Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Winning March Poem

Caroline Johnson, Vice President of Poets and Patrons of Chicago, served as consulting judge for March. Here is the winning poem:

Why I Collect Cats

because her many teats
hang from a rib-revealing
frame, and six kittens
call with mewling bleats
from the window well next door

because, with an abscess over one eye
and another behind his ear, he prowls
the neighborhood, trilling yowls
and he still has balls

because he is eating scraps and bread crumbs
meant for birds

because she’s a calico
because he’s long haired
short haired, a gray tiger,
an orange tiger
she’s a brindle, a tortie
black with white markings
white with blue eyes

and deaf, blind in one eye
sick with feline aids
weak with anemia
dying of leukemia
because he limps on two paws, broken
long before he appeared at my home

because they absorb sun on the sidewalk
or in the window sill, or on the kitchen floor
and power warmth to my feet in bed
pour heat against my back
purr on my head
and in my lap while I nap

I collect cats
not because she sprays the coffee pot
when my sister visits
not because he vomits on the pale carpet
not because she shreds the furniture
nor because I have to wait until she weans the kittens
before I have her spayed

I keep cats
because they have lived with me
longer than my husband
after my children left home
more faithfully than my ex-lover

I keep cats
because after eighteen years
or twenty, or fifteen
I want to hold the ex-tom
paralyzed by a stroke
the sway-backed mama
consumed by a tumor
when I help them die
when I tell them goodbye.

I collect cats one at a time
because he came to me wounded
because she was pregnant
because he was hungry
and so was I..

-- by Susan Fleming Holm

Of this poem, Johnson said, “It is compassionate and real. It is beautifully detailed and shows an obvious love for the subject matter. The poem itself is almost a metaphor for the imperfections of humans. It also has a beautiful rhythm as well. It brought tears to my eyes, especially the lines:

I want to hold the ex-tom
paralyzed by a stroke
the sway-backed mama
consumed by a tumor
when I help them die
when I tell them goodbye.”

The narrator values cats for their loyalty and for the warmth they bring (literally and figuratively) into her life. Part of the appeal of the poem is that the narrator collects cats for the very reasons why many people don’t keep cats: cats sometimes vomit on the carpet, tear up the furniture, yowl as they prowl the neighborhood Beyond that, the narrator of this poem is especially drawn to cats with abscesses or leukemia, hungry cats, needy cats.

In a strong ending, the narrator reveals that she needs the cats which needs her.

NOTE: Winning poems posted on this blog are sole property of the poets who submitted them.

© 2010 Wilda Morris

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Poems on the Internet

I've added links to more of my poems on-line, most recently "Woodye Kessler at the County Jail," "Stafford's Poems," "Holding Hands on the Greyhound," and five poems published in Eye on Life. Scroll down and click on the links if you would like to read them. "Woodye Kessler at the County Jail" is embedded in a blog entry entitled, "A Poet . . . and a Saint?"

Monday, March 1, 2010

March 2010 Poetry Challenge

Richard Vargas, who was born and raised in Southern California, currently lives and writes in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He first gained a measure of fame by publishing and editing The Tequilla Review from 1977-1979. Since then, he has published two books of poetry, Mclife, published by Main Street Rag, and American Jesus: Poems, published by Tia Chucha Press.

His short poem, “why i feed the birds,” is an example of the challenge for March: to write a poem explaining something about yourself.

why i feed the birds

i saw my grandmother hold out
her hand cupping a small offering
of seed to one of the wild sparrows
that frequented the bird bath she
filled with fresh water everyday

she stood still
maybe stopped breathing
while the sparrow looked
at her, then the seed
then back as if he was
judging her character

he jumped into her hand
began to eat
she smiled

a woman holding a small god

---Richard Vargas
© Richard Vargas. Used by permission of the author

Vargas gives us an image we can see. I can almost hear the narrator’s grandmother’s breath stop as the sparrow eyes her. The last line is a wonderful surprise.

John Lehman, the founding editor of Rosebud, lives and writes in Wisconsin. Hi is currently the poetry editor of Wisconsin People and Ideas. Lehman has a wry sense of humor. Many of his more recent poems, including many of those in his book, Shorts: 101 Brief Poems of Wonder and Surprise, are quite short and are printed as small rectangles, reminding me of little boxes or Post-it® Notes.

In the following poem, which is longer than his “Shorts,” Lehman uses an unusual metaphor to explain his poetic habit.

Why I Write Poems

It’s like cutting grass
after dark
pivoting the old mower’s
wheel around the end
of each line
to make a pattern of
you can’t see
but sense
by the sound
(of blades)
by the feel
or the constellation
of fireflies
that dance above it
when you’re done.
I’ve experienced both
and there is
one difference,
it’s when morning comes
the lawn
a splendid
glistening present
wrapped in dew
and the other
less real than
the gift you seek.

-- John Lehman
Shrine of the Tooth Fairy(Cambridge, Wisconsin: Cambridge Book Review Press, 1998), p. 83.

Note # 1: This book was illustrated by Spencer Walts. On, Walts is erroneously listed as the author.

Note # 2: Lines 2, 4-5, 7-12, 14-16, 18-19, 21-24, and 26-27 should be indented, but the blog does not seem to provide that option.

Note # 3: If you click on an underlined book title, it will take you to that book on

Do you hear the sound of the blades (and the poet's alliteration? Do you see those fireflies dancing above the dew-wet grass?

The Challenge for March is to write a poem with a title which begins, “Why I” (or “why i”). Explain why you drive a 1957 Mustang, why you walk to the mall, why you prefer your oatmeal cold, or . . . . well, you decide what to explain about yourself! Your poem can be as serious as the one by Vargas, or it can be humorous. Follow Lehman’s example and build your poem around a metaphor, if you wish. You have poetic license, so you can explain why you boogie with the baby, even if you don't really do it.

Your poem can be free verse, or you can use a form (sonnet, villanelle, etc.), but include a note saying what form you are using. Poems of 40 or fewer lines have a better chance of being selected, but longer submissions will be read and considered.

Send your poem to wildamorris [at] ameritech[dot] net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and . 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.

Challenge Deadline: March 15, 2010.

© 2010 Wilda Morris