Saturday, June 1, 2019

June 2019 Poetry Challenge - Why Write a Poem?

Virgil reading the Aeneid to Augustus and Octavia

1787, Jean-Joseph Taillasson, National Gallery of Art, London

Why do people write poetry? Some write only for themselves. Some slip their poems into a drawer where a surprised son, daughter or friend finds them after their death. Some write for friends. My mother was good at writing what are called “occasional poems,” poems for a wedding anniversary or a eightieth birthday, an installation or graduation.

Some write—or at least publish—because their poems may help someone else, as suggested by Sean Thomas Dougherty in his excellent little poem,Why Bother?/.

Lennart Lundh provides several motivations for the poet:

You can write a poem

as a memo to yourself,
something to hang
on the icebox door of life:
Dear Diary.
I think he loves me.
Mom died today.

You can write a poem
as a way to touch me,
something to tap
my secret heart:
Dear friend.
I miss you when you’re gone.
Remember that day?

You can write a poem
as an old-style Chinese meal,
something from column A
and then from B:
Wait an hour.
Your soul will be hungry.

~ Lennart Lundh

First appeared in Lake Poetry, 2014. Used by permission

Amirah Al Wassif has a different approach to this question:
for those who don’t know chocolate

for those who don’t know chocolate
the children of poverty
and the sleepers in the corners of the ancient streets
for those who survived the famine but are still hungry
for those boys who never dream
cause they never sleep
for those who don’t know chocolate
and heard more news about its sweet
the people with half souls
and lack food and the imaginary house

for those who crawled on the sharp platforms in the mid-night 
      of every day
seeking the warmth of living
for those babies who never taste the milk
with wide eyes looking for any help
for the hands of charity
and the sensitive hearts which cry and bleed
for those who gathered in the torn tents around the world
waiting from a long time
for those who don’t know chocolate
and haven’t the ability to imagine it

the innocent faces washed under the rain
the seekers of the smell of humanity in each alley, place 
     and content
for those who kiss the sun through their contemplative glances
for those who write with heavy heart and smashed dreams
the climbers of the existence shoulder
looking for the justice face

for the dancers with bare feet on the top of Everest
who do their best to bring the joy and the peace
for the sun of tolerance which touching our bones
for the bloom of the flowers
and the skies gloom

for those who never taste chocolate
but they still hear about its magic
the crawlers on the earth with a great desire
to make the difference between the past and the future

for those who draw on the sand
with belief in the friendship with the waves of the sea
for the killed persons in every battle
for the injured soldiers in every war
for those women who haven’t the right to vote

for the fishermen in their ships
for the highest star in our sky
and for the rainbow
for those people with disabilities
and for those players with the wool ball
for the little boys who sell the water
for the little girls who feed the roosters

for the nations which suffer
for the victims of racism
for the dead from terrorism

i write these poems for those
who don’t know chocolate

~ Amirah Al Wassif

The June Challenge:

The challenge for June is to write and submit a poem that says why or for whom you write poetry. Be creative take the prompt in a unique direction if you can.

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 June 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 “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. If the poem has been published before, please put that information UNDER the poem also. NOTE: If you sent your poem to my other email address, or do not use the correct subject line, the poem may get lost and not be considered for publication.

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


Amirah Al Wassif is a freelance writer. She has written articles, novels, short stories poems and songs. Five of her books were written in Arabic and many of her English works have been published in various cultural magazines. Amirah is passionate about producing literary works for children, teens and adults which represent cultures from around the world. Her first book, Who do not Eat Chocolate was published in 2014 and her latest illustrated book, The Cocoa Book and Other Stories is forthcoming.
Lennart Lundh is a poet, short-fictionist, historian and photographer. His work has appeared internationally since the late 1960s. Len reads at Chicago-area open mics on a regular basis, as well as appearing in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Ohio several times a year.