Friday, December 28, 2012

December 2012 Challenge Winner - The Wind


Thank you to those who entered the December Poetry Challenge. Congratulations to Taoli-Ambika Talwar, the winner this month. Here is her poem:

Crafty Wind!


                Crafty Wind! You
carve lands mountains
deserts that sway across vast sky
covering hidden oasis
               You, Evocateur!
Of desire pulse through
terrible moments
           birth love betrayal
             Yes, You!
Sing through leaves
newly awakened
carry tunes through fires
roiling across summer landscapes
             You!
Hardly so surreptitious
carry away lover’s notes
lawyer’s sheaves of analyses
             You wild and naughty
a drunken man’s breath
sodden on windy wet pavement
Awakener! Annihilator!
You make things fly
houses in tumult,
stillness where breath
suddenly laughs…
How shall I contain you
moving passionately through me?
A song wishing to sing itself
softly as breath, a wild Ave Maria
God smiles through me,
who also birthed you…
Windows swing wide open,
I am spun around: shall we dance?
I am breathless.
Shape me with your craft!
Or contain me on your palms,
whisper to me words of love.
Set me sail on a boat
leeward where beloved awaits
and doors awake with light.
~ Taoli-Ambika Talwar

Copyright of the poem remains with the author. Do not copy without permission.

Talwar shows the wind in its many moods and activities, from whispering and singing to roiling across landscapes leaving destruction in its wake. Yet, the poem seems to indicate that even when it appears to destroy, the wind is creating, for it carves new landscapes of land and mountain.
To what extent is this “Awakener! Annihilator!” literally the wind, and to what extent is it metaphoric? And if the later, for what is it a metaphor. Since Talwar writes in the ecstatic tradition, the reader must ask, “who is ‘the beloved’ who awaits?” Is the beloved a human partner, or the divine? Or, in some mysterious way, might it be both?
Read the poem several times to capture the many moods of the wind, and ponder who, for you as the reader, is the beloved, as well as the metaphoric possibilities of the poem.

AMBIKA TALWAR is an educator, published author and artist, who has written poetry since her teen years. She has authored Creative Resonance: Poetry—Elegant Play, Elegant Change, 4 Stars & 25 Roses (poems for her father) and other chapbooks. Her style is largely ecstatic, making her poetry a “bridge to other worlds.” She is published in Kyoto Journal, Inkwater Ink - vol. 3, Chopin with Cherries, On Divine Names, VIA-Vision in Action, in Poets on Site chapbooks/collections, St. Julian Press, and other journals; has been interviewed by KPFK; has recorded poems for the Pacific Asia Museum; and has won an award for a short film at a festival in Belgium. She also practices IE:Intuition-Energetics™, a fusion of various modalities, goddess lore, sacred geometry and creative principles for health/wellness. “Both poetry and holistic practices work beautifully together, for language is intricately coded in us. In resonance with our authentic self, we experience wholeness & wellness,” she notes. “I love to work with people to help them discover their unique creative purpose.” Look out for the new site: creativeinfinities.com. She has taught English at Cypress College, Cypress, California, for several years. She is originally from India.
Sites: http://goldenmatrixvisions.com & http://intuition2wellness.com Interview: http://www.timothy-green.org/blog/taoli-ambika-talwar/ Check this blog on January 1 or soon thereafter for the January Poetry Challenge. Happy New Year!

© 2012 Wilda Morris

























Saturday, December 1, 2012

December 2012 Poetry Challenge - The Wind

The wind has always fascinated me. Perhaps it is because we cannot see the wind, but can only see and feel its effects. Wind can cool you on a hot day or chill you in a cold rain or snowstorm. It can blow branches from a tree, pull a balloon or kite string from the hand of a child, ruffle the waters of a river or bay, or—as I learned in my teen years—embarrass a young woman by blowing her skirt up. Wind can be quite destructive when it take the form of a hurricane or tornado. On the other hand, wind spreads the seeds of wildflowers, enhancing the beauty of woodland or prairie.

I was quite young when I first learned to love Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem, “The Wind.” I liked the idea of the wind singing “so loud a song.” In his poem, “The Wind at Vinci,” English poet Michael Hulse, doesn’t exactly say the wind sings—at least not in those words. But does it?




The Wind at Vinci

The magi of day left their gifts and departed,
    and for a little while I lay awake
    as your breathing beside me rose and fell
        and the wind across the vineyards
shrilled and then keened and then darkened into a moan.

And the wind was as old as my fears, and it said:
    a man who has not learnt to know his home
    in an hour such as this will lie alone
        for the rest of his mortal days.
I thought of my dying father, one August night

unseasonably cold, that last of his summers,
    lost for his words and wanting to tell us
    the weather was wintry, instead (poor man)
        declaring in confusion: What
a horrible night! – it’s like Christmas! And I thought

of my mother, a teenager after a war,
    thrilling to Mozart where fountains play in
    a courtyard amid the rubble, knowing
        that this was the meaning of peace.
So quickly a future is over; so quickly

the home we imagined we’d live for is lost; so soon
    the words and the music are wind. I thought
    of Leonardo too, his boyhood spent
        in the olive light of the groves,
accepting in manhood commissions to image

the Baptist inward and radiant with knowledge,
    the Saviour calmly foreknowing it all
    as he breaks the bread in the company
        of the man who will betray him.
It may be nobody has a home in the world

but that is the way of the little night music,
    that is the point of the wind in the hills.
    Love (so the wonderful man from Vinci
        said) is the offspring of knowledge.
You smiled in your sleep; and I… I knew I was home.


~ Michael Hulse

From The Secret History (Arc Publications, 2009), pp. 99-100.

