Thursday, October 1, 2015

October Poetry Challenge: A Turtle Poem

Two of the most famous poems about turtles are “The Little Turtle,” a ditty by Vachel Lindsay which is often shared with children (,
and Kay Ryan’s poem, “Turtle” (http://, Ryan’s poem is fun. It has a lot of clever language. In contrast to those two poems is the following poem by Estella Lauter:


            In  The Pool at Baie Fine, the top of Lake Huron, summer 2012 

He swam beside our anchored sailboat
in that liminal light of dusk  
and spoke just once, then floated,
head fully extended from his shell,
thirty inches from forehead to tail,
searching us with eyes we call
Huron green, waiting while
we asked each other
what he wanted, why
he was not frightened.

Were we his hosts
or uninvited guests?
We did not know,
so we admired his pebbly
green shell that looked
soft and very old
where it cracked the water's plane.

Our own skin troubled by mosquitoes,
we said good night and went below
but not before we thanked him for coming
and mentioned  his ancestral role
in native stories of creation.

In the wonder of his presence
we forgot we had a camera
but surely he was there.

~ Estella Lauter
 Used by permission of the poet, who owns copyright on this poem.

This poem, recounting a liminal experience the poet and her husband shared while boating on the Great Lakes, shows a respect for the turtle and the mysteries of nature. I like the questions this experience raised for the poet, and her mention of the role of the turtle in ancient creation stories.

Estella Lauter was appointed 2013-2015 Poet Laureate of Door County, Wisconsin. She retired in 2004, from teaching in the University of Wisconsin system. She leads poetry classes in the winter program at The Clearing in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin. Her published works include The Essential Rudder: North Channel Poems, Pressing a Life Together by Hand and Transfigurations: Re-imagining Remedios Varo.  

Other Turtle Poems:

You can find turtle poems collected by Chelonian Research Foundation at

October Challenge – A Turtle Poem

The Challenge for September is to write a poem about (or involving) a turtle.

The deadline is October 15. Poems submitted after the October 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. Please don’t stray too far from “family-friendly” language. No simultaneous submissions, please. You will know by the end of the month whether or not your poem will be published on this blog. Your poem may be free or formal verse. If you use a form, please specify the form when you submit. Decision of the judge or judges is final.

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

Copyright on each poem is retained by the poet. Winning poems remain on the Internet on this blog, but you can offer reprint rights to other publishers a month after your poem has been posted here.

How to Submit Your Poem:

Send one poem only to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”) . 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 (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.

I prefer receiving poems in the body of your email. If I have questions about format of the winning poem or poems, I will contact the poet.

Poems shorter than 40 lines are generally preferred, though longer poems will be considered. Also, if lines are too long, they don’t fit in the blog format and have to be split, so you might be wise to use shorter lines.

© Wilda Morris