Wednesday, March 1, 2023

March 2023 Poetry Challenge: Color Poems

Photo by Wilda Morris

Details often are important to poems. Color can be such a detail. A poet may mention flowers or butterflies, but those terms are vague unless we are told the kind of flower or butterfly, or at least their colors. The reader visualizes a situation differently if a person is described as wearing a red dress than if that person is wearing a white or black or yellow dress. Sometimes color is the element energizes a poem or holds it together. In some poems, though, color is more than just a detail. It plays a central role in the poem.

I’m not a Roman Catholic but attended a number of poetry retreats that were held at St. Joseph Retreat Center in Door County (now called St. Joseph Formation Center). I wrote this poem there in 2007:

Finding Color at St. Joseph’s

I enter the spare brown room,
hang the grey towel and washcloth
I’ve been issued, ready
for a weekend retreat. 
Unable to read the Greek lettering
on the icon, I don’t know if it’s Jesus
or some severe saint eyeing me
from his nail on the wall
over the desk. The crucifix
hanging at the foot of my bed
reminds me not to complain
at my meager sufferings.

I pull back the dark bedspread,
exposing green sheets,
not hunter green nor any green
found in a pack of twenty-four
children’s crayons, but a sensuous,
almost obscene green, somewhere
between lime and chartreuse. 
Perhaps—I think—just perhaps,
I could be a nun after all.

~ Wilda Morris

This isn’t my only poem where green is a central elem,ent but I like it because it brings back good memories. Also, those who know me get a good laugh at the last line.

“Finding Color at St. Joseph’s, 2007,” was published in Halfway to the North Pole: Door County in Poetry (Four Windows Press for The Door County Poets Collective, 2020).


Green also plays a big role in this poem which, incidentally, was written by a poet friend I first met at one of these retreats at St. Joseph’s.


My mother painted the bathroom
the bitter green of winter woodlands
Clothed in avocado
she sat in her soft moss chair
knitting a succession of dresses
lime, holly, grass, jade, hunter
One Christmas she gave me
a forest-colored bedroom
with bleached, hard-angled furniture
and not one ruffle
After I left home
I twirled through life
in red and yellow crepe de Chine
high heels tapping
until I grew too old to dance
and knit myself
a sea-green dress

~ Judy Roy

“Once,” is published in Slightly Off Q by June Nirschl, Nancy Rafal and Judy Roy (Marsh River Editions, 2004). Used by permission.


Kathy Lohrum Cotton focused on multiple colors in the title poem of her book:

Deluxe Box of Crayons

Beneath this pale Caucasian skin,
the skin of my mother’s mother and father’s father,
beneath this unremarkable brown hair
and behind these ordinary brown eyes
that are the eyes of all my family, even the dog,
beneath, behind, beyond this commonness,
I am the Deluxe Box of Crayons:  one-hundred-twenty
unblended colors scribbling exotic names—
Cerulean, Burnt Sienna, Mahogany, Maize, a crowd of
immigrant pigments unwilling to melt in my melting pot.

This Deluxe Box holds Fuchsia to attract hummingbirds.
Quaker gray for silent sitting. Outrageous Orange for
stumbling over politics. In the company of Blue, I can
match that patch of sky, her silk shirt, his denim jeans.
See me fiery Red as habanero, White as arctic ice.

Some believe I should defect from every hue but one,
become a solitary color’s citizen, wear a single country’s seal.
But I am the Deluxe Box, dressing my heart in tie-dye,
rainbows, confetti; waving on the hill of each moment
its hand-made, one-of-a-kind flag. I am the Deluxe Box
whose skin is red and yellow, black and white,
male and female, flower and beast, bright light and midnight.

Come close, look inside. Watch me search
my chameleon stash for a deluxe handful of myself
perfectly matched to you.

~ Kathy Lohrum Cotton

From Deluxe Box of Crayons (Chaplain Publishing, 2012). Used by permission.


Some Color Poems Online:

*There are links to six “color poems” in the poem prompt by Maggie Queeney at

*“Color” by Christina Rosetti -

*Poem 1045 [“Nature rarer. . . .” by Emily Dickinson -


The March Challenge:

The challenge for this month is a poem in which one or more colors play a very significant role. Not a poem that just mentions a color, such as a poem where a bluebird appears but is no more important than the trees or grass or squirrels or people in the poem. Not a poem where the color of someone’s clothing is mentioned to provide a clearer image, but in which that color does not have special significance. Your poem may be literal or metaphoric, serious, or humorous. Be creative! Note that the blog format does not accommodate shaped poems or long lines; if a poem with long lines is used, the lines 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. Note, too, that poems over 25 lines are at a disadvantage.