In this poem, the narrator lies awake listening to the breathing of the one who lies beside him and to “the wind across the vineyards.” The wind keens and moans but by the end of the poem, “the wind in the hills” turns into “night music.” In the meantime, it has blown his thoughts in several directions—his dying father (the wind of aging has deprived the poet's father of his ability to use language to express his thoughts and feelings), his mother (thrilling to Mozart amidst rubble from the war), to Leonardo and his paintings. When the poem circles back to the wind, it also circles back to the one lying beside the narrator.

The poem forces me to reflect on that future that is so quickly over (stanza 4) in a world where “the words and the music are wind” (stanza 5), and to ask myself how I, too, have found satisfaction in a relationship which has become home.

I was drawn in by the first line of the poem, with its creative reference to “the magi of the day” leaving their gifts (one of those futures which is so quickly over, if I am not mistaken). This biblical reference forms an additional envelope for the poem, connecting subtly to the biblical references in the next to the last stanza. Also, when the magi bring gifts, they are away from home, which links them thematically to the poet's finding home in the conclusion.

The "Author's Note," in the front of The Secret History enhances the reader's understanding of this poem and the others in the book. There Hulse speaks of "coming to terms with the difficult legacies of the two nations, England and Germany," his parents' homelands. The resulting struggle to determine his identity led him to explore his parents' lives as he sought to understand what for him was and is "home." This is his only essentially autobiographical book, and it is very nuanced.

I have read many poems about the wind, but few with the breadth, depth and subtle complexity of “The Wind at Vinci.”

Michael Hulse is an associate professor at the University of Warwick in England, where he teaches creative writing and comparative literature. He was international poetry editor for Arc from 1993 to 1999 and general editor of a literature classics and a travel classics series for K├Ânemann from 1994 to 2001. He co-edited the best-selling Bloodaxe poetry anthology, The New Poetry (1993), ran Leviathan poetry press, and has edited the literary magazines Stand, Leviathan Quarterly and The Warwick Review. He received a Cholmondeley Award in 1991. In 2011, he co-edited The Twentieth Century in Poetry.

His poetry collections include Eating Strawberries in the Necropolis (1991); Empires and Holy Lands: Poems 1976-2000 (2002); and The Secret History (2009). Another book of poems, Half-Life, will be published in 2013. Hulse, who has lived in Germany and The Netherlands as well as England, is internationally recognized not only as a poet but also as a translator. You can read more about his work at http://literature.britishcouncil.org/michael-hulse.

Other Interesting Poems Inspired by the Wind:
* Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Wind,” A Child’s Garden of Verses, rev. ed. (Star Bright Books, 2008).
* Ellen Kort, “Five Ways of Listening to the Wind,” Notes From a Small Island (Appleton WS: Fox Print, 1994), pp. 4-5.
* Robin Chapman, “Wind in the Boundary Waters,” Abundance (Cider Press, 2009), p. 25.
* Kwesi Brew. “The Earth,” African Panorama: New Poems by Kwesi Brew (Greenfield Center, New York: Greenfield Review Press, 1981), p. 46.
* Sidney Hall Jr., “Something About the Wind,” Fumbling in the Light (Hobblebush Books, 2008).
* Ted Kooser, “In an Old Apple Orchard,” Flying At Night: Poems 1965-1985 (Pitt Poetry Series; University of Pittsburg Press, 2005).
* Georgia Ressmeyer, “Wind Lover,” Wisconsin People & Ideas, 53:4 (Fall 2007), p. 43.
* Christina Rossetti, “Who Has Seen the Wind,” The Golden Book of Poetry, 1947.
* A. A. Milne, “Wind on the Hill,” http://allpoetry.com/poem/8518981-Wind_On_The_Hill-by-A.A._Milne.
* John Masefield, “The West Wind,” Poems (Kessinger Publishing, LLC, 2005); There is a Youtube video of Ethel Barrymore reading “this poem at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qwmAKj4QnU).
You can find a collection of wind poems at http://www.poetandpoem.com/wind_poems.html.

December Poetry Challenge

Write a poem inspired by the wind. Your poem may be in free or formal verse (if you use a form, specify which form it is). It may be a serious poem or a light one. A poem with both depth and poetic artistry will have the best chance of winning.

Please put your name at the bottom of the poem (note the format used above).

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 December 15 deadline will not be considered.

I reserve the right to declare no winner, if the judges for the month do not believe any poem submitted is quite good enough. Decisions of the judges are final.

How to Submit Your Poem:
Send your poem to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for [dot]). Put "December Challenge" in the subject line of your email. If you want a bio published with your poem should it be a winner, please include put a brief bio below your poem. Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog if it is a winner. The deadline is December 15, 2012. Copyright on poems is retained by their authors.

© 2012 Wilda Morris

































Friday, November 30, 2012

November Challenge Winner

Congratulations to Eve Lomoro, who submitted the winning poem this month.

Kelsey

I’m seeking your vote as the Nanny of the Year.
Here’s why:

The youngest one, they said
can be a handful. Has tantrums,
doesn’t cooperate, she’s stubborn
as a donkey straining
against his owner’s rope.
That’s what they told me, going in.

At preschool she hangs her head down
to her chin, and refuses to speak.
Driving home, I ask about her day,
she drops her head lower.
Petrified, I stop talking.

Do you want a snack? I ask.
She shakes her head.
A response – real progress.
Do you want to play? A silent no.
She’s tough, I think,
but I’m tougher.

She mumbles something. I lean down.
I can’t hear you, I say.
I want to go downstairs – by myself.
Emphasis: By myself. She goes.
I consider my next move.

She jumps from the back of the couch
into the seat. Stop, please. I want to talk.
She sits down, and I sit in a child’s chair,
facing the little darling.
We’re going to be great friends, you know,
so why not start now?

