Monday, April 1, 2019

April 2019 Poetry Challenge - Noir Poetry

Caravaggio, THE CARDSHARPS, c. 1595 (Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX)

Happy National Poetry Month! I hope you celebrate by reading and perhaps also drafting at least one poem each day.

Noir poetry looks at the dark side of life. Crime, cage, scar. Mysterious disappearance. Shadow, cheat (as in the painting above). Graveyard, gun, gambling. Blood. Thank you, John S. O’Connor, for a word list from which most of these noir words come. You can read what O’Connor wrote about teaching noir poetry at

Caravaggio painted that darker side of life in “The Cardsharps” and “The Fortune Teller.” There is hard noir – which might not be family-friendly enough for this blog. And there is what Jenene Ravesloot described for members of Poets and Patrons, as “the noir poem of the down-and-out, whether victim, suspect, or perpetrator who is directly connected to the crime or crimes.”

“This,” Ravesloot says, “is the noir poem of the “Big City,” plunged into shades of gray rather than black and white.” It might “present a world of doomed lovers and losers, told in direct, lean, and gritty lines. Here, the powerless struggle with a system that appears to be aligned against them. In this world it would appear no one gets away clean.”

Ravesloot has also suggested that “perhaps this is the opportunity to create a more hopeful noir poem, one that begins to address the inequities of our present power system. Perhaps this is the time for a new kind of noir poem written by those whose voices are just beginning to be heard.” Maybe YOU are that poet, the one with that voice that needs to be heard.

Ravesloot’s poem, “The Dog Doesn’t Bark Anymore,” was showcased on this blog in June, 2017, with the prompt of writing a poem about an irritant. We repeat it here as an example of “American noir poems, minus the hardboiled detective and the femme fatale of ‘ noir.’”

You can find a number of Ravesloot’s noir poems at In this publication, “The Doesn’t Bark Anymore” is a lined poem. Ravesloot decided later that it was more effective as a prose poem.

Another poet known for his noir poems is Dennis Gulling. Here is one of his poems:

There’s a man on tv screaming
At me about a
Special offer
Limited time only
Not sold in stores
Operators are standing by
But I must act now
The tv looks like
A cage he wants to escape
I turn it off
To lock him in

~ Dennis Gulling

First published in Cultural Weekly, November 9, 2016, along with five other poems by Gulling, which you can read at

The April Challenge:

The challenge for April is to write and submit a noir poem.

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 April 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 “April 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.

Another announcement: I am celebrating National Poetry Month with a Poem-A-Thon. It is a fund-raiser for three different charities that are dear to my heart, one to help rebuild and restore some of what was devastated by the big storms that hit Puerto Rico; one is to help at-risk youth in Chicago to manage the challenges facing them from day to day and to teach them job skills; another is to provide health education for young people in Honduras. The first two charities are church-connected; the program in Honduras is independent. Those who contribute can receive the thirty poem drafts I write and, depending on the size of the contribution, can specify a form or them, or set of words. If you are interested, email me at wildamorris[at]Ameritech[dot]com with the word “PoemAThom” in the subject line and I’ll email you the details.

© Wilda Morris