Poems could be disqualified if the guidelines are not followed. Submit your poem by March 15.

1-Title your poem unless it is in a form that discourages titles.


3-Whether you put your poem in the body of your email or in an attachment or both, please put your submission in this order (on in one place):

Your poem

Your name

Publication data if your poem was previously published

A brief third-person bio

Your email addressit saves me a lot of work if you put your email address at the end of your submission.

4-Please keep the poem on the left margin (standard 1” margin). Do not put any part of your submission on a colored background. No colored type. Do not use a fancy font and do not use a header or footer.

5-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.

6-The deadline is midnight, Central Time Zone, March 15. Poems submitted after the deadline will not be considered. There is no charge to enter, so there are no monetary rewards. Winners are published on this blog.

7-Please don’t stray too from “family-friendly” language (some children and teens read this blog).

8- No simultaneous submissions, please. You should know by the end of the month whether or not your poem will be published.

9-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.

10-Decision of the judge or judges is final.

11-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.

12-Send one poem only.

How to Submit Your Poem:

1-Send your poem to wildamorris4[at]gmail[dot]com (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”). The poem must respond in some way to the specific challenge for the month.

2-Put “March Poetry Challenge Submission” FOLLOWED BY YOUR NAME in the subject line of your email. 

3-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.

4-Poems may be pasted into an email or sent as an attachment or both (Doc, Docx, rich text or plain text; 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 capital letters); your name at the bottom of the poem).  Put everything in the order listed above, either in the body of the email or in an attachment or both.

6-Also, please do not use multiple spaces instead of punctuation 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.



Kathy Lohrum Cotton is a southern Illinois poet and editor whose work appears in literary journals, magazines and anthologies and also as exhibits of poetry combined with her digital collage artwork. Cotton is the author of two chapbooks; the illustrated poetry book, Deluxe Box of Crayons; and the 2020 collection, Common Ground. She serves as a board member of the Illinois State Poetry Society and the National Federation of State Poetry Societies.

Wilda Morris learned to color—and to love poetry—in her childhood home in Iowa City Iowa. She is a former president of both the Illinois State Poetry Society and Poets & Patrons of Chicago, for which she still serves as workshop chairperson. Her third book of poems, At Goat Hollow and Other Poems will be published this spring.

Judy Roy is a retired French teacher now living in Appleton, Wisconsin. Her work has been included in Wisconsin People & Ideas, Free Verse, Hummingbird, Common Ground, Nature of the Door, and other places. She has read at the Wisconsin Book Festival and other venues. Roy is co-author of Slightly off Q and Two Off Q: a conversation in poetry conversation in poetry, both written while she lived in Door County and author of a solo collection, Now and Then.



©Wilda Morris






Sunday, February 26, 2023

February 2023 Winners: Beach Poems



Dunes by the Sea, 1648
by Jacob van Ruisdael
National Gallery of Art, DC

There were a number of excellent poems submitted for the February Poetry Challenge. A lot of people have good memories of time spent at the beach or have a yearning to find out what a day on the beach would be like. The judge, Linda Wallin, former president of Poets & Patrons of Chicago, selected Bonnie Proudfoot’s poem as the winner.

Behind the Dunes

And here we are again, on this hot blanket
on this scorching sand, under this scorching sun,
while the surf rolls in, rolls in, in silken curls,
each swell rising, rising up the shoreline,
and we’ve set the large umbrella to shade
our mother’s small frame, her silken curls,
her brown arms as thin as driftwood.

She moves slowly now, as if she has
so much time, solar time, the span of the arc
of all these sunlit days, of all of us
in her orbit, drawn to her side. We watch
her eyes close, see that she is, for the moment,
at peace with all the many defeats.
She used to do it all, bike to the beach,
powerwalk the shoreline, swim laps,
everyone had to race to keep up. 

These days she relies on our arms
or a cane, and I question the effort it takes
to get her to this blanket near the shore.
Still, we ease her into her chair,
tote the ice chest, food she can barely digest.
We are here, then, when the wind brings
the dank musk of seaweed, when other families pack up.
Their blankets drag trails on the sand, and their laughter
and calls fade into the flap and cry of the gulls.

Off shore, schools of spearing leap,
a sailboat bobs beside a buoy, dark surf
froths along a rocky jetty, but here she is,
under the fluttering umbrella,
the sun melting behind the dunes,
the crook of her fingers holding fast,
and why wouldn’t we stay until
all the shadows lengthen, why shouldn’t
this last day last long into the night?

