Tuesday, November 1, 2016

November Poetry Challenge - What if . . . ?

Perhaps among North Americans the best known “What if” poem is “Whatif” by Shel Silverstein. You can read it at http://www.famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/shel_silverstein/poems/14819. It was written for school-age children and reflects many of their fears. A child who has friends whose parents’ marriage has fallen apart, may worry about whether his or her own parents will get divorced. What, the student may wonder, if I’m late for school, or fail the math quiz? Silverstein did a good job of summing up the concerns of these young people in his poem. Perhaps the most poignant – and prevalent – “what if” among Silverstein’s readers is “What if nobody likes me?”

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “what if” poem may or may not have inspired Silverstein. Coleridge’s “What if You Slept” has an entirely different atmosphere: He did not gather concerns or fears into his poem. Rather he used his imagination to devise a magical situation.

What if You Slept?

What if you slept
And what if
In your sleep
You dreamed
And what if
In your dream
You went to heaven
And there plucked a strange and beautiful flower
And what if
When you awoke
You had that flower in your hand
Ah, what then?

~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge

This poem is I the public domain.

Another good “what if” poem is “What If (This Week),” by Grace Paley, in her book, Begin Again: Collected Poems, p. 161.

The November Challenge:

As you have doubtless figured out by not, the November Challenge is to write a “What if” poem. Your poem can be as imaginative as Coleridge’s, or you can use Shel Silverstein’s poem as your prompt.

Title your poem unless it is haiku or another form that does not use titles. It may be free or formal verse. If you use a form, please identify the form when you submit your poem. Please single-space, and don’t use lines that are overly long (because the blog format doesn’t accommodate long lines).

You may submit a published poem if you retain copyright, but please include publication data. This applies to poems published in books, journals, newspapers, or on the Internet.

The deadline is November 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. 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. Please put your name and bio under the poem in your email. Put “What if poem in the subject line.

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 but longer poems will be considered.

© Wilda Morris