Friday, March 1, 2019

March Poetry Challenge: Something I Learned from a Child

Children and Goats Resting by a Felled Tree by Ludwig Richter, 1868,
Wolfgang Ratien Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

I look at Ludwig Richter’s painting and wonder what wisdom the child at the bottom of the painting might we whispering to the mother. When I was teaching Children’s Ministry, I always raised the question, “What have you learned from children?” Listening to children is as important as talking to them. And when we listen to the little ones, we have a lot to learn.

One experience where I learned from one of my children is described in this poem:

Jeff’s Prayers

At four, Jeff prays stalling prayers at bedtime.
Eyes searching the room, Jeff thanks God
for everything he sees, from the purple crayon
to the plastic alligator whose tail peeks out
of a pile of toys; from the curtains
dancing in the evening breeze
to the golden handle on the bedroom door.
With eyes like that he could be a poet.

~ Wilda Morris

This poem doesn’t quite fit into the challenge as described by the challenge title, because it took it in a different direction at the end. When Jeff was saying his good-night prayers, it was obvious that he was stalling. I almost told him, “That’s enough!” But as a general principle, I don’t interrupt the prayers of others, so I let him continue. When he thanked God for the doorknob, it was a reminder of how many things I take for granted. I realized I had never been thankful for doorknobs. I learned a lesson from my son even though I believed he was just stalling because he didn’t want to settle down and go to sleep.

Linda Wallin is more intentional in expressing the fact that she learned from her son—her title makes that clear. She trusts the reader to understand exactly what she learned from Colin’s question.

What I learned from my children #1

The interview for a preschool position had gone badly. 
I was shaken when I entered the back of the car. 
For some reason, my mother had brought the children with her. 
“How did it go?” She asked with that desperate edge 
to her voice. I had no job, no money and three children.
“I blew it!” I replied “They asked me to give three words
my students would use to describe me. I thought of the
student at school who had called me a Nazi. 
So I laughed. Then I realized
they were probably wondering 
what I was laughing at, so I told them. 
Then I couldn’t regain my composure.”

“But what did you do right?” asked Colin.

~ Linda Wallin

Linda Wallin retains copyright to this poem.

Bio: Linda Wallin taught disabled students full-time for 25 years and currently teaches gifted children Lego Robotics at the Center for Gifted at National-Louis University. She has three children and two grandchildren who bring her great joy. When she is not on the computer, she is quilting, reading or writing. Her web sites include, Wallin’s Wave, A Boomer Retirement, and Living With Geniuses. Linda Wallin grew up in Palatine, IL near Chicago. She has a B.A. in German Secondary Education and M. Ed. in Preschool Special Education from the University of Illinois. She received a Certificate of Advanced Study in Technology in Education from National-Louis University.

The March Challenge:

The challenge for March is a poem on the theme of “Something I Learned from a Child.” If your poem includes something you learned from a child, but doesn’t quite meet the challenge in its purest form (like my poem, above), submit it with a brief explanation. Poems that respond to the challenge theme more directly will have an advantage, but well-written poems that are more oblique will be considered.

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. Note that the blog format does not accommodate long lines; if they are used, they have to be broken in two, with the second part indented (as in the poem “Lilith,” one of the November 2018 winners). 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 March 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 and teens read this blog). No simultaneous submissions, please. You should know by the end of the month whether or not your poem will be published. 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. I do not register copyright with the US copyright office, but by US law, the copyright belongs to the writer unless the writer assigns it to someone else.

If the same poet wins three months in a row (which has not happened thus far), he or she will be asked not to submit the following two months.

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 “March 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. If the poem has been published before, please put that information UNDER the poem also.

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.

© Wilda Morris