Monday, February 1, 2021

February 2021 Challenge: When I Die

 No photo description available.

 Photo by Karin Addis

For the February Poetry Challenge, you can take inspiration from these poems:

these feathers

seem innocent
even pure
like nothing hard or bad
ever happened
they lift off the slate-slabbed trail
float their way to the bay
where whitefish think they have found
a new mother or maybe a cousin
I want my leaving
to be this
of course blood and bones and guts
but in the end
to know
we really are family

~ Maryann Hurtt

From Poetry Hall, 3:1 (April 15, 2020).


When The Time Comes…

            for me to go
let it be spring—
season of my arrival

            but give me first
a wrapped-up gift of years
four score and more

            and let there be
a cocky young row of crocuses
singing at my exit door

~ Jeri McCormick 

From Hummingbird, XXX:2 (2020), p. 29.


Probably the best known poem by Ellen Kort, first Poet Laureate of Wisconsin, is “If Death Were a Woman.” Kort begins by saying “I’d want her to come for me / smelling of cinnamon. She tells us what she and death would do together before finally posing for pictures “in the last light.” You can read the whole beautiful poem at


The February Challenge:


ALSO, please follow the guidelines carefully. For example, if your name is at the top of the page or under the title instead of at the bottom, I might accidentally miss it when preparing to send the poems to the judge, and your poem 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.

The challenge for this month is a poem about “when I die.”

Each of us will die someday. How do we want it to go? How should death come? When? What instructions would you like to leave for those you leave behind? Comedian Steven Wright has been quoted as saying, “When I die I’m going to leave my body to science fiction.” What do you want to leave behind, and for whom? Use your imagination, your creativity, your spirituality. Write a poem that takes death seriously but not morbidly. Or be humorous in your approach.

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 and do not use a header or footer.

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 February 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 wildamorris4[at]gmail[dot]com (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”). Put “February 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.

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.

Now retired after thirty years of hospice nursing, Maryann Hurtt continues to love stories of resiliency and wisdom in hard times. Aldrich Press published her chapbook, River, in 2016 and her poems have appeared in a variety of print and on-line publications. She received a Best of the Net nomination in 2018.
Jeri McCormick, of Madison Wisconsin, taught creative writing 25 years in several settings, including senior centers and the Elderhostel program.  Her work appears in journals and anthologies, and she has co-authored two books on writing.  Her most recent collections of poems are “Marrowbone of Memory” (Salmon Poetry press in Ireland) and “Breathtaking” (Hummingbird Press).


© Wilda Morris





Tuesday, January 26, 2021

January 2021 Winners - Family Poems


                Afghan Made by Grandma Larkin
                (Photo supplied by Kate Hutchinson)

Thank you to Caroline Johnson for serving as judge this month. She picked “Woven Legacy” by Kate Hutchinson for third place, describing it as "a colorful, poignant portrait of a matriarch." She singled out the last line as being especially beautiful.


Woven Legacy

for Grandma Larkin

Patterns swirled across her lap as she spun yarn
     into afghans, one for each of her ten children –
blue and green, black and white, brown and gold,
     to match each home's decor. Then, even as arthritis
began to gnarl her hands, she set off again knitting
     for the grandchildren, eldest to youngest,
committing to another each year as more were born –
     pink and purple, black and blue, brown and orange.

Bright octagons of blues and greens cascade
     across my bed each winter like islands connected
by an azure stream. The yarn has begun to fade
     under December's rays, as have my memories
of her – at the stove making pancakes for twenty
     on a summer Sunday, in her rocker humming
another crying baby to sleep, or at Thanksgiving
     presiding over tables spread across three rooms.

One day, after Granddad had died, she finally
     sat down in her favorite chair and said she was done.
She was not rising again to serve anyone.
Only her hands kept busy, reaching into the basket
for another skein of yarn, another blanket knitted
     for another baby born. She must have known
that by stitching herself into our lives this way,
     she could keep us warm long after she'd gone.

~ Kate Hutchinson


In her second-place poem, “Supper Sacrifice,” Irene Alderson has an “artful way of weaving the recipe and cooking in with the closeness of the family, according to the judge, who concluded that the p0em “distills a nostalgic feeling.”

Supper’s Sacrifice

Years ago when I came home from school,
I sometimes helped my mama with dinner.
Shifting from one foot to the other, I grated
cabbage and carrots into a bowl, wondering
why salad-making had to be so tedious, unaware
that the food processor beamed on the horizon.

I shaved the vegetables down to nubbins, leaving
a circle of debris and scraping my knuckles on the grater holes.
I didn’t complain. Instead, I gazed at the emerging
cabbage core which I’d nibble when my task was done.
“You’ll get a stomach ache,” my mother warned,
but I didn’t listen. I craved the crunch, the sharp, clean bite.

