Friday, December 1, 2017

December 2017 Poetry Challenge: Holiday Regrets

Photo by Kathleen Marie Penrod

The calendar, the weather, the music on the radio—any of these can remind us that a holiday or “feast day” is coming. Every culture has its holidays—sacred or secular or both. People have expectations concerning their celebrations. Some celebrations are supposed to be solemn; others to be joyful. People look forward to rituals, music, decorations, the giving and receiving of gifts (sometimes including giving alms to the poor), special foods, etc. Some celebrations include parades. For many such occasions, family is a key element.

We want our celebration to be perfect—like the picture above. But it isn’t always like that.


Christmas Eve and Santa’s come and gone
Sisters chatter over a stuffed teddy bear
Brother vroom vrooms his dump truck down the hall

When time for bed Daddy sits in his rocker
Arms open to receive goodnight hugs
I am ten and stoop to kiss his cheek
when he grabs my hand and pulls me near

I’m sorry he says It’s been a hard year
Mom and I don’t have as much money
as we’d like to spend on you kids

I don’t remember what I hoped for
but I recall the look on my Daddy’s face
the apology in his eyes when he saw
the tears in mine which I tried to hide

I burned that night with shame and fear
Shame because I made my Daddy feel low
Fear because I had that power

~ Susan Huebner

“Epiphany” was awarded first prize for poetry in the 2017 Jade Ring Contest of the Wisconsin Writers’ Association (see Huebner retains copyright of the poem.

The December Challenge:

The December Challenge is to submit a poem about something that didn’t go as hoped on a holiday or “feast day,” during preparation for a holiday, or in its aftermath. You may write about Christmas, Hanukkah, Eid, Ramanavami, or whatever holiday you choose. Your poem may have a light touch, or it may be poignant.

Title your poem unless it is a form that does not use titles. If you use a form, please identify the form when you submit your poem. Single-space and don’t use lines that are overly long (because the blog format doesn’t accommodate long lines). Read previous poems on the blog to see what line lengths can be accommodated.

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 (some children read this blog). 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 previously unpublished poem wins and 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 that 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.

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 multiple 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.


Susan Martell Huebner lives and writes in Mukwonago, WI. She believes writers should support each other and as such is a member of the WWA and the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets. Her poetry, nonfiction and fiction have appeared in many print and online publications. She Thought the Door Was Locked, a novel of literary fiction published by Cawing Crow Press, debuted in January. Susan’s upcoming chapbook Reality Changes With the Willy Nilly Wind will be available from Finishing Line Press in May 2018. See her work at

© Wilda Morris

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

November 2018 Poetry Challenge Winners

Edgar Degas, “Woman Ironing.” oil on canvas, begun c. 1876, completed c. 1887. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.

The theme of the November Challenge is “There are chores to be done.” The judge, Camille Balla, read the submissions and selected the following poem as the winner:

Reckoning at the Ironing Board

Red and purple veins marble
my mother’s legs,
her feet swell with fluid.

The measuring cup filled
with water rests
on the ironing board that waits

for the moment when she begins.
She stands to press wrinkles out,
press creases in his khakis,

to smooth the collars
of the button-up shirts
in his well-appointed closet.

Back and forth
her practiced arm glides.
She sets the iron upright,

slips the shirtfront
over the end of the board—
back and forth,

back and forth.
She fills the reservoir
and bends to the basket.

Still a pile unironed.
A shrug of her shoulders
as the iron tips forward.

Her eyes steal away
as steam rises from cotton.

~ Gail Goepfert

This poem was published March, 2013 at YourDailyPoem. Gail Gopfert owns the copyright.

About the poem: Balla says that the poem is well-structured. It begins with a strong image that pulls the reader into the poem. There are other excellent images also. She liked the contrast between ironing out wrinkles and ironing in creases. The verbs are active.

Balla said, “I like the back and forth rhythm shown in the steady moving-along stanzas.”
She thinks the poem does a good job of picturing how things often have been for women, especially in earlier generations. The ending brings the reader back to the title: What does the woman see with her mind’s eye? What is she reckoning?

Gail Goepfert is an ardent poet, photographer, teacher and traveler. She's an associate editor of RHINO Poetry and teaches classes online at National Louis University.  She authored a chapbook, A Mind on Pain, released by Finishing Line Press early in 2015.  A book, Tapping Roots, from Aldrich Press will be published in early 2018, and a second book will make its way into the world in 2019, published by Cervena Barva Press. Publication credits include Blue Lyra, Crab Orchard and Jet Fuel Reviews, Minerva Rising, Room Magazine and Rattle. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize a number of times. She lives, writes, and snaps photos in the Chicagoland area. 

Camille A. Balla, resides in a western suburb of Chicago where several of her poems have been inspired from the view outside her window or from her walks along the trails. Many of her poems have appeared in local and national publications, some of which have been published as greeting cards and gift items. In 2010, Camille published Simple Awakenings, a chapbook of poetry that lifts the ordinary into a delightful experience.

Thank you to everyone who entered the November Poetry Challenge. Look for a new challenge on December 1.

© Wilda Morris