I hide behind my hand,
peek through my fingers,
and hear a very small giggle.
I duck behind a pillow, and hear
more giggles, louder, more
and more giggles.

We watch a cartoon,
but not really—she’s jumping again.
Jump on me—I’ll catch you.
She looks at me, deciding if she can trust me.
I won’t drop you, I say. I promise.

She dives, and I catch her,
put her upright again. She giggles.
We do this over and over.
She’s beginning to like me, I think.

Third day, she comes back
for more jumps—ten and then
one more. This time, when I catch her,
she stays, squiggling into the curve of my arm.
We cuddle and watch the cartoon.

This is why I should win your vote – I’m Mary Poppins.

     ~ Eve Lomoro

Eve Lomoro retains copyright on this poem.

Judges for November were again Jim Lambert and Jacob Erin-Cilberto. The judges said their favorite part of the poem was the last line.

Jim lives lives with his wife of 47 years and two 28 year-old desert tortoises near Carbondale, IL. He is active in community theater. His poetry book Winds of Life was published in 2007. Jacob lives and teaches in Southern Illinois. He has been writing and publishing poetry since 1970. His 12th and most recent book, Used Lanterns is available from Water Forest Press, Stormville, NY. Jacob has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in poetry 2006-2008 and again in 2010.

Thank you to the judges, and those who entered the September challenge. Congratulations to the winning poet.Stop by soon to see the December challenge

© 2012 Wilda Morris

Saturday, November 3, 2012

November 2012 Poetry Challenge - Nominate Yourself

George W. Bush was president of the US when Jim Lambert wrote his poem, “Jim Lambert for Poet Laureate.” Only one line of this poem would have been different had it been written during the Obama Administration however.

Jim Lambert for Poet Laureate

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Committee
I come before you today
To nominate Jim Lambert and to
Embellish his resume.

A superior poet laureate
He would most assuredly make.
It is a grave responsibility
He is more than willing to take.

Academia is normally the source
Of most of your nominees.
Usually published poets
With fancy schmancy degrees.

But let us consider Lambert
For the reasons detailed below
He’s a real sore-fingered poetic machine
With loftier places to go.

From humble rural beginnings,
He was raised down on the farm.
Though he attended public schools,
He suffered little apparent harm.

He served in the U. S. Army--
That should be considered a plus.
Although we admit he was drafted
He refrained from making much of a fuss.

While serving in the Army
He met his beautiful wife.
They went from love at first sight
To together for his entire life.

Mr. Lambert has vast experience
In the outside of government world.
He’s played the corporate game for years
Waiting for his talents to be unfurled.

He’s lived all around the country
And what may interest you the most
Is that he’s never had a permanent address
Any where on the eastern coast.

Lambert has no skeleton to hide
That might provoke political attack,
But be advised that he may very well be
A tiny percentage Black.

No forebear of his was ever a cad
And certainly none were schrewish.
One was a Native American lass
And one of the guys was Jewish.

But in these enlightened modern times
We’re certain that you will feel
The fact that he is multi-ethnic,
Just adds to his appeal.

So cast your vote and select this man
Who deserves this lofty position
He’ll find for you the perfect rhyme
And in its best rendition.

Say that you want the rich to have
A massive tax reduction,
He’ll write a poem just for that
It’ll be a voter rhyme seduction.

Perhaps you’ll want to go to war
Whether justified or not
He’ll produce a poem in support
He’ll give it his very best shot.

But if he does not succeed at this
Perhaps butchers a Terza Rima,
Then President Bush, without batting an eye,
Can make Lambert the Director of FEMA.

~ Jim Lambert

Jim Lambert 9/10/05 Used by Permission of the author.

The challenge for November is to nominate yourself for some kind of major award or position. Maybe you will follow Jim Lambert’s example and nominate yourself for Poet Laureate. Maybe, though, you’d rather win a Pulitzer Prize, a place on an Olympic team, the presidency or premiership of your nation, a MacArthur Genius Award or a Nobel Prize. Or perhaps you would like to be named Mother, Father or Grandparent of the Year. Whatever award you dream of winning, write a poem nominating yourself. Your poem might be serious, or it might be tongue-in-check.

Your poem may be in free or formal verse (if you use a form, specify which form it is). Please put your name at the bottom of the poem (note the format used above).

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

Poems must be in English (due to my lack of skills in other languages), original and property of the poet making the submission. 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 November 17 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]). Be sure provide your e-mail address. If you want a bio published with your poem should it be a winner, please include put a brief bio below your poem. Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog if it is a winner. Due to the fact that I did not get the Challenge posted until November 3, the deadline is November 17, 2012. Copyright on poems is retained by their authors.

© 2012 Wilda Morris

Thursday, October 25, 2012

October Challenge - A Twist on the News

Judges for the October Challenge were Judith Tullis and John Quinn, whose poems provided inspiration for this contest. You can find their bios at www.illinoispoets.org.

One of the winning poems is “What’s Happenin’.” It reminded me of the hours I’ve spent reading old Kansas newspapers, looking for hints into the lives of my great-grandparents, who were among the early European-American settlers of Lincoln, Kansas. The Chicago Tribune, New York Times, Washington Post, and other major newspapers, don’t report it when someone goes out to hunt buffalo, attends a bridal shower, or catches a very large beaver in his trap! When I was a child, the Iowa City Press Citizen still did report visitors from out of town and other social events; I’m not sure if they still do or not. I do know that, like most other papers, they charge by the inch for obituaries. Peggy Trojan’s poem made me nostalgic for the days when a local paper—or someone in the neighborhood—put to paper the small news that is big news for family and friends.

