Tuesday, May 1, 2018

May 2018 Poetry Challenge - Spring Poems

It is May 1, and the weather here in the Chicago area is finally spring-like. Winter held parts of the Midwest in its grip for a very long time this year. Winter gifted some of my friends in Door County, Wisconsin, with a thirty-inch snowfall in April. I left home on April 22, disappointed that none of my daffodils had yet won their struggle to bloom. The May poetry challenge will celebrate spring.

Here are two classic poems celebrating the arrival of spring, a less-happy reflection on the season by Emily Dickinson, and contemporary poems by Alan Harris and William Marr.

May Day

A delicate fabric of bird song 
Floats in the air, 
The smell of wet wild earth 
Is everywhere. 

Red small leaves of the maple 
Are clenched like a hand, 
Like girls at their first communion 
The pear trees stand. 

Oh I must pass nothing by 
Without loving it much, 
The raindrop try with my lips, 
The grass with my touch; 

For how can I be sure 
I shall see again 
The world on the first of May 
Shining after the rain?

~ Sara Teasdale

I especially like the images Teasdale writes: the “delicate fabric of bird song” floating in the air, he maple leaves like clenched fists; the pear trees (dressed, I assume, in white blossoms) like girls at their first communion, and the impulse of the poet to capture raindrops in her mouth and touch the fresh grass.

A Golden Day

I found you and I lost you,
All on a gleaming day.
The day was filled with sunshine,
And the land was full of May.

A golden bird was singing
Its melody divine,
I found you and I loved you,
And all the world was mine.

I found you and I lost you,
All on a golden day,
But when I dream of you, dear,
It is always brimming May.

~ Paul Laurence Dunbar

Dunbar’s poem focuses on memories of just one spring day, a day of love and loss.

Emily Dickinson surprises most readers with the following poem:

I dreaded that first robin so,
But he is mastered now,
And I'm accustomed to him grown, —
He hurts a little, though.
I thought if I could only live
Till that first shout got by,
Not all pianos in the woods
Had power to mangle me.
I dared not meet the daffodils,
For fear their yellow gown
Would pierce me with a fashion
So foreign to my own.
I wished the grass would hurry,
So when 't was time to see,
He'd be too tall, the tallest one
Could stretch to look at me.
I could not bear the bees should come,
I wished they'd stay away
In those dim countries where they go:
What word had they for me?
They're here, though; not a creature failed,
No blossom stayed away
In gentle deference to me,
The Queen of Calvary.
Each one salutes me as he goes,
And I my childish plumes
Lift, in bereaved acknowledgment
Of their unthinking drums.

~ Emily Dickinson

In this poem, Dickinson seems to be dealing with depression, or at least meditating on suffering and death. She is the “Queen of Calvary,” not sensing resurrection as one might expect, but seeing the rebirths of spring as signs of the fragility and impermanence of life. The robin is in the yard, the daffodils bloom, the bees are back, but these are not the same robins, daffodils and bees that were here last year.

May Opening

May is most
too awfully grand
for this birdsung

All winter I worked
freeze-dried and
to the world dead
in my closed-up

until this annual
now, when May
gives me to
inhale vigor's gist
from its generous

Today I've opened
windows and doors
to let livingness in
and release husks of
flies and moths and

My breathing replete
with May's mixed balm
of aromatic everyness,
I've fallen again fully

~ Alan Harris

Copyright © 2001 by Alan Harris. All rights reserved.
From An Everywhere Oasis at www.alharris.com

Alan Harris creates new word forms as he writes. May is treebreezed, for instance, and the poet lets in the livingness that comes with spring. He has “fallen again fully open” as spring casts it spell on him.


such commotion
it can only be
first love

I don't recall ever seeing
so fresh a green

~ William Marr

Originally published in Selected Poems of William Marr (The World Contemporary Poetry Series, The Milky Way Publishing Co., Hong Kong, 2003).

This poem, like the ones by Teasdale, Dunbar, and Harris, shows a love of spring. Marr is known for the succinctness of his poems. He says a lot in a few words.

The May Challenge:

The May Challenge is to submit a poem featuring a poem about spring or featuring a spring month. If you live south of the equator, of course, those spring months are different months than spring in Illinois—but you can write about spring where you live.

Your poem may be free verse or formal. If you use a form, please identify the form when you submit your poem.

Title your poem unless it is a form that does not use titles. 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 May 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.

The poet retains copyright on each poem. 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 “May 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.


Alan Harris retired from a 22-year career with Commonwealth Edison, in which he had served as a computer programmer, systems analyst, computer trainer, and Web developer. Between 1982 and 1995 he privately print-published ten books of poems and aphorisms for friends and family. These books and all subsequent poetry collections are now on the Web at Noon Out of Nowhere. His books in PDF format are downloadable at PDF Books. Alan is a past president of the Illinois State Poetry Society and currently maintains the ISPS Web site while residing in Tucson, Arizona.

William Marr has published 23 volumes of poetry (two in English and the rest in his native Chinese language), 3 books of essays, and several books of translations. Chicago Serenade is a trilingual (Chinese/English/French) anthology of his poems published in Paris in 2015. Some of his poems are used in high school and college textbooks in Taiwan, China, England, and Germany. 

P.S.  If anyone knows why some of the print has a white background different  from the rest of the lines, and how to get rid of it, please email me!

© Wilda Morris