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

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

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