What’s Happenin’

Selma Makkela
printed all the news fit to print.
The Hemmilas had a boy,
Erickson’s cow was hit by lightening,
the Polks motored to Chicago
for their grandson’s graduation.
Nothing to cause you anger
or “take to bed worry.”
When you saw Willard
at the feed store, you could ask how
Mildred’s broken leg was coming along,
send an anniversary card
to the Mattsens,
keep an eye out for
Johnson’s lost calico cat.
The news connected you
to community,
safe in the knowledge
you were informed enough
to know just what
was going on.

~ Peggy Trojan

I got more laughs, though, from John Gordon’s poem, ‘We’ll Be Right Back. . . .” I hope you will enjoy it, too!

We’ll Be Right Back…

I switch the TV on each night,
Those grinning anchors are a sight.
They laugh and joke, never seem sad,
Chatter brightly when times are bad.
What they report we’re told is news.
While they’re on screen, I sometimes snooze.
The ads are what I want to see,
Because they speak the truth to me.

If I opt for this famous beer,
Attractive girls will gather near.
They’ll ogle me, admire my brawn,
We’ll party hard until the dawn.
The credit card that I select,
Will gain for me utmost respect.
I’ll get cash back each time I spend,
A most ingenious dividend.
A tiny pill makes me a man,
A harmless boost to nature’s plan.
No longer fear of growing old,
My prowess will increase tenfold.
An auto plays a crucial role,
Ensures I’ll reach my lofty goal.
It’s pre-ordained that I’ll be seen,
As prosperous in this machine.

It’s often said, there’s no free lunch,
So I endure that anchor bunch.
Resign myself to suffer through
More cat rescues, bad interviews.
But when, We’ll be right back, they plead,
What follows them is what I need.
I don’t learn much from nightly news,
Those cool commercials shape my views.

~ John Gordon

I’ve seen those commercials, too! Maybe if I get a different car, or use a different shampoo, I could win the Pulitzer Prize? ? ? ?

If you would like to read some of my poems, check the links on the right side of this page.

Check in on November 1 to see the next poetry challenge. You might be the winner next time!

© 2012 Wilda Morris

Monday, October 1, 2012

October 2012 Poetry Challenge

On the last Sunday of each month, there is a poetry reading at the Brewed Awakening, a coffee shop across from the train station in Westmont, IL. The readings are sponsored by the Illinois State Poetry Society (see www.illinoispoets.org for announcements concerning upcoming featured poets). Two excellent poets, Judith Tullis and John Quinn, were featured on Sunday, September 30. Each one read a poem about the news (or someone’s response to the news), not a heavy or sad or angry poem, but a poem with a lighter touch and a bit of humor. John’s poem is a sonnet; Judith’s is free verse.

Details at Ten!

Alar on apples! Asbestos in school!
Our water's not fit for your pasta fazool!
Radon in basements! Be cautious in love!
Watch out! Beware! There's no ozone above! Chlorine's a crime! So's driving to work!
Cigarette smoking's the realm of the jerk!
Stay out of the sun! Don't play in the street!
Fried eggs are verboten, so is red meat! The stuff my dad worked so hard to obtain
are now objects of fear, loathing, disdain.
"The good things of life," we all tried to get
are getting us now, it's our life we bet. Whatever we do, we'll all end up dead
unless, as we rise, we crawl under our bed.

~ John Quinn

Morning News

Every morning
he reads the newspaper
through the steam from
his coffee – Boston, two sugars.

Every day in a plaid flannel shirt
and worn slippers, he confers
in the paper with heads of state,
beleaguered economists, city officials.

He coaches the Bears,
consults the weatherman
and test drives the latest
foreign luxury car.

Every day through the steam
from a mug of orange herbal tea,
across a kitchen table set for two,
I read him.

~ Judith Tullis

October Poetry Challenge:

Write a light or humorous poem about the news—whether the news comes from radio, television, or the internet—or second hand from friends. No angry poems. No partisan poems. No heavy-duty advocacy poems for or against the UN, the US, Iran, North Korea, abortion, legalization of marijuana, etc. Advocacy has its place, but the challenge for this month is a poem which will bring a smile, not make the reader angry (pro or con). Your poem may be in free or formal verse (if you use a form, specify which form it is). Please put your name at the bottom of the poem (note the format used above).

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

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 October 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]). Be sure provide your e-mail address. If you want a bio published with your poem should it be a winner, please include put a brief bio below your poem. Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog if it is a winner. The deadline is October 15, 2012. Copyright on poems is retained by their authors.

© 2012 Wilda Morris

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Winning Failure Poem - September 2012

The winning poem for September, a poem regarding failure, is somewhat mysterious. The poem can be read in several ways. I was tempted to explain how I read it, but will only say it looks to me as though an adult is apologizing for failure to adequately communicate something important to a child. I have one or two specific ideas, but decided not to express them here, since that might prejudice your own reading.

I will say, however that I like the poet's use of jacks in this poem.

Dear Agnieszka

I know it’s too late
to stop the wounds,
the hurt. The cow
is already out of the barn.
Before you were nine
all things should have
been spoken. The
lines tossed to you
light as jacks, and just
as sharp, bouncing
round your head, dribbling
into your heart.
But you know
I loved you and that
should count for something.

~ Connie K Walle

Ms. Walle retains copyright on this poem. She is a lifelong resident of Tacoma, Washington, and President of Puget Sound Poetry Connection which brings The Distinguished Writer Series to Tacoma monthly, now in its 23rd season.

Judges for September were Jim Lambert and Jacob Erin-Cilberto.

Jim lives lives with his wife of 47 years and two 28 year-old desert tortoises near Carbondale, IL. He is active in community theater. His poetry book "Winds of Life" was published in 2007.

