
Buttercups tell me their story
I gather them to me

Bare feet on sun-warmed stone
Rock hopping the length of a friendly creek
Lacy sprays from tiny waterfalls make my toes dance
The swift sound of clear running water
I listen to its traveling song

Sleepy heat from a wood stove
The dinner time clink of crockery
My drink still warm from the milking
Head bowed, words spoken,
I eat

A tin roof worn smooth with time
A rising wind and maple branch lullaby
Sun dried bedding
A soft edged quilt
I sleep

~ Mary Cohutt

Third place goes to “Maddening,” which the judge said “has great images and imagination.” There is a haunting quality about it.


I am the ripped out pages and calendar leaves
I am husband and socks, office and bamboo
I am burst-open white iris, roadside apparitions
I am unwound watches behind the mirror
jasmine and bridal veil blooming
I am only a voice, only the skin of an all-night city

I was half-way night to nightmare
wicked days, poised on the edge of stagnation
the mattress on the curb, stained
the trash men, diapers and melon rinds
ground together, I was the unpaved road
and the hand I held so like mine

I am inflamed passage of bronchial tubes
the garden bed shriveling
morning dull and ill fitting clothes

It is only the person I cannot call
I am calling out in prayers nailed to doors
I lie down soft, it hurts to lie at all
it’s my unkissed mouth,
I hang beyond the confession of not this again
it’s thin wonder in the cul-de-sac
all the eggs in my basket of how can I

~ Ann-Marie Madden Irwin

The second place poem has an interesting and appropriate title and an especially strong ending.

Yin and Yang

When I was little, Dad explained to me
the meaning of my name: the first character,
firm on the ground; the next two,
dazzling vermilion. Thus, a land
under the reflection of a red sun.

When I grew up, I learned
how he, with a deep-rooted
southern accent, pronounced land
as green, that sets off the rebirth
of flowers in a bird chirping spring
along thousand miles of the Yangtze River.

Now, the red and green swim
side by side like two fish, head to tail
in a globe, where I see
moonrise and sunset,
west wind chasing east rain,
and rivers embracing mountains.

~ Lucy Lu

“Golf Clubs and Hugs” was chosen as the first place winner in part because it was so well integrated and coherent. The poet made excellent use of repetition; when a word or phrase was repeated, the context often changed just enough to make it interesting. The ending of the poem circles back to the mother’s hands and the father’s golf clubs, both of which played a part in the first stanza.

Golf Clubs and Hugs

I am from the bleached-out hands of a mother
whose slap started my wail to wanting
hugs from a father whose hands held a golf club
and ignored my mother.

I am from the tired womb of too many daughters
who spit us out for wanting
hugs from a father whose hands held a golf club
for his sons and ignored the daughters.

I am from a land of oranges and roses,
where the white hairs played with the brown skins
and my father held a golf club and a drink,
while we ran for candy to Prontos,
our cheeks full of roses.

I am from a higher education than most,
straight A’s and stellar at running sport
and many awards in academia... in search of
hugs from a father whose hands held a golf club
where he stroked and swung and bested most.

I am from the land of wheat and honey,
where Dad answered an ad in “The Wall Street Journal”
and quoted his salary, working for nuclear war;
left my mother to weep and wail,
“Please come home, honey.”

I am from a man who hugged his scotch and water
and cried for losing wives and distant daughters;
who struck a deal with a honey and held his shotgun straight
into his mouth that wailed and wept,
returning to dust and water.

I am from the earth you see,
born of blood and water.
I am now my own to be
and getting my hands dusty,
weaving wheat into roses for you to see.

I am from an equal union
buying golf clubs for my honey
wailing at wars and nuclear nightmares;
hugging my sons and daughters,
praying for the Union.

And there’s my mother, my friend now
she has silvered, raises her bleached-out hand
in a wave and a grin
Gone is my father, gone are the clubs and slaps
I am my best friend now.

~ Sandra Sloan

Congratulations to the four winners!

The poems remain the property of their authors, and should not be copied without their consent.

Blog © 2010 Wilda Morris