A handful of raisins and a shower of sweet
mayonnaise dressing finished the salad,
which accompanied pork cutlets or fish sticks,
my first seafood experience, with instant potatoes
on the side. My family never detected
the splash of blood that seasoned their dinner.

If only I could bring back just one of my salad days.
I would trade all the skin on my knuckles
to see my mother and father still alive at the table,
the faces of my siblings unclouded by adversity.
I’d gaze at them while savoring every bite,
yet still eat in silence, as we generally did.

~ Irene Alderson


First place, this month, was awarded to Karla Linn Merrifield, for her poem, “Father and Son.” Caroline Johnson wrote that “This poem has strong diction and description. The snake imagery works to illustrate the narrative in the poem, but it also works as a metaphor as well. The poem has an underlying violence, tension and truth which grips the reader.”


Father and Son


Daddy, I am the red tear,

one of at least a thousand & one

hot, angry rubies

rained down in a child’s garden of fears

or, as I was, deposited

under the bed alongside dust bunies

where she crawled to hide

on nights when the welts rose

& darkened. I was dropped

& bounced on the hardwood floors,

glistening, still listening

to the throb.




The older brother, James, once took his customized

Luger to the water snakes living in the cove,


shot once, twice, a clip or three

& obliterated all those slitherers’ nests.


His sister dialed 911, reported the misdemeanor,

& mourned the scaly creatures thus crucified.


He’d nailed the mother to a maple tree.

For that silenced slack serpent she cried


topaz tears, scattered them on the stones

over fossil fragments of Devonian-age shale


where Jimmy got so drunk the rocks could not

stop him, nor the neighbors, nor Jefferson


County cops, too busy dealing with dope

dealers running stuff from Canada


to bother with another drunk gunman.  Those

yellow drops poured on the trilobite


shoreline, fell among broken outcroppings

of Earth’s crust, wave-hewn in an ancient


history, heaved up like this fathomless

new grief as the season changes.


A snake sheds its skin & too many smoky, yellow

topazes lie strewn on the coast of Lake Ontario.

~ Karla Linn Merrifield


Congratulations to these three winners. Congratulations, also, to Patrick Cabello Hansel whose poem, “Bottle Feeding Talia,” was awarded an Honorable Mention.



Irene Alderson performs regularly with the Bosso Poetry Company, a collective of poets and musicians based in Minneapolis. She loves the way a poem or song can stop time as it unfolds. Irene lives with her husband, who can suspend the moment as he sings with his guitar, their demanding cat and the backyard critters.

Patrick Cabello Hansel is the author of the poetry collections The Devouring Land (Main Street Rag Publishing) and Quitting Time (Atmosphere Press). He has published poems and prose in over 70 journals, including Crannog, Ilanot Review, Hawai’i Pacific Review, Ash & Bones, RiverSedge and Lunch Ticket.  Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, he has won awards from the Loft Literary Center and MN State Arts Board. His novella Searching was serialized in 33 issues of The Alley News.  He is the editor of The Phoenix of Phillips, a literary journal by and for the most diverse community in Minneapolis.

Caroline Johnson has two illustrated poetry chapbooks, Where the Street Ends and My Mother’s Artwork, and a full-length collection, The Caregiver (Holy Cow! Press, 2018), inspired by years of family caregiving.  In 2012 she won the Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row Poetry Contest, and she was nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. She has led workshops for veterans and other poets on such topics as Poetry and Spirituality, Speculative Poetry, and Writing About Chicago. She currently serves as president of Poets & Patrons of Chicago. Visit her at

Kate Hutchinson has recently retired from teaching high school English and now spends much of her time as a family caregiver and library volunteer. She's had many poems and personal essays published over the years, as well as two books, The Gray Limbo of Perhaps (2012) and Map Making: Poems of Land and Identity (2015). Her poems have garnered several awards and two Pushcart nominations.

Karla Linn Merrifield, a nine-time Pushcart-Prize nominee and National Park Artist-in-Residence, has had 900+ poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has 14 books to her credit. Following her 2018 Psyche’s Scroll (Poetry Box Select) was the 2019 full-length book Athabaskan Fractal: Poems of the Far North from Cirque Press. She is currently at work on a poetry collection, My Body the Guitar, inspired by famous guitarists and their guitars; the book is slated to be published in December 2021 by Before Your Quiet Eyes Publications Holograph Series (Rochester, NY). Visit her blog, Vagabond Poet Redux, at Tweet @LinnMerrifiel;


Poets retain copyright of their own poems.