Monday, February 29, 2016

It is common knowledge that people learn more about things that arouse a kind of passion in them. People whose occupation is a calling are more content with their lives. An elementary school teacher with no passion for children and for helping them learn is not likely to be a good teacher. You want your doctor and nurse to have compassion and a passion for helping you heal. People with a passion for reading and learning keep expanding their minds and imaginations. The February Poetry Challenge was to write a poem reflecting something for which you have a passion.

All the poems submitted were interesting. I wasn’t surprised that some people have a passion for dogs, cats or other kinds of animals; for music or dance; for travel or specifically for vacationing in Florida; etc. One poem featured a collection of items that had belonged to the poet’s mother. Even if you didn’t enter this month, you might want to reread the prompt and write your own poem about something for which you have a passion.

The first winning poem is by Texas poet Varsha Saraiya-Shah.

Impassioned about Light

All that is light & for light
& made of light I see as music––

What I do, how I love, where I go each day
looking, looking

for my lookalikes as they may be hiding
in the partial blues, rueful clouds, playful rain,

faithful sun and some nights the moon acting deranged
in the dappled roses, the gardenia later merged

in the deep darkness of midnight dreams,
dear friend, dear lover, dear nobody

as they emerge or disappear one by one
from light, the dread of what seems real, then unreal

gone into the depth of my body, my earth
where I stand planted in front of a bathroom mirror, in dawn’s light

brushing teeth, their white light a mighty miracle, smiling
watching the crepe myrtle from my window

reaching up & out for the light
that grants the best blooms,

or, let light snap photos of my plate at the kitchen table
a collage of colorful delectables,

or, see myself reflected in water bouncing with
sunlight rehearsing a non-stop dance.

~ Varsha Saraiya-Shah

My favorite phrase in this poem is “the moon acting deranged / in the dappled roses.” It has been a long time since I’ve been in a garden in the moonlight, but it brings back memories. I wish I had written those unique words (isn’t that about the highest compliment one poet can give to another?). What are those lookalikes hiding “in the partial blues, rueful clouds, playful rain”? I’m not sure, but I can imagine, as I feast on the lovely language. The poet takes us in an unexpected direction as she stands before the mirror. How can I read the poem and not share her passion for light?

The second winner, Illinois poet Linda Wallin, has a passion for quilting. This photo shows a piece of a quilt she made—just one of many over the years.

Women’s Work

I would rather quilt than eat.
Put a pieced top over the batting,
then put top and batting over the backing.
Bind a blanket that hugs.

Warmth with beauty came out of necessity.

Whether I stay with traditional designs;
Log Cabin with its hearth center,
Mariner’s Compass to guide,
Delectable Mountains to border the Medallion Center,

I am inspired by generations of women.

At the quilt show, I see Baskets full of flowers, 
Dresden Plate, Bow-Tie, Drunkard’s Path, 
Fans, Double Wedding Rings
and hexified Grandmothers Garden.

They remind me of the quilts my grandmother sewed.

Shoo Fly, Churn Dash, Four Squares,
One-Color Quilts with Amish designs,
Kits from the forties with flowers appliquéd on,
even Civil War designs with reproduction fabrics, 

Speak to me about the importance of women.

I have begun putting Braids with Courthouse Steps, 
Disappearing Four-Patch and New York Beauties.
Fused Art Quilts can be made in a day. 
I don’t have much time left.

Like quilts, I will not last forever. 

In the old days, women from the church would sew on one quilt
together. Today’s women go on retreats, sew for three days,
talk about color theory, battery operated electric
seam rippers, paper-piecing and thread.

Women’s work is still their art.

~ Linda Wallin

I’m not sure quilting is only women’s work, though traditionally it was. But there is much to like about this poem. The regular form of the poem makes it quilt-like. The names of quilting deigns are quilted into all of the quatrains except the first and last—also a quilt-like feature. The forms used by the poet fit the theme so well.

The last line of the first stanza is significant. It might be what Ellen Kort, the first poet laureate of Wisconsin, called a truth line, though the thought is not developed further in this poem. Quilts so often are gifts to people the quilter loves, including her daughters and granddaughters. They are often given to someone who is sick. the quilt serves as a substitute hug in the absence of the woman or women who made it. Multiple women from a church “sew on one quilt / together,” the poet tells us in the last quatrain—another sort of “hug.” If they are like the women in my church who gather together once a year to make dresses for little girls in Haiti, these quilters greet each other with actual hugs when they arrive and hug when they leave the quilting retreat.

The winning poets retain copyright on their poems. Do not copy without their permission.

Varsha Saraiya-Shah, a poet and finance professional, lives and works in Houston, Texas. Her poetry has appeared in various print and on-line journals including Asian Cha, Borderlands, Convergence, Mutabilis Press anthologies, Texas Observer, a University of Texas Press photography and poetry book, and elsewhere. She has studied poetry through workshops and conferences in Houston, at New York’s Sarah Lawrence College, Squaw Valley Community of Writers–California, Reed College–Oregon, and San Miguel De Allende–Mexico. She was a poet-in-residence at Noepe Literary Center, Martha’s Vineyard, MA in October, 2015.

Linda Wallin discovered her poetry in a journal after ignoring it for decades. She taught disabled students full-time for 25 years and currently teaches gifted children Lego Robotics at the Center for Gifted at National-Louis University. She has three children and two grandchildren who bring her great joy. She has been a member of Poets and Patrons of Chicago, IL for many years, and is presently serving as Vice President and Web manager for the group. When she is not on the computer, she is quilting, reading or writing. Her web sites include, Wallin’s Wave, A Boomer Retirement, and Living With Geniuses. Linda Wallin grew up in Palatine, IL near Chicago. She has a B.A. in German Secondary Education and M. Ed. in Preschool Special Education from the University of Illinois. She received a Certificate of Advanced Study in Technology in Education from National-Louis University.

Remember, the January Challenge is open until March 15. And check back late tomorrow for the new March Poetry Challenge

© Wilda Morris