Friday, April 1, 2016

April 2016 Poetry Challenge

A Poetry Challenge for National Poetry Month


The days when writing was accompanied or followed by "a great commotion of type-writer keys" (as Richard Wilbur put it in his poem, "The Writer") are pretty nearly gone. But whether you use a pen, pencil, or some kind of keyboard, writing poetry can be exhilarating, depressing, pleasurable, challenging, addicting and/or healing.

Ask poets why they write. The motivation is not likely to be financial gain. Very few people today make a living by writing poetry, yet thousands of people write poems every day. Some don't even try to get published; that is not their reason for writing.

The advise, "Don't quit your day job," is not an insult to a poet. It is just good practical advice. Poets may make a living teaching poetry, creative writing or literature at a college or university. Or a poet may sell insurance as Wallace Stevens did, practice law like Edgar Lee Masters, supplement income with freelance writing and editing like Jane Hirshfield, or practice medicine as William Carlos Williams did.

Often the answer to the question, "Why do you write poetry?" is "because I have to." The poet may have feelings that must be expressed, or an idea or message to share. Some poets pick up a pen because writing is the only way to discover the thoughts running around in their heads. Pablo Neruda said, ". . . Poetry arrived / in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where / it came from. . . ." (

In her poem, “Writing on April 24, 2013,” Marjorie Skelly says, “Writing is not knowing where the blessing of the next word / will take me (The Unpublished Poet: Not Giving Up on Your Dream (In Extenso Press, 2015). This experience, in itself, can be a motivation for writing.

Some poets try to define poetry and the art of poetry in a poem. See examples of this in the article on ars poetica at

What is your experience as a writer of poetry? Or as a reader of poetry? What is poetry (as a young man asked me recently)? Where could one of these questions take you, if you sit down to write a poem about writing poetry?

When the Instructor Says Every Poem is an Elegy

I think of the poem I once wrote
that can’t be an elegy, the one of you
in the plastic yellow tub in the kitchen sink,
my line about you being a hairless puppy
in my arms, noting the exact pitch of your
whimper, the little o of your perfect lips.
How over-precious, that poem – how
certain its tone of amazement that you
existed at all, that I could hold you
without hurting you. We sold that tub
in a yard sale by summer’s end and
who knows what happened to the poem.
Now photos of you fill fourteen books.

We’ve lived in three houses since I stood
at that kitchen sink to bathe you, but
sometimes in a dream you are still small.
Sometimes you are wandering and lost
and you can’t hear me calling because
I am lost, too, there in my dream. Is this
death or rebirth, when I watch you from
high above and we search for each other?
But what if I can still feel the mere weight
of you as I lift you from the water to
drape you in a towel?  What if the water
pooled into the drain, taking tiny pieces
of you into pipes below to be dispersed
among the rocks and soil and sand and clay?

~ Kate Hutchinson

From Map Making: Poems of Land and Identity by Kate Hutchinson (Rosemount, Minnesota: THEAQ Publishing, 2015), p. 24. Used by permission of the author. This book can be purchased in paperback or e-book format at

The teacher said every poem is an elegy, but the poet disputes that—and it takes her into memories of an infant in a small plastic tub—a yellow one—in the kitchen sink and from there other photos and thee houses and dreams. She followed her thoughts where they went. One might argue that this poem is less about poetry than about a relationship and family history, but it does illustrate something that can happen when a poet thinks about poetry and lets that thought lead her (or him) where it will.

You can find links to a number of poems about poetry by well-known poets at Quill & Parchment celebrates National Poetry Month by publishing poetry about poets each April. Go to and click on any April.

The Challenge for April 2016:

Write a poem about poetry or about writing poetry. Or start with a thought about poetry and let it lead you on an unexpected journey.

Your poem may be formal or free verse. If you use a form, please specify the form. Unless your poem is haiku, it should be titled.

If your poem has been published you may submit it if you retain copyright, but please include publication data. This applies to poems published in books, journals, newspapers, or on the Internet. Note that this is a change in the rules.

The deadline is April 15. Poems submitted after the 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 should 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.

Copyright on each poem is retained by the poet. If a winning poem is published elsewhere later, please give credit to this blog.

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 (no pdf files, please). 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.

Poems shorter than 40 lines are generally preferred. 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.

NOTE: I have had some computer problems lately, and so has the March judge. As a result, I have not yet received March results.

© Wilda Morris