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: 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:


      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.

      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:

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:

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