Tuesday, June 29, 2010

June Challenge Results

When I posted the challenge for June, I neglected to include the rhyme scheme for the Dorn Septet. I apologize for that omission. I added the rhyme scheme to the challenge later, but all of the submissions I received were written by poets who read the challenge before that addition was made. I considered selecting a winning unrhymed Dorn Septet, but wasn’t sufficiently satisfied with any of the entries.

I’m leaving open the challenge to submit a rhymed Dorn Septet with a minimum of three stanzas. See the June Challenge for specifics of how the Dorn Septet is constructed. This challenge will be open at least until September 15. That will give you a chance to draft and perfect your poem. This challenge is in addition to the monthly challenges.

Wilda Morris

© 2010 Wilda Morris

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June Poetry Challenge

Glenna Holloway, Senior Poet Laureate of Illinois, and founding President of the Illinois State Poetry Society, used a sophisticated modern form, the Dorn Septet, for her award-winning poem, “Losing the Farm.”

Dorn Septet: Each stanza has seven lines, all iambic (each foot has two syllables, the first unstressed and the second stressed). However, the first and last line of the stanza are iambic trimeter (three feet); the middle (fourth) line is iambic hexameter (six feet); and the rest (2,3,5,and 6) are in iambic pentameter (five feet). Note also the rhyme scheme: Lines 1, 4, and 7 rhyme and lines 3 and 5 rhyme. There are no rhymes for lines 2 and 6. This metric and rhyme pattern was devised by Dr. Alfred Dorn, a New York poet.

Losing the Farm

This shaggy hump of land
Comes down to settle at the shallow pond
Like our old dog, paws in his water dish.
The man I married was my father’s only hand.
His first job was to stock the pond with fish.
Young Phil was smart. Why he would work for us
Was hard to understand.

He built a barn without
Much help that March my father hurt his hip.
Spring’s greening nap resembled sheared chenille,
Our fields embroidered by the tractor’s seeding route
Like Mama’s bedspread pattern, wheel-in-wheel.
She died that June, then Phil was hired full time.
Sometimes he cleaned my trout.

I asked him how he knew
So much, and why he didn’t take a job
With more to offer. Phil said he loved farming.
Before the corn grew ears he said he loved me too.
At first, my father found the thought alarming,
But soon he recognized his stroke of luck—
What blessings could accrue.

And so they did. The years
Were mostly kind, the rains and Phil were faithful.
He turned the scrub to terraces of grapes
Where domes of purpling autumn almost vanquished tears.
Now neighbors’ spreads are gone, the city rapes
Its way toward us, my parents’ hilltop graves,
And all our gravest fears.

Besides the pond, our lane,
The graveled last ditch lifeline left to drive
The truck to market, movies, church and vet—
Was just condemned—last ploy to make us sell. The pain
Of isolation’s grip, our drought-grown debt
And kneeling crops conspire to push us out
Of our homemade domain.

With arteries now closed,
The heartbeat stops in this uneven Eden.
No mall, no high-tech electronics plant
Compares with tasseled corn, or beaded arbors posed
Against a moiré quilt in day’s last slant.
Bulldozers quickly level secret places
Where the dying dog once dozed.

Glenna Holloway

From www.poetryfish.com/archives/holloway/index.shtml

You can read more of Glenna Holloway’s poems in, Never Far From Water and Other Love Stories (PublishAmerica, 2009), available from www.publishamerica.net.

In addition to the form, Holloway’s poem is rich in narrative which tugs at the heart. The details she uses bring the narrator and her family alive.

Holloway makes excellent use of similes and metaphors, as when she likens the way the “shaggy hump of land” comes down to the pond to the way a dog sits with paws in a water dish. The pattern of the fields is like that of her mother’s quilt. The tractor’s work of dropping seeds is pictured as embroidering. These figures of speech subtly draw attention to the ways in which the outdoor farm work and the domestic work in the house are tied together in the traditional farm family. At the end, when the lane into and out of the farm is condemned, it becomes a clogged artery, another powerful metaphor.

Holloway pleases the ear of the reader with effective sound combinations: “Shaggy” and “shallow” in the first stanza; the assonance of “stock” and “pond” a few lines later; “sheared chenille” in the second stanza; “drought-grown debt” in the fourth; and so on.

Strong verbs, well-placed, also contribute to the impact of the poem. In addition to “embroidered,” which was mentioned above, notice “conspire” in the fifth stanza. The strongest verb, however, is in the phrase, “. . . the city rapes / Its way toward us. . . .”

Every other stanza ends in some way with death. Stanza two ends with trout being cleaned. Here the dead fish provide sustenance, so the image is positive. The fourth stanza, however, ends powerfully with “hilltop graves” and “gravest fears.” The poem ends with a sadness to compound that of losing the farm (and having previously lost mother and father)—the dog is dying.


The challenge for June is to write your own Dorn Septet. Your poem can be about any topic you choose, happy or sad, serious or funny, so long as it follows the rules of the Dorn Septet (see above). Enrich it with alliteration, assonance, images, metaphors and/or similes, and other poetic techniques. No poems already published on-line or in books, please.

Send your poem to wildamorris [at] ameritech[dot] net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and . for [dot], and don’t leave any spaces). Be sure to include 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.

© 2010 Wilda Morris