Jacob lives and teaches in Southern Illinois. He has been writing and publishing poetry since 1970. His 12th and most recent book, Used Lanterns is available from Water Forest Press, Stormville, NY. Jacob has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in poetry 2006-2008 and again in 2010.

Thank you to the judges, and everyone who entered the September challenge. Congratulations to the winning poet.

Return to this address on October 1 or 2 to find out what the October challenge will be.

© Wilda Morris 2012

Saturday, September 1, 2012

September Poetry Challenge - Failure

Last night, on the way home from the rehearsal dinner for our oldest grandson and the love of his life, I expressed regret that, for the first time, I would not be ready to post the new poetry challenge on the first day of the month.

I was out of town two weeks in August, and returned with only one week in which to catch up on the mail and laundry, and to meet all the end of the month deadlines. I got my wedding gifts wrapped and found a new dress for the special occasion. I wrote the blessing for the bride and groom (I’m co-officiating). I had a wonderful time eating meals with out-of-town family members here for the big event. With the help of David Gecic, I got the results of the July challenge completed. I took an August walk on the DuPage River Greenway, and succeeded in writing and submitting a “Walking with Nature” piece for the Bolingbrook Patch (see http://bolingbrook.patch.com//blog_posts/walking-with-nature-walking-the-dupage-river-greenway-in-august).

As we drove home, I decided I would have to post an apology for my failure to post a challenge on time. But during the early hours of the morning, when I started composing in my mind, the word “failure” reminded me of a silly little poem I wrote while driving through Northern Indiana in 20002:

Fail Road

The next intersection
is Fail Road.

If I turn there,
all the landmarks
should look familiar.

~ Wilda Morris

I don’t know how the road got its name, but I’m sure we all take “Fail Road” from time to time in our lives!

After thinking about that little attempt at irony, I recalled that I wrote another poem about failure, an attempt at humor. I was in a workshop in which the leader shared titles of several poems, and invited us to use one as a prompt for our own poem. On the list was “Once Again I Fail to Read an Important Novel, the tile of a poem by George Bilgere. You can read his poem at http://www.georgebilgere.com/onceagain.html.

I wrote the following poem:

Poet’s Protest
Beginning with a Fragment from a Title by George Bilgere

Once again I fail ,
to be nominated for the Pulitzer Prize
despite the superiority of my poems
to those of Sexton and Simic,
Kenyon and Collins.
It’s not my fault as you can see
from the alliteration I’ve already pushed
into this poem and the active verbs
bouncing around, begging you to listen.
[Note how well I personify.]
My metaphors are free-range chickens,
meaty, tough enough for you to chew on.
Get some unbiased judges in there—
see, I write protest poetry, too—
and maybe next year. . . .

~ Wilda Morris

The sorrows and disappointments of life, the funny thing that happen, the unexpected—writers say “it’s all material.” Material for a short story with an unexpected twist, the scene in a novel, or a poem. Even failure—real or imagined—is material. Maybe writers learned that from nature. The failure of a tree to survive provides “material.” It provides a home small animals, food for insects, and fertilizer for the soil. I have turned my failure to prepare a challenge ahead of time (and my expected failure to get a challenge posted today) into material for the September poetry challenge.

September Poetry Challenge:

Write a poem about a failure. You may begin with the phrase I borrowed from George Belgere, “Once again I have failed,” but that is not necessary. It may be your own failure or that of someone else. It may be serious or humorous. Please, though, no poems about contemporary politics.

You may write free verse or a formal poem. A repeated failure might be good material for a villanelle. A failure at love might work its way into a sonnet. It’s up to you. But if you do write a formal poem, please designate the form you have chosen. The poem should be left-justified and not contain extra spaces.

The deadline is 12:59 p.m., September 15, 2012. Poems submitted after that time will not be considered.

Copyright on poems is retained by their authors. Poems are archived on this blog.

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, you may submit it if you retain copyright, but please include publication data. Submit only one poem. Decisions of the judge or judges is final.

How to Submit Your Poem

Send your poem to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for [dot]. 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, so be sure that you put your name, exactly as you would like it to appear if you do win, at the end of the poem.

Book for Sale:

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of my book, Szechwan Shrimp and Fortune Cookies: Poems from a Chinese Restaurant, please contact me at wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net. The book costs $14.00 US. I will not charge postage or handling on orders sent to addresses in the U.S. during the month of September.

Here is what Wisconsin poet and writer John Lehman, founder and original publisher of Rosebud, wrote about the book:

“The zodiac on the placemat before you predicts a delectable aesthetic experience and Wilda Morris’s book delivers just that. There are sweet and sour delights. ‘Leftovers’ mirrors a troubled relationship; ‘Crab Rangoon,’ a blossoming romance. In ‘Shrimp Kow’ we reminisce with a white-haired woman who taught young children in Chinatown. ‘The Embittered Veteran Orders His Meal’ confronts the ravages of war at its most visceral level. Each poem is a subtle delight. Ten years ago Wilda observed a Chinese grandfather feed an icy treat to a young boy by the Ming tombs. Years from now you will remember the poetic delicacies Wilda Morris offers in this wonderful book.”

© 2012 Wilda Morris

Thursday, August 30, 2012

August Rain Poem Winners

I took the picture above along the DuPage River Greenway this week. The drought finally was broken, though too late for many farm crops. A number of poets sent rain poems, so I called on David Gecic, publisher of Puddin’head Press in Chicago to judge the five finalists.

Congratulations to the winners, Joan Peronto and Deetje J. Wildes.

Here is the first place poem:

Rain

neatly folded
tucked in the book
I was reading
this morning
a message
between the pages
left for me to find
when you were gone.

a small thing
to start the rain
sighing across the lawn
silver curtains
at the window
daffodil and crocus
bending earthwards
new pools in your old garden.

