Wednesday, June 1, 2011

June 2011 Poetry Challenge

Three example poems will provide inspiration for the June challenge: a “how to” poem. Each of these poems is quite unique. The first poem was inspired by the photograph by John Brunelli which appears above.

How to Build a Bedtime Story

All it takes is a flicker.
Someone to loosen the spigot of night.
The current will do the rest.

Or the wind ruffling colors
as two strangers approach
from opposite directions,
unaware of each other’s existence,
but destined to meet
where the road splits in two.

And the owl deep in his tree kingdom,
passing judgment in the dark.
Silent witness and executioner.

~Andrei Guruianu

From How We Are Now, Poems by Andrei Guruianu; Photography by John Brunelli (Vestal NY: Split Oak Press, 2010). All rights reserved. Used by permission of the author and photographer.

The second poem is rather whimsical. It was selected for inclusion in the Poetry 180 project designed by former Poet Laureate of the US, Billy Collins. Collins selected 180 poems, one for each day of the average school year, and recommended that they be read aloud to (and by) high school students. The poems were not to be analyzed in detail, but simply read and enjoyed.

How to Change a Frog into a Prince

Start with the underwear. Sit him down.
Hopping on one leg may stir unpleasant memories.
If he gets his tights on, even backwards, praise him.
Fingers, formerly webbed, struggle over buttons.
Arms and legs, lengthened out of proportion, wait,
as you do, for the rest of him to catch up.
This body, so recently reformed, reclaimed,
still carries the marks of its time as a frog. Be gentle.
Avoid the words awkward and gawky.
Do not use tadpole as a term of endearment.
His body, like his clothing, may seem one size too big.
Relax. There's time enough for crowns. He'll grow into it.

~ Anna Denise

from The Poets' Grimm: 20th Century Poems from Grimm's Fairy Tales (Ashland OR:
Story Line Press, 2003). © 2002 by Anna Denise.
All rights reserved. Reproduced with permission of the author.

The third poem is of a more serious nature. It is from a collection of poems by an American poet (a Chicago native currently living in Wisconsin), who began visiting Amsterdam in 1960, and lived in Amsterdam from 1994-5 and 1999-2000.

How To Be An Immigrant

Arrive with a suitcase of dreams.
Wrestle with a language and strange sounds
not in your mother tongue,
be seen only as other.

Stand in a long line in the rain
hours before office for foreigners opens.
Red numbers flash on two screens
in a sea of cubicles, Kafka echoes.
One door opens, then another,
people disappear inside with police.

Know rejection by the native born
brushing aside your credentials.
Feel the pain of discrimination
for the beauty of your chestnut brown skin
even though the country professes
to need trained nurses like you.

Create a home of love in your family
the outside world never sees.
Adopt society’s labels – “zwart,” black
for schools where foreign tongues predominate
unconsciously soaking in derogatory
images of yourself and your loved ones.

Question, challenge if this country
values the strengths and dignity of every one.
Must you give up your dreams
for yourself and your children?

~ Judith Zukerman

From Amsterdam Days: a journey through poetry (McFarland WI: Community Publications, Inc., 2004). All rights reserved. Used by permission of the author.

You can contact Judith Zukerman through the following link:

June Challenge

The June challenge is to write a "How to" poem. The title should begin with those two words. It might be "How to Bake Bread," "How to End an Engagement," "How to Get a Job," "How to Teach a Toddler to Tie Shoes," "How to Jump Over the Empire State Building" - possibilities are endless! Be creative. The winning poem will be published on this blog.

Due to formatting restrictions on the blog, all poems should be left justified. Unfortunately I am unable to publish indentations or shaped poems.

You may write in free verse or use a form. If you write in a form, please specify the form used. Poems published in books or on the Internet (including Facebook and other on-line social networks) are not eligible. If your poem has been published in a periodical, please include publication data. Poems submitted after the June 15 deadline will not be considered.

How to Submit Your Poem:

Send your poem to wildamorris [at] ameritech [dot] net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for [dot], and don’t leave any spaces). Be sure provide your e-mail address. Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog if it is a winner. The deadline is June 15. Copyright on poems is retained by their authors.

© 2011 Wilda Morris