Thursday, May 1, 2014

May 2014 Poetry Challenge


May 2014 Poetry Challenge

While Caroline Johnson and I were planning a workshop for the Poetry Fest at the Harold Washington Library in Chicago in April, we came across Carl Sandburg’s poem “Happiness.” We both liked the poem, and Caroline immediately saw the possibility of using it as a prompt. I have borrowed her idea for this month. Here is the poem:


I ASKED the professors who teach the meaning of life to tell
     me what is happiness.
And I went to famous executives who boss the work of
     thousands of men.
They all shook their heads and gave me a smile as though
     I was trying to fool with them
And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along
     the Desplaines river
And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with
     their women and children and a keg of beer and an

~ Carl Sandburg

Caroline and I were both impressed with the way Sandburg began with an abstract noun, but ended up with a concrete example of what he thought might really represent happiness. He tells us he didn’t find a good definition of happiness when he asked professors and famous executives. But by serendipity he happened on a group of people experiencing happiness.

The May Poetry Challenge

There are two kinds of nouns, abstract nouns and concrete nouns. We experience concrete nouns with our senses; they can be seen, heard, smelled, tasted or touched. “Kitten,” “oak,” “senator,” and “mosquito” are examples of concrete nouns.

Abstract nouns are those which name states of mind, ideas, concepts, qualities, and so on. They are not experienced directly by our senses. Examples include “loyalty,” “faith,”  “misery,” and “appreciation.”

For the subject—and title—of your poem, select an abstract noun (you may refer to one of the lists found on-line, such as the one at

Move in some way from that abstract term to one or more concrete illustrations.

Your poem may be a little shorter than Sandburg’s, or somewhat longer, but don’t make it a lot longer than his. You can write free verse, as did Sandburg, or you can use a form (if you use a form, identify it on your submission).

Submit only one poem. The deadline is May 15. Poems submitted after the May 15 deadline will not be considered. There is no charge to enter, so there are no monetary rewards; however winners are published on this blog.

Copyright on each poem is retained by the poet.

Poems published in books or on the Internet (including Facebook and other on-line social networks) are not eligible. If you 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 one poem only to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”. Be sure to provide your e-mail address. Include a brief bio which can be printed with your poem, if you are a winner this month.

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. Poems may be pasted into an email or sent as an attachment. Please do not indent the poem or center it on the page. It helps if you submit the poem in the format used on the blog (Title and poem left-justified; title in bold, and not all in capital letters; your name at the bottom of the poem). Also, please do not use spaces instead of commas in the middle of lines. I have no problem with poets using that technique; I sometimes do it myself. However I have difficulty getting the blog to accept and maintain extra spaces.

And Remember: The January challenge is still open, and will be until there are a few more submissions. Check the January post for complete rules.

© Wilda Morris