~ Joan Peronto

Gecic said this poem has a haunting element which he did not find in the other poems. “I like the metaphor in this poem of the tears and the rain. It shows that the pain is removed in time ‘NEW pools in OLD garden.’ The surprise of the message in the book.”

Gecic also mentioned that “John Ashbury often uses images that portray a story outside the poem. We do not know the story but it is here. We have somehow jumped into the middle of an action and do not know what the action is. The emotion cries out.”

Gecic said the poem made him care about the character in the poem.

The second place poem is a prayer:

Send Your Showers

My lawn sparkles green
since a sprinkling system
keeps perfect rhythm
in its dance to mimic rain.

But from my sun room window
the longer view
across to the woods
is two-toned
like the first car I owned.
Beyond the green band
is sand colored stuff
that once was grass.
People I meet
repeat the refrain,
we need the rain.

O Lord,
send your showers
upon this dry land.

One day I’m amazed
as I watch a doe
and her spotted pair
venture forth from piney shade,
unaware of my gaze.
Twin fawns frolic in the sun,
so carefree it seems.
I smile and marvel
at their liveliness.
But where does the mother graze?

O Lord,
send your showers
for the sake of your creatures.

Forgetting all this
on a shopping trip
I come to a halt
as I leave the store,
surprised by pouring rain,
and my only concern
is how wet my purchases will get
before I reach my car.

O Lord,
send your showers
upon this dry and selfish soul.

~ Deetje J. Wildes

Gecic especially likes the second stanza. Although it doesn’t follow the same form as the refrains which begin, “O Lord / send your showers,” it “rolls off the tongue.”

Congratulations to the winners. And thank you to David Gecic. You are invited to visit the website of Puddin’head Press at http://www.angelfire.com/poetry/puddinheadpress/.

Here is a listing of some excellent rain poems which have been published:

* Pattiann Rogers, “The Power of Toads,” Songs of the World Becoming: New and Collected Poems 1981-2001 (Milkweed Editions, 2001), pp. 171-172.
* Ellen Kort, "Rain," in The Clearing Speaks, published by The Clearing Folk School, Ellison Bay, WS, 2012.
* Sara Teasdale, "There Will Come Soft Rain," Collected Poems, Revised Edition (Simon & Schuster, 1967).
* Marge Piercy, "The Rain as Wine," Colors Passing Through Us (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003), p. 78.
* Du Fu, "A Summer Outing," in Du Fu: A Life in Poetry, translated by David Young, (Alfred A. Knopf, 2008).
* Kazim Ali, "Said in the Rain," The Far Mosque (Farmington, Maine: Alice James Books, 2005), p. 54.
* Jerald Wild, Artisan, 2005.
* Penelope Barnes Thompson, "After the Rain," Deconstructing the Nest and Other Poems (Shoreline Press). (See http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2007/04/23.)
* Kazim Ali, "Rain," The Far Mosque (Farmington, Maine: Alice James Books, 2005), pp. 31-32.
* Donna Pucciani, "The Beginning of Rain," The Other Side of Thunder (Flarestack Poetry, 2006), p. 12.
* Hettie Jones, "Global Warming," All Told (Hanging Loose Press, 2003), p. 77.
* Nancy Simpson, "April Rain," Lights in the Mountains: Stories, Essays and Poems by Writers Living In and Inspired by the Southern Appalachian Mountains (Winding Path Publishing, 2003). Also published at http://www.yourdailypoem.com/listpoem.jsp?poem_id=696.

Poets retain rights to their own poems.

© 2012

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

August, 2012, Poetry Challenge

Most of us, in the US at least, sometimes complain about rain. The expression, “don’t rain on my parade,” uses the metaphor of rain to express something negative someone has done to try to discourage us. We feel inconvenienced if it rains when our plan was to take the children to the zoo, mow the lawn, work in the garden, golf, or hang laundry on the line. This summer, though, it has been different here in Illinois. I have heard a lot of complaints about the heat, but there has been little rain about which anyone could complain. And when we finally had a little rain, nearly everyone celebrated its arrival. Our lawn (see photo above) did not receive enough rain to turn it green.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, 62% of US farms have been experiencing drought this summer. This has become the most severe drought in the US in a quarter century. Having driven through parts of rural Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin, I have seen a lot of stressed crops. Our lawn has been so dry and brown that even the weeds are not doing well. Drought is also a big problem in many other parts of the globe, including parts of Europe and Africa.

In the 1800s, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote a long poem about rain.

Rain in Summer

How beautiful is the rain!
After the dust and heat,
In the broad and fiery street,
In the narrow lane,
How beautiful is the rain!

How it clatters along the roofs,
Like the tramp of hoofs
How it gushes and struggles out
From the throat of the overflowing spout!

Across the window-pane
And swift and wide,
With a muddy tide,
Like a river down the gutter roars
The rain, the welcome rain!

The sick man from his chamber looks
At the twisted brooks;
He can feel the cool
Breath of each little pool;
His fevered brain
Grows calm again,
And he breathes a blessing on the rain.

From the neighboring school
Come the boys,
With more than their wonted noise
And commotion;
And down the wet streets
Sail their mimic fleets,
Till the treacherous pool
Ingulfs them in its whirling
And turbulent ocean.

In the country, on every side,
Where far and wide,
Like a leopard's tawny and spotted hide,
Stretches the plain,
To the dry grass and the drier grain
How welcome is the rain!

In the furrowed land
The toilsome and patient oxen stand;
Lifting the yoke encumbered head,
With their dilated nostrils spread,
They silently inhale
The clover-scented gale,
And the vapors that arise
From the well-watered and smoking soil.
For this rest in the furrow after toil
Their large and lustrous eyes
Seem to thank the Lord,
More than man's spoken word.

