Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February 2017 Poetry Challenge

  Still Life of Oranges and Lemons with Blue Gloves
Vincent van Gogh (1853 – 1890)

Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon

Courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC

Painting pictures of fruit dates back at least to Ancient Egypt. In art, literature and even religion, various fruits are often used symbolically. Think of the role of fruit in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and the pomegranate in the Greek myth of Persephone.

Fruits can also play a role in our everyday lives. My grandfather planted three apple trees, one of which was a designated playground for his grandchildren. I had my own branch where I sat on summer days, playing school with my sister, singing Bible School songs, reading library books, and waving to engineers and passengers on passing trains. I have fruit salad (moistened with plain Greek yoghurt almost every morning for breakfast. I don’t think you can find a tastier snack than a ripe peach just picked off a tree in southern Michigan or blueberries freshly-picked in northern Illinois. And is there any tastier beverage than the juice of the guanabana served cold in Costa Rica? I doubt it.

Fruits gain importance in our lives when associated with particular people or events, as can be seen from the following poem by Susan Holm. Holm, who lived and taught in Turkey for a number of years, created an imaginary woman whom she named Sevgi Gül. Sevgi Gül was born in the 1930’s in a village of Antalya province, in southern Turkey.

The Orange

was his gift to me the afternoon they told us
we would be married. Our fathers had arrived.
Our families gathered in the garden.
I served them tea.

Later, he and I were allowed to sit together
a little to one side. We were too shy to speak
to each other, but he took the orange
from his pocket and I saw – in its warm color,
in its tender skin, so aromatic,
in the juice that flowed
down his fingers as he broke a section of the fruit
for me to eat – such promise.

Years later there are many scents
that recall our shared lives.
The earthy henna,
mown hay lying in the field, wood smoke,
bread hot from the village oven,

onions, garlic, rosemary, soil,
sweat, and candle-wax,
tea sweetened with beet sugar,
blood. But none of these can provoke the pain
of his absence,
or can console,
as does the fragrance of an orange
peeled, and dripping into my hand.

~ Susan Holm

First published in Pirene's Fountain, 9:17 (Fall 2016). Susan Holm retains copyright of the poem.

I was drawn to this poem for a number of reasons: the voice seems authentic. There is a tenderness in the poem, and the orange can provoke both pain and consolation. That says something about the complexities of life and emotion. The poem evokes a place and culture that I don’t know well, but the poet does. Because of the way the poem is written, I can see, smell and taste the orange, and feel the juice in my hand.

This poem could be used as a prompt for a persona poem or a poem about marriage. But the February poetry challenge is to write a poem in which some kind of fruit plays an important role.

Fruits play a variety of roles in these famous poems which you can read on the internet:

 “After Apple Picking” by Robert Frost -
“Pears” by Linda Pastan -
“A Supermarket in California” by Allan Ginsberg -
“Oda al Limón” (“Ode to a Lemon”) by Pablo Neruda -  (There are a number of translations of this poem on the internet. You can google the title along with Neruda’s name to find them.

The February Challenge:

The February Challenge is to submit a poem in which some kind of fruit (or fruits) play an important role, important enough to appear in the title of the poem (though you are not required to use it in the title). The fruit may be the actual subject of the poem, or it may be used metaphorically. The poem may involve the planting, growing, harvesting, eating or admiring of the fruit. Or it may play some other role. You might want to write about the mushed-up plums you were feeding the baby when she swung her arm and knocked the bowl over, spilling the stain-prone food down your best white shirt or the apple with which you and your brother played catch. You could even write an ekphrastic poem about a painting or other piece of art featuring a piece of fruit, or about the opera, “For the Love of Three Oranges,” by Sergei Prokofiev.

Title your poem unless it is haiku or another 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). Please do not indent or center your poem on the page, put it in a box or against a special (even white) background.

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 February 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 “February 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.

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