Wednesday, January 1, 2020

January 2020 Poetry Challenge - Playground Poems

Max Liebermann, Kinderspielplatz im Tiergarten zu Berlin
(Children’s Playground in Tiergarten Park in Berlin), circa 1885
From WikiArt

Recently I flew into Leon, GTO, Mexico. The Bajío airport there (officially named Aeropuerto Internacional de Guanajuato) is quite small compared to both O’Hare, the Chicago airport I had flown out of early in the afternoon, and the Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juarez in Mexico City, where I had a too-short layover. I was impressed to discover a playground for children in the area where passengers await their flights from Leon—a wonderful new addition since I had last been in Mexico. I regretted that I didn’t have time to watch the boys and girls who were enjoying themselves there.

I suspect most of us have happy memories of times spent on playgrounds at schools or parks. Some of my happy memories are recounted in the second poem below. Not included in my poem is another memory associated with the merry-go-round at Longfellow School. Popular music was not often heard on the radio in the home in which I grew up. My mother and grandparents didn’t look at it askance—it just didn’t match their tastes in entertainment. When I was in sixth grade, some of the girls who were in tune (pun intended) with the “hit parade,” were singing “The Tennessee Waltz.” I went home that weekend and searched out radio stations (we had no TV at that time) which played popular music, and learned the tune and words. It was the first pop song I ever learned—all because it was sung on the playground as we spun around. I still sing it now and then.

Some people have negative playground memories—recollections of being bullied or physically injured. My mother fell from a swing at City Park in Iowa City, Iowa, when she was a child—and broke her arm. The family had just moved to town and was tenting out at the park all summer; imagine sleeping on the floor of a tent with a broken arm! A family from the church gave Mother a roomy wooden rocking chair in which to sleep. At the birthday party for one of my granddaughters, her cousin (also my granddaughter) fell off the slide and broke her shoulder, proving that even small home playgrounds create memories.

One of the favorite poets of my childhood wrote a poem about one of my favorite playground activities:

The Swing

How do you like to go up in a swing,
           Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
           Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
           Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
           Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
           Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
           Up in the air and down!

~ Robert Louis Stevenson

From: A Child's Garden of Verses (This poem is in the public domain)

I couldn’t see quite as much variety as Stevenson’s poem suggests from either the swings at my school playground or those at the city park, but I loved the feel of wind in my hair and the sensation of flying. It was healing for me when I felt lonely or had been put-down by another child. Now and then, I still walk out my back door and across the school yard that abuts our property and swing for a little while. It is an activity that has not lost its magic for me. Here are some other playground memories I’ve shared in a poem:

Longfellow School Playground

Teeter totters require two children,
a pair of pumping legs at each end,
one child rising while the other descends,
then changing roles,
an early lesson in partnership
and who can be trusted not to slip
off the seat, dropping you
with a hard plump to the hard ground.

Grasping a metal bar,
we ran in circles, propelling
the merry-go-round
faster and faster. We jumped on,
hearts racing, hair blowing,
dizzy with exhilaration,
all that movement taking us
nowhere but deeper
into a shared moment.

~Wilda Morris

Wilda Morris’s bio appears in the right-hand column of this blog. Her book,  Pequod Poems: Gamming with Moby-Dick, can be purchased through Kelsay books at, or through at

Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) was a Scottish poem, novelist, travel writer and essayist. Among his writings, Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and A Child’s Garden of Verses Have been especially appreciated by younger readers. He is also known for his novel, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The names of the main characters of that book have become iconic.

Some Other Playground Poems:

“Playgrounds,” by Berlie Doherty -

Two poems about swinging, embedded in a prose narrative -

“The Playground,” by Richard Moore, from Poetry Magazine -

“The Dragon on the Playground,” by Ken Nesbitt -

The January Challenge:

Write a poem about a playground experience—your experience or that of someone else. It might involve a school or park playground, one at a home, in a mall, at a place of worship, or elsewhere. No poems about table games or organized sports, though. Stick to the playground and the freer activities.

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 (don’t follow Emily Dickinson’s practice on that!). 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 January 2018 winners), or the post has to use small print.

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. Poems already used on this blog are not eligible to win, but the poets may submit a different poem, unless the poet has been a winner the last three months.

The deadline is January 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 “January 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. Do not submit poems as PDF files.

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 (Doc, Docx, rich text or plain text; no pdf files, please). or both. 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.

Happy New Year. Have a wonderful and poetic new decade.

© Wilda Morris