Thursday, December 29, 2016

December Winners - Cat Poems

Photo by Kathy Marie Penrod

The judges for the December Poetry Challenge were Jim Lambert and Jacob Erin-Cilberto. Here is what they said about the entries: The reason we picked so many was because this was a group of good poems. We are cat lovers and almost all of the entries reminded us of the great bond and love that can develop between humans and cats. These poems forced us to make difficult decisions. We do want to remind everyone--whether they placed or not, that no poem is a "loser", it's just that some poems are less in need of more work, revisions, etc., than others.

Since so many good poems were submitted, there are more winners than usual.

First place goes to “Cat Burglar.” The poet has paid particular attention to sounds

Cat Burglar

No creak, creep, crack or
crunch, no bump, thump,
or faintest whump,
no inkling the one thieving
at night in my diggings,
pilfering plundering.

Unfettered snooze,
refused—mystery brewed—
denied nod to my hazy noggin;
I spied,
moonscape obscured,
she a crepuscule murk,
like a phantasm
sashayed the wall.

A hissing meower,
swarthy, spry, prowler
waiting, salivating,
her witching hour.

Nightly, lithely,
slid uninvited,
lapping her tongue
like a spring that sprung
in my sweet clotted cream.

~ Marsha S. Smith

The second place poem gives us another perspective on our house cats:


Newspapers piled
      like     scattered    leaves.

Instinct battles domesticity.

Stoic defender--
like a Grenadier,
    silent, in front of the stove,
until morning comes.

The can opener’s whirr
says it’s ok
to forgo the hunt.

~ Carol H. Jewell

“Feeding the Stray,” the third place poem, gives us a bit of a surprise:

Feeding the Stray

I don’t remember when you began squatting in the yard,
a semicolon behind the gnarl of a bush-between-seasons,
but there you were, your limelight stare coring me. 

I opened a can of tuna fish & dumped it onto a paper plate.
You slinked back under the porch, shadow that you were,
waited until I went inside.  Months of me popping cans

& you dodging.  What a starved thing you were—sometimes
returning hours later for more.  What did I know of the sins
or graces you committed in the hours away, only that you

seemed famishment incarnate so I fed you.  One morning,
this same ritual; you devouring then leaving.  Then returning
moments later as if you hadn’t just been here, a furry déjà vu.

I took out the trash & you were impossibly crossing the street. 
I mean you were in the yard, how could you cross my path
without my seeing you?  I looked over the fence & you were

licking the edge of the dish.  I looked to the neighbor’s & you
were stretching under the car parked in the driveway. 
The dawning—like that of the magician’s top hat your hand

falls into, releasing the false bottom & you discover a white
feather punctuating the felt—proof not of the dove’s existence,
but evidence of it having been, at least once, wild hunger waiting.

~ Flower Conroy

First Honorable Mention was awarded to a poem that paints a picture as it provides a brief narrative: 

Sudden Change
Observations made of a spoiled housecat

Zara our twelve pound lump
of whiskered calico sheen
lay at full stretch playing
a cricket she had turned upside
down its thin legs batting air.

After permanently changing
the cricket’s outlook on life
she loses interest--then with
one more playful swipe
at the helpless spinning shell—

sashays on her way.

~ Michael Escoubas

The poem selected for Second Honorable Mention takes us to China and a natural disaster:

Sichuan Earthquake 2008

“Cats will open the door,
but they will never close it behind them.”
How simple the fact!
Or is it a symbol?
The fact is this—the government is corrupt.
Fear holds the populace behind the door.
Inside crowd suffering, darkness, overwork.
Outside truth splays itself unconstrained.
Inside a mother’s desire darkens her eyes.
Outside the child sparkles with life.
Ai Weiwei names the children
crushed in the earthquake, dead in their schools.
He opens a door, he twitters the truths.
Fear and fury enliven the police.
How simple the confrontation!
The cat has opened the door—slipped out.
Five thousand names flowed out,
accusing the authorities,
and will not be silenced.
How simple a cause for confinement! 
So sorry.

~ Julia Rice

Ai Weiwei, Chinese artist and activist, was confined for revealing the names of 5000 children who died in a poorly constructed school, which collapsed in an earthquake. This poem was inspired by the biographical documentary “Never Sorry.” 

Congratulations to all the winners! Please remember that the poets own copyright to their work and do not violate their rights. Check back at the beginning of next month for the January Poetry Challenge. You might be the winner.


Flower Conroy is the author of three chapbooks: Facts About Snakes & Hearts, winner of Heavy Feather Press’ Chapbook Contest; The Awful Suicidal Swans; and Escape to Nowhere. She is the winner of Radar Poetry’s first annual Coniston Prize and the Tennessee Williams Exhibit Poetry Contest, as well as a scholarship recipient of Bread Loaf, Squaw Valley, Napa Valley and the Key West Literary Seminar. She is poetry editor at Sourland Mountain Review. Her poetry has appeared/is forthcoming in American Literary Review, Prairie Schooner, Gargoyle and others.