~ Bonnie Proudfoot

Proudfoot’s poem has a lot of “s” sounds which seem to echo the sound of the water, and a lot of other alliteration—not enough to call attention to itself but enough to make the poem sing. It is a beach poem, a poem about aging, a poem about the family and the role of the mother, a poem about a strong woman nearing the end of her life. It is the poignancy of the poem that especially impressed Wallin as she judged the poems.

“Behind the Dunes” appeared Proudfoot’s chapbook of poems, Household Gods, published by Sheila-Na-Gig Editions in September 2022.


For second place, Wallin selected a poem reflecting on a particular day in 2020:

Ocean Beach San Francisco March 4, 2020

You begged and I promised to leave you
along the landing strip of sand
where once the unwrinkled less reliable characters
in our prequel rolled brave and tender
words between the ocean breeze over slaps
of great waves breaking from the west.
You call this place the end
of land while in my ken here begins
ocean―point A on the whale road to Asia.
For hours we wove fancies between flotsam
and jetsam of a comfortable cottage among dens
of the wealthy. Still we paused to pity unlucky
jellyfish caught in wind and wave
who could control no more than we.
Or we would admire harbor seals bouncing across the littoral
into fish rich upswell moving kelp forests under seabird wheels.
The tide ebbs and the tide flows
whether or not we cuddle hands to watch it.
A lucky wind blew us our daughter and
cold waves tumored your essence
leaving us scattering your sand
to accompany that of the intertidal zone and mine to come
where one day we will loop when rip tide
or typhoon remnants
see fit to ouroboros us
together for an end and

~ Tyson West

West’s poem also takes us on a poignant journey, while pushing us to think philosophically. Is the shore (or beach) the end of the land or the beginning of the ocean, “point A on the whale road to Asia”? And what can any of us control, anyway? Wallin also liked how the poet included such a beautiful picture of the beach within what is really a love poem.


These poets retain copyright on their own poems.


Honorable Mentions selected by the judge:

“Beaches Are for Baby Feet” by Thomas Hemminger
“Kovalam Call and Response” by Lee Conger
“Chatterbox” by Joe Cottonwood
“Memories Made from the Impossible” by Angela Hoffman
and an untitled poem by Joan Leotta



Lee Conger is a community organizer, native habitat restorer, and amateur opera singer in Los Angeles, California. He makes money as a Narrative Therapist and teacher of Integral Qigong and Tai Chi. Lee boosts his own microbiome diversity with homemade lactofermented ketchup.

Joe Cottonwood has repaired hundreds of houses to support his writing habit in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His latest book of poetry is Random Saints.

Thomas Hemminger is an elementary music teacher living in Dallas, Texas with his wife and son. He writes many poems and songs for his classroom. His personal and professional hero is Mr. Fred Rogers, the creator and host of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Being the son of an English Language Arts teacher, Thomas grew up surrounded by prose and poetry. Furthermore, his mother’s love of verse, and her own talented pen, impressed a deep love for the art within him. He recently started having poems published online through the Wilda Morris Poetry Challenge, and through

Angela Hoffman’s poetry collections include Resurrection Lily (Kelsay Books, 2022) and Olly Olly Oxen Free (forthcoming, Kelsay Books, 2023). She placed third in the WFOP Kay Saunders Memorial Emerging Poet in 2022. Her poems have been published internationally. She has written a poem a day since the start of the pandemic. Angela lives in rural Wisconsin.

Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. She performs tales of food, family, strong women. Internationally published, she’s a 2021 and 2022 Pushcart nominee, Best of the Net 2022 nominee, and  2022 runner-up in Robert Frost Competition. Her essays, poems, and fiction appear in Ekphrastic Review, The Lake, and more. Her new chapbook, Feathers on Stone is out from Main Street Rag.

Bonnie Proudfoot's debut chapbook of poems, Household Gods, was published by Sheila-Na-Gig Editions in September 2022. Her novel, Goshen Road (2020, OU Swallow Press) was Long-listed for the PEN/Hemingway, and awarded the 2022 WCONA Book of the Year. She's published fiction, essays, and poetry. Bonnie lives outside of Athens, Ohio.

Linda Wallin found out late in life that all of her degrees did not help one bit when it came to writing poetry. She continues to write down what bubbles up and is grateful for friends who encourage her. You can read some of her poems on, Wallin's Wave at,  and Living with Geniuses at

Tyson West has published speculative fiction and poetry in free verse, form verse and haiku distilled from his mystical relationship with noxious weeds and magpies in Eastern Washington. He has no plans to quit his day job in real estate. He was the featured USA poet at Muse Pie Press from December 2019 through December 2022.


Tune in on March 1 for a new Poetry Challenge.  


© Wilda Morris