Near at hand,
From under the sheltering trees,
The farmer sees
His pastures, and his fields of grain,
As they bend their tops
To the numberless beating drops
Of the incessant rain.
He counts it as no sin
That he sees therein
Only his own thrift and gain.

These, and far more than these,
The Poet sees!
He can behold
Aquarius old
Walking the fenceless fields of air;
And from each ample fold
Of the clouds about him rolled
Scattering everywhere
The showery rain,
As the farmer scatters his grain.

He can behold
Things manifold
That have not yet been wholly told,--
Have not been wholly sung nor said.
For his thought, that never stops,
Follows the water-drops
Down to the graves of the dead,
Down through chasms and gulfs profound,
To the dreary fountain-head
Of lakes and rivers under ground;
And sees them, when the rain is done,
On the bridge of colors seven
Climbing up once more to heaven,
Opposite the setting sun.

Thus the Seer,
With vision clear,
Sees forms appear and disappear,
In the perpetual round of strange,
Mysterious change
From birth to death, from death to birth,
From earth to heaven, from heaven to earth;
Till glimpses more sublime
Of things, unseen before,
Unto his wondering eyes reveal
The Universe, as an immeasurable wheel
Turning forevermore
In the rapid and rushing river of Time.

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

From The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems. This poem is in the public domain.

“How beautiful is the rain!” That is the way most of us felt when it finally did rain a little here. We wanted more of this beauty, of the rain clattering, gushing, pouring!

One of the interesting aspects of this poem is the way it begins with the beauty and life-giving quality of rain, and unexpectedly draws attention to the graves in the local cemetery. This does not lead to a depressing conclusion, however. Rather, it is followed immediately by a view of the rainbow (“the bridge of colors seven”) and brings the poet to an insight into the role of rain in the cycle of life, “Mysterious change / From birth to death, from death to birth.”

Another approach to rain is found in a poem by Donna Pucciani. Instead of rhyme, Pucciani makes wonderful use of alliteration (as: “heave,” “heal,” and” hand,” as well as “drops” and “drumbeat” in stanza one), and assonance (for instance, the “e” sounds of “heave,” “heel” and “beat”).

The Beginning of Rain

The first drops, heavy as
the heel of a hand’s drumbeat,

slap pane and paving stone.
How soon each droplet becomes a rivulet, then river,

varies, always a new complication,
the freely wandering trails

ending somewhere on a sill or sidewalk or brow,
glancing sidelong off thistle and trunk.

The lurid mask of lightning
makes the owl blink, the grass glisten,

the cat scurry, and the deer in the woods
pause at the edge of a pebbled pond,

listening. Something in each drop
impels it on its journey, risking all

in dumb collisions with solid substance,
then swirling into the sewer’s maelstrom.

Sometimes it stops, mid-step, to listen to itself,
suspended on the edge of dusk,

holding the dampness of gathering hopes,
hesitation breathing possibility

of puddle, flood, torrent, rainbow,
the quiver of the wait

between the tapping of restless fingers
and the dizzying dance to the other side of thunder.

~ Donna Pucciani

From The Other Side of Thunder (Flarestack Poetry, 2006), p. 12. You can read more about Donna Pucciani at http://donnapuccianipoet.wordpress.com/.

In addition to the skillful use of sound, this poem shares vivid images as the poet describes the result of lightening and the journey of the raindrops as they gather together, “holding the dampness of gathering hopes.”

I wrote, “This One Rain Drop,” after reading that the water we have on earth is the same water that has been here since time began, that the same water has been recycled through the centuries. It is intriguing to think where the water in “this one rain drop” has been!

This One Rain Drop

A single drop of rain
falls on my forehead.
I don’t ask its history,
how many times these molecules
have circled the globe.
How many times they have fallen
into rivers, lakes, ponds, oceans
from how many ephemeral clouds.
How many ice floes and glaciers
these molecules rode.
How many streets and sidewalks
they dampened, how many
roofs, fields, rice paddies.
How many mountainsides
and canyon walls they slipped down.
How many windows or eye glasses
they streaked. From how many
windshields they have been wiped.
How many soups and stews
they have floated in. How many
crocks of kimchi or chili
in how many countries.
How many cups of coffee, tea,
mate, lemonade, beer or brandy.
Whose back they have washed over,
whose baby fingers and feet.
Suddenly, I think how I share
these cool molecules
with the world, with history.
I withdraw the hand
about to wipe my face,
let the droplet smudge my skin
till it drops off
and we each go our own way.

~ Wilda Morris

An earlier version of this poem was published in an online journal, Voices on the Wind, 44 (January 1, 2011), http://www.voicesonthewind.net/raindrop.html.

August Poetry Challenge

As you have doubtless figured out by now, the Poetry Challenge for August is to write a poem about rain. It can be a soft soaking rain (the kind we needed more of this summer), or include the "lurid mask of lightning” and the roar of thunder. You may focus on a downpour or on a single raindrop.

Ponder Longfellow’s words:

These, and far more than these,
The Poet sees!

Poet, what do you see when you see or think about rain?

You may write a formal poem or free verse. If formal, please specify the form. The deadline is 11:59 p.m. Central Standard Time August 15. Poems submitted after the August 15 deadline will not be considered.

Copyright on poems is retained by their authors. Poems are archived on this blog.

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, you may submit it if you retain copyright, but please include publication data.

How to Submit Your Poem

Send your poem to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for [dot]. 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, so be sure that you put your name, exactly as you would like it to appear if you do win, at the end of the poem.

August Workshop

To learn more about the workshop, “The Nature of Poetry and the Poetry of Nature,” go to http://glcc.org/Adult%20Conferences.html# and click on “Green Lake Christian Writers’ Conference, or email me at the address above.