Jacob Erin-Cilberto lives in Southern Illinois with Elsie
the cat and teaches English at Shawnee Hills and John A. Logan community
colleges. He has published poetry in dozens of poetry journals and
on-line publications beginning in the 1970's. Several of his poetry
books are available at

Michael Escoubas began writing poetry for publication in August of 2013, after retiring from a 48-year-career in the printing industry. Early in life his mother said, “You have a gift for words; you should do something with that gift. He writes poetry, in part, because of his mother’s encouraging words. Michael also writes poetry because he believes poetry brings people together and that poets are menders of broken things. Michael has published one chapbook, Light Comes Softly, which is available by contacting the author.

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

Jim Lambert is past president of the Southern Illinois Writers
Guild and current vice president of the Illinois State Poetry Society.
He has had poetry, short stories, and essays published in various
publications. He has lived in Southern Illinois since retiring from the
business world a decade ago.

Julia Rice is a retired lawyer, a Franciscan sister, who is writing in her retirement.

Marsha S. Smith is a wife, mom, and grandma who recently discovered a love for writing poetry. She is a licensed minister through the SoCal School of Ministry and a Police Chaplain in her hometown.

© Wilda Morris

Thursday, December 1, 2016

December 2016 Poetry Challenge - a Cat Poem

Photo by Kathleen Marie Penrod

The news over the past few months has been intense and often depressing: the terrible destruction of life and property in Aleppo where even young children seem to be targets; in the U.S., an election campaign that featured name-calling, threats and insults, and exposed deep wounds dividing people; news of a huge international child pornography ring, burgeoning accusations of sexual abuse of youth by British soccer coaches. . . . and more. So for December, the Poetry Challenge is going to take a break from serious matters.

In the U.S., people joke about emails and Facebook posts about cute kittens, emails and posts that bring a smile to many faces. This month, we will focus on poems about cats (or kittens). 

Many of the world’s best poets have written about cats. In fact, “The Naming of Cats,” which ended up as a song in the musical, “Cats,” was written by T. S. Eliot, who is known for such profound and deep works as “The Waste Land,” “The Four Quartets,” and “The Hollow Man.” You can read “The Naming of Cats” at It is nice to know that Eliot had a sense of humor.

One of the most famous cat poems come from the 1700s:

Ode on the Death of a Favourite Cat
Drowned in a Tub of Goldfishes

’Twas on a lofty vase’s side,
Where China’s gayest art had dyed
The azure flowers that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima, reclined,
Gazed on the lake below.

Her conscious tail her joy declared;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,
The velvet of her paws,
Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,
She saw; and purred applause.

Still had she gazed; but ’midst the tide
Two angel forms were seen to glide,
The genii of the stream;
Their scaly armour’s Tyrian hue
Through richest purple to the view
Betrayed a golden gleam.

The hapless nymph with wonder saw;
A whisker first and then a claw,
With many an ardent wish,
She stretched in vain to reach the prize.
What female heart can gold despise?
What cat’s averse to fish?

Presumptuous maid! with looks intent
Again she stretch’d, again she bent,
Nor knew the gulf between.
(Malignant Fate sat by, and smiled)
The slippery verge her feet beguiled,
She tumbled headlong in.
Eight times emerging from the flood
She mewed to every watery god,
Some speedy aid to send.
No dolphin came, no Nereid stirred;
Nor cruel Tom, nor Susan heard;
A Favourite has no friend!

From hence, ye beauties, undeceived,
Know, one false step is ne’er retrieved,
And be with caution bold.
Not all that tempts your wandering eyes
And heedless hearts, is lawful prize;
Nor all that glisters, gold.

~ Thomas Gray

Here is another cat poem by a well-known poet:

The Cat and the Moon

The cat went here and there
And the moon spun round like a top,
And the nearest kin of the moon,
The creeping cat, looked up.

Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon,
For, wander and wail as he would,
The pure cold light in the sky
Troubled his animal blood.

Minnaloushe runs in the grass
Lifting his delicate feet.

Do you dance, Minnaloushe, do you dance?
When two close kindred meet.

What better than call a dance?
Maybe the moon may learn,
Tired of that courtly fashion,
A new dance turn.

Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
From moonlit place to place,
The sacred moon overhead
Has taken a new phase.

Does Minnaloushe know that his pupils
Will pass from change to change,
And that from round to crescent,
From crescent to round they range?
Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
Alone, important and wise,
And lifts to the changing moon
His changing eyes.

~ William Butler Yeats

The two poems above are in the public domain.

In contrast to these long poems, one by and English poet and one by an Irish poet, is the miniature cat poem by the Persian poet, Rumi, which you can find at It goes to show that you don’t have to be wordy to write a good cat poem.

If you want to read more cat poems, here are two places where you can find links:

The December Challenge:

The December Challenge is to submit a poem about a cat, or a poem in which a cat plays an important role, preferably not as long as the example poem by Thomas Gray. Your poem may be a narrative, as are the two example poems, but it doesn't have to be. It may be serious, humorous, or tender. Too much sentimentality, however, isn’t likely to win.

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). Please do not indent or center your poem on the page.

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 December 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”). Put December Poetry Challenge Submission in the subject line of your email. 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