Saturday, August 1, 2020

August Poetry Challenge: A Praise Poem

Mangroves (photo by Mary Jo Balistreri

It has been a tough summer for many people in the Northern Hemisphere and a tough winter for many in the Southern Hemisphere. We can use some up-beat, encouraging poetry, some gratitude, some remembrance of what makes us feel happy and whole. We can use some praise poems. 

Long before the current pandemic, poets Jenene Ravesloot and Tom Roby wrote:

In this strident world of today, praise is sadly missing. We are all caught up in the prosaic gridlock of negativity. Negativity, it would seem, feeds on itself. We are unable to see all the wonderful things that are around us. Praise, on the other hand, leads to appreciation, and appreciation generates praise. Thus, a virtuous circle is created, and the gridlock of negativity is broken.

They encouraged poets to help break the vicious cycle of negativity by writing praise poems. Here are some praise poem examples. The first one was written in Florida by Mary Jo Balistreri.

All There’s Left to Say

When the scent of wild strawberries wafts from the woods
and returns the juicy-sweet meadows of childhood,
when the double pleasure of present and past throws me
this heady bouquet
on a day already fully flowered with gifts,

I praise.

While on the cedar boardwalk through the mangrove forest,
when glossy green leaves reach out,
when tangled and twisted prop roots snare imagination’s
strange wildness, and warblers unseen call out in song,

I praise.

And when at last the calm pond of the gulf stretches
blue beyond the horizon, sews itself seamlessly to the sky,
when it lifts the edge of its white-skirted flounce to the sand,

what can I do but praise

and praise again

as thousands of filmy wings flit backward, forward, hover/
their last hurrahs, their last two weeks in the air
after a lifetime of water—
these dragonflies, damsels, their new resplendence
mating, creating—Oh joyous affirmation of life—

Praise and praise and praise.

~ Mary Jo Balistreri


In her “Praise Poem,” Jenene Ravesloot leaves the realm of nature to praise people often overlooked or looked down upon.


Praise Poem

Praise the lives that others think are token:
the lost, the sick, and the ill-spoken. Praise
those whose lives are broken. Praise them.

Praise the veteran who hobbles on one leg.
Praise the angry men and women who swear
at you as they beg. Praise them.

Praise the lives that others think are token:
the homeless who huddle in the dark,
the ones who sleep in the park. Praise them.

Praise the cries of Fly ball! or You’re out!
on the bus and street. Praise all who have
known defeat. Praise them.

Praise the lives that others think are token:
the sick, the lost, and the ill-spoken. Praise
those whose lives are broken. Praise them.

~ Jenene Ravesloot

The following poem, by Judith Tullis, was written in praise of her father.


On early winter mornings
how the cold swirled ‘round my head.
I was supposed to rise for school,
but hunkered down instead
until my father offered
to pull me on his sled.

Alleluia Father, alleluia!

We walked a mile on Sundays
to share the wine and bread.
He tried to hold my hand
but I always skipped ahead,
only calming down when
I saw him bow his head.

Alleluia Father, alleluia!

My little boy adored him,
tried to match his manly tread
on sunny summer afternoons
as down the lane they sped,
hunting painted turtles
at the Salt Creek watershed.

Alleluia Father, alleluia!

When the doctor finally told me
the dread disease had spread,
I carefully sat down
on the hard edge of the bed,
took his hand in mine,
leaned in close and softly said,

Alleluia Father, alleluia!

~ Judith Tullis

Balistreri, Ravesloot, and Tullis retain ownership of their poems.


“Pied Beauty” by Gerard Manley Hopkins may be the most famous praise poem in all English-language literature (except for those in scripture and hymnody). Reading it always raises my spirits.


Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –
        For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
                For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;

Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
        Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
                And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
        Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
                With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:

Praise him.

~ Gerard Manley Hopkins

This poem, written in 1877, is in the public domain.

A few other praise poems:

Anne Porter, “A List of Praises,” from Living Things by Anne Porter, published by Zoland Books, an imprint of Steerforth Press of Hanover, New Hampshire. Copyright © 2006 by Anne Porter.

Adam Zagajewski, "Try to Praise the Mutilated World," from Without End: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2002 by Adam Zagajewski. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC. 

Extracts from the long Zulu poem praising the king Shaka who died in 1828, can be found at

Pablo Neruda, “Ode to My Socks,” from Neruda & Vallejo: Selected Poems, by Pablo Neruda and translated by Robert Bly (Boston: Beacon Press, 1993), can be found at


The August Challenge:

PLEASE FOLLOW GUIDELINES CAREFULLY. If your name is at the top of the page or under the title, I might accidentally miss it when preparing to send the poems to the judge, and it could be disqualified as a result. If it isn’t under your poem, I might mistype it. Also, if you don’t follow the directions in how to write the subject line of your email, your poem might be missed. 

Write a praise poem. It can be in praise of God, nature (or some aspect of nature), a person (living or dead), an object, or . . . . Use your creativity. Your poem may be an ode, but no elegies this time. You may use free verse or a form. If you use a form, please include a note identifying the form.

Title your poem unless it is in a form that discourages 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 May 2018 winners), or the post has to use small print. Put your name and bio under your poem. Please keep the poem on the left margin (standard 1” margin). Do not put any part of your submission on a colored background. Do not use a fancy font.

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 August 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.


Send one poem only to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”). Put “August Poetry Challenge Submission” FOLLOWED BY YOUR NAME 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 and/or attachment. 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. Pease excuse repetition in stating the rules. You might be surprised how many poets do not adhere carefully to the rules. That can create more work for me.

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. 


Mary Jo Balistreri has two books of poetry published by Bellowing Ark Press: Joy in the Morning and gathering the harvest. Her most recent book of poetry, Still, was published by Future Cycle Press. Tiger’s Eye Press published her chapbook, Best Brothers, and a mini chapbook of her haiku, Along the Way. She has had nine Pushcart nominations and four Best of the Net. Her poetry, essays, haiku and haibun have been published in many journals in the US and abroad. She is one of the founders of Grace River Poets, a poetry outreach poetry for women’s shelters, schools, and churches. Please visit her at

Jenene Ravesloot has written five books of poetry. She has published in The Ekphrastic Review, Ekphrastic Challenge, After Hours, Sad Girl Review, Packingtown Review, DuPage Valley Review, Caravel Literary Arts Journal, Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, The Miscreant, Exact Change Only, THIS Literary Magazine, and other online journals, print journals, chapbooks, and anthologies. Jenene is a member of The Poets’ Club of Chicago, the Illinois State Poetry Society, and Poets & Patrons. She received two Pushcart Prize nominations in 2018. 

Judith Tullis is the Treasurer of the Illinois State Poetry Society and Secretary of Poets & Patrons of Chicago, and is active in several other groups of poets and writers. Her many poems can be found on line and in print. She lives in a small house with a large garden where poetry often happens.



© Wilda Morris