Tuesday, June 28, 2016

June 2016 Poetry Challenge Winners

Lighthouse by Gladys Muller

Caroline Johnson, whose poem served as the prompt for this month, selected two poems as winners, one a formal poem and one in free verse. Thanks to Caroline, and congratulations to the two winners, Carol H. Jewell and Mark F. Evans.

The Beacon   

I hear your soft voice calling to me.
I seem to have slipped into a trance.
Sound is muffled and the air is foggy.
You reach out your hand to me.

I seem to have slipped into a trance.
The adult has left the room.
You reach out your hand to me,
I flounder, trying to grasp it.

I, the adult, have left the room;
the inner child remains.
I flounder, trying to grasp your hand.
For so long, you have been my beacon.

The inner child remains in the room.
Your smile is sad, but
you have been my beacon all this time.
I thank God for your existence.

You smile sadly.
Sound is muffled and the air is foggy.
I thank God for your existence.
I still hear your soft voice calling to me.

~ Carol H. Jewell

The judge’s comments: The poem "The Beacon" is a pantoum. It feels trance-like, almost an incantation, with its repetitive lines that are fresh and unique. We can feel the murky atmosphere as the narrator paints an image of interior and exterior fog, which gains clarity by the touch of a hand. "The adult has left the room" implies a deep call to the subconscious, where the inner child remains. This is a beautiful poem of identity, love ("I thank God for your existence"), and loss ("You smile sadly."). It seems as if the speaker is meditating, in a trance, and we as readers meditate with her or him. This poem relates to the prompt as it references the title of the poem (Fog) and also a lighthouse ("beacon", which is a metaphor for the person's beloved). Splendid job!


My small boat
rides roller coaster waves,
points me to the depths
then to the stars.
I climb or fall
and stretch my neck at each crest.

Your bright beacon in my sight
draws me near.
I hold your memory
as I sink back to the depths
and wait for you to reappear.

And though you warn
of broken spars and
treacherous rocks in the night,
I would gladly throw myself upon your shore
to be closer to your light.

~ Mark F. Evans

The judge’s comments: "Lighthouse" is written in free verse. This poem evokes solitude (the narrator is alone in a 'small boat') and philosophical musings with celestial images ("stars"). Like the pantoum, the poet calls forth the memory of another person as a "bright beacon" who has served as a guide somehow, warning of "broken spars and treacherous rocks in the night." The last sentence of the poem is the most powerful, clinching the effect of this person on the narrator's life: "I would gladly throw myself upon your shore / to be closer to your light." The poet also uses some rhyming words for effect: “small” and “fall” in the first stanza, "near" and "reappear" in the second stanza, and "night" and "light" in the final stanza. The poem refers to both the painting and the poem from the prompt with its title ("Lighthouse"), the images of "beacon," and the entire setting of the poem is at sea, which includes the rocky shoreline. Well done!

Note: The winning poets retain copyright on their poems and are free to publish them elsewhere after they have appeared for two months on this blog.


Carol H. Jewell is a mother, wife, grandmother, librarian, musician and poet. she describes herself as “insatiably curious.” She went back to school at age 52, at The College of Saint Rose (Albany, NY), and expects to receive her MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) in December 2016.

Mark F. Evans is a retired public school teacher. In the 1980s, he worked as a writer editor for Economy Publishing, a textbook company. He has also served as a freelance writer for McGraw Hill textbook division and B.B. and E. Editorial of Oklahoma City. He has a Master's Degree in Education from the University of Central Oklahoma.

Caroline Johnson has been writing poetry for more than 25 years. She has published in Lunch Ticket, Origins, DuPage Valley Review, Rambunctious Review, Voices on the Wind, New Scriptor, Chicago Tribune, The Quotable, Uproot, and others. She has won several awards in annual writing contests sponsored by the Illinois State Poetry Society, Poets and Patrons of Chicago, the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, Rambunctious Review, and the Chicago Tribune. She teaches English at two community colleges in the Chicago area. Caroline is the immediate past president of Poets and Patrons of Chicago. You can read her blog at http://jupiter-caroline.blogspot.com/.

© Wilda Morris

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

June Poetry Challenge

by Gladys Muller

Some poems just seem to invite response because they contain multiple images and deep emotional resonance. The following poem, written by Chicago-area poet Caroline Johnson, is just such a poem.


I can hear the foghorn blowing.
Mist is in the air and it’s gray outside.
A lighthouse shines a beacon
over the haystacks and cliffs.

You are far away, looking for the shore.
I sit on land and sip iced tea.
Yesterday, I had a mint julep
while you battled storms and waves

and now I see your boat,
lone and drifting,
as a teardrop of emotion overcomes me,
my feet starfishes in the sand,
your voice a hollow reminder
of the dead fish dried up with the tide.

I climb the steps to the light,
imprisoned in beveled glass,
and see the reflection of your boat, a sailor lost to time,
an albatross on your neck, and a wind-filled jib
to guide you.

I was your navigator,
but remain behind,
with an echo in prayer
and a bird song to time.

~ Caroline Johnson

"Fog" and the lighthouse painting are from My Mother's Artwork (Juniper, 2010), a chapbook of poems by Caroline Johnson. Many of the poems in this book were inspired by her mother, Gladys Muller, and her long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. Gladys was a talented artist who painted with acrylics and oils. The book is illustrated with paintings by Gladys. Caroline Johnson retains copyright on the poem and painting.

The June Poetry Challenge

The June Poetry Challenge is to write a poem that responds to the theme or one of the images in this poem. The poem has numerous images, mostly linked in some way to the lighthouse, water, and the boat, but expanding out to haystacks and cliffs on shore. Steps and dead fish, beacons, waves and storms. And even a mint julep. Most of the poem is metaphoric. As the poet shows us, fog can be a metaphor for dementia, but maybe for you it is a metaphor for something else. Let the poem lead you into a poem of your own, and let it take you where it will.

Your poem 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 June 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.

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.

© Wilda Morris