© 2012 Wilda Morris

Saturday, July 28, 2012

July Poetry Challenge Winner

Congratulations to Phyllis Wax, winner of the July Poetry Challenge, a poem about response to a life event that seems to turn your world upside down. Here is the winning poem:

Whose Bones?

Open or closed
my eyes cannot see.
This is not me.

I lie in the dark back bedroom.
My daughter’s high-pitched voice invades
from the front room, the jagged glass
of her laugh. If I had the strength
I’d snatch a sliver, scrape
it across the lavender veins
of my wrist.
The pain.

Only in my mind
her adolescent face,
her father’s blue eyes,
and she knows it.

Her laugh is loud, for my benefit.
Her friend thinks I am at work.
Pain grits its teeth.

Whose bones lie useless
in this bed anyway, unable
to support their own weight?

Something sprawls within
my brain. Something
has stolen my whole body.
The pain.

This is not me.

~ Phyllis Wax

Copyright for the poem remains with the poet.

Thank you to the two consulting judges, Judith Tullis and Caroline Johnson.

© Wilda Morris 2012

Saturday, June 30, 2012

July 2012 Poetry Challenge

Erica Lehrer, who is pictured above, majored in English at Princeton University, and then earned a J.D. from the School of Law at New York University. After practicing law a few years, she decided her true calling was as a writer.

Her life took another turn when she began experiencing various physical difficulties.The eventual diagnosis: Multiple Symptom Atrophy. This neurodegenerative disease, is a rare form of Ataxia that impacts coordination and even speech.

With a great spirit, uncommon courage and the support of her family and friends, Erica continued to write poetry and to travel to San Miguel de Allende, Guantanamo, Mexico, to attend the San Miguel Poetry Workshop, where many of her poems were work-shopped. She published a collection of poetry, Dancing with Ataxia (To purchase the book, click here: http://www.amazon.com/Dancing-Ataxia-Erica-Lehrer/dp/0615509959/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1341111389&sr=1-1&keywords=Dancing+with+Ataxia). Profits from sale of the book go to the National Ataxia Foundation and the Neuroscience Institute at Princeton University.

Here is the last poem in Dancing with Ataxia:

MY METAPHOR IS SHRINKING

      For Tony Hoagland

Initially, nearly imperceptibly.
Then, more noticeably. I thought,
at first, I was imagining it
because no one took me seriously
or seemed particularly alarmed.
The instruments used to detect
such changes were not calibrated
to pick up subtle differences
caused by metaphoric degeneration
or neurons misfiring.

And if my metaphor were shrinking,
what hope was there for my simile?
I soon found that I could no longer
walk in beauty like the night.
In fact, I could barely walk at all!
Nor were my nights black as pitch;
they were merely black, terrifying, endless.
Morning fog ceased to arrive on little cat feet.
It just came, without mystery or grace, filling
the interstices of my brain, obscuring my vision.

As there is no cure for my malady, I imagine
imagining my way out of it, sprouting wings,
flying skyward on a day gleaming with possibilities
over turquoise waterways—climbing up, up,
up, until the Earth is a gumball.

I am unstoppable.

~ Erica Lehrer

From Dancing with Ataxia (2011), p. 71.

John Rupe, a widower, found a new love. Dorinda, who had been widowed many years earlier, reciprocated his love. About the time he decided to ask her to marry him, he was diagnosed with leukemia, though it was in remission. The doctors told him he had only one or two years to live. John told Dorinda, who responded, “I’m too ornery to let you die that soon.”

John and Dorinda got married despite his diagnosis. Eventually the leukemia returned, and John lacked the resistance to fight off a case of flu. Dorinda’s life was turned upside down.

I know this story because Dorinda is my sister. I wrote the following poem about her response to John’s death.

THE SECOND COMING
      for Dorinda

John’s leukemia, long in remission
has returned and the doctors
speak of lung cancer,
platelet counts too low
for biopsy or chemotherapy.

She rebels against nature’s
hard strike, or was it
the hand of God?
How can you? she cries
to heaven, fate, no one
in particular.

Breeze whispers through trees
behind the back deck he built,
Raspberry vines tremble
at the weight of a wren.
Chipmunks gather grain
beneath the bird feeders
he set, digging deep
into Indiana soil.

And with the wind, hear
a sigh, her sigh, not so much
sorrow or resignation
but thanks: thanks
for these twenty-one years
since the doctor first said
leukemia, two years to live.

~ Wilda Morris

First published in Alive Now (June 20, 2005).

Poetry workshops:

You can learn more about the San Miguel Poetry week in January by clicking here: http://www.sanmiguelpoetry.com/

In August will be leading a workshop entitled “The Nature of Poetry and the Poetry of Nature,” at the Green Lake Conference Center in Wisconsin. The conference center has some scholarship funding for first-time participants in the Christian Writer’s Conference. Learn more about the conference by clicking here: http://glcc.org/Files/Conferences/2012%20Writers%20complete.pdf

July Poetry Challenge:

The poetry challenge for July is to write about response to a life event that seems to turn your world upside down. What is the challenge life has presented and how are you coping? Or perhaps you want to write about something faced by someone you love or have read about and the way they dealt with it.

You may write a formal poem or free verse. If formal, please specify the form. The deadline is 11:59 p.m. July 15. Poems submitted after the July 15 deadline will not be considered.

Copyright on poems is retained by their authors.

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, you may submit it if you retain copyright, but please include publication data.

How to Submit Your Poem

Send your poem to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for [dot]. 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, so be sure that you put your name, exactly as you would like it to appear if you do win, at the end of the poem.

© 2012 Wilda Morris