Wednesday, March 30, 2011

March Challenge Winner

The challenge for March was to write a poem about a deep and sincere longing, something which is compelling you, something you feel you MUST do or someplace you MUST go. Or to express the compulsion of someone else as if it were your own.

The two winning entries are very different from “Sea Fever”—and very different from each other. Mary Cohutt’s poem expresses the longing for the simple life, but more specifically, for the past. Cohutt started a company which works with the elderly. In this poem, she expresses the feelings of a client who is dealing with much loss as she ages.

A Simple Life

All I ever wanted was a simple life
She said with a far distant gaze
A husband
A home
Some good-hearted friends
Children to fill up my days

My husband is gone now
So too my friends
My children have all gone their way
My house with dark windows
Is empty and cold
I sit, I remember,I pray

Her chair slowly rocks
Leaving marks on the floor
Telling stories of time gone by
She flutters her fingers
And looks for her words
But all that she finds is a sigh

Shadows grow long
On the living room floor
The light in the window grows dim
Night time she whispered
Is good time
Night time I dream of them

Her head on the pillow
Soft smile on her face
Her years fall like silk to the floor
She’s running, she laughs,
She’s dancing, she loves
It’s a simple life once more

~ Mary Cohutt

Only in sleep can the person described in this poem return to the past for which she longs.

The second winning poem is by Francis Toohey.

I Want to Be in Pictures

I want to see it on the screen--
of a brand new Cineplex
or at an oil-leaky, weedy
Drive In under stars

or in a downtown mildewed
Vaudeville Hall reeling porn
to sleep off all illusions from better days.
I know my movie. What is yours?

How long has mine been running?
Will anybody come to cry or laugh
in my private Hollywood?
I understand your concern because

I love to hear applause.
Other hands appear bringing forth awards.
I will write to please my audience:
happy end or one to break your heart.

Please, allow my drums to beat me.
Fiddle my feelings using your own violins.
Watch my face as I radiate with light:
I promise to surprise--

~ Francis Toohey

My first reaction to this poem was that the poet had gone too far, willing even to be in pictures in the musty “Vaudeville Hall reeling porn.” As I lived with the poem for a few days, however, I began to realize that it expressed the desperate need for acceptance, recognition and affirmation which many people feel at some time in their lives. Lacking an adequate sense of self-worth, feeling unsuccessful and unappreciated, the persona expressed here wants to appreciation, applause and awards.

In the United States, the culture seems to be obsessed with celebrities. Many people cannot get enough news about the current stars and their personal lives. Their pictures fill magazines. We watch the winning actresses and actors receiving and clutching their Oscars. It all seems so magical. Why wouldn’t someone want that kind of recognition? Many performers are willing to sacrifice principles (or their families) to further their careers. They hope and pray for the big break. Winning the accolades doesn’t always fulfill this desperate need. But that doesn’t prevent people from thinking it will. And if a performer wins recognition and finds it wasn’t enough, that unfulfilled need may become even greater.

Congratulations to the two winners for March. Sorry, though, this recognition won’t get you into the movies.

Poets whose poems are posted on this blog retain copyright. Please do not copy their poems without permission.

April is National Poetry Month

A new challenge will be posted on April 1.

© 2011 Wilda Morris

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

March 2011 Poetry Challenge

Do you sometimes feel an absolute compulsion to do something? Do you feel your life will be incomplete unless you do some particular thing or go some particular place? Do you absolutely have to sky dive; ski in Aspen, Colorado; take a gondola ride in Venice; make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, Mecca or the Ganges; or walk on the Great Wall of China before you die? Do you just have to see the US Capitol building or go to the top of the Washington Monument?

Or do you feel compelled to do something you used to do—roll down a hill in spring grass, sit with the one you love on the shore of a lake as the sun sets, rock a new-born, or walk across a field on what used to be your grandfather’s farm?

In what is probably his best known poem, John Masefield described a compulsion:

Sea Fever

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a gray dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

~ John Masefield

This poem is in the public domain.

On her website,, Jayne Jaudon Ferrer recently provided a brief biography of John Masefield:

John Masefield (1878-1967) was an English poet, author, and playwright. Both his parents died while he was a child, and at the age of thirteen, annoyed with John's "addiction" to reading, the aunt in charge of caring for him sent him off to train for a life as a sailor. Although his experiences at sea provided much material for the stories and poems he would later write, John soon tired of that harsh life and, on a voyage to New York, he jumped ship. For two years, he worked at odd jobs in that city, using his free time for reading and writing. He eventually returned to England, married, had two children, and established himself as a significant literary talent. As his stature as a writer continued to grow, John became an internationally successful lecturer and was appointed as England's poet laureate, a position he held for nearly forty years. He actively wrote and published until he was 88 years old.

Perhaps in his later years, though happy to have escaped the life of a sailor, Masefield may sometimes have felt a yearning to return to the ocean. After years on land, he may have idealized his memories. Or perhaps, looking back, he was happy to be where he was, but understood how some of the men he had worked with loved the life of a sailor and would feel a deep psychological need to return to the sea if they had left it. Poetic license would allow him to express those feelings in first-person, even if they were not actually his own feelings.

March Poetry Challenge:

The challenge for March is to write a poem about a deep and sincere longing, something which is compelling you, something you feel you MUST do or someplace you MUST go. Or you can express the compulsion of someone else as if it were your own.

Your poem may be rhymed and metered, as is “Sea Fever.” Or, if you prefer, it may be well-crafted free verse. Put the compulsion into poetry and submit it by March 15.

Poems published in books or on the Internet (including Facebook and other on-line social networks) are not eligible. If your poem has been published in a periodical, please include publication data.

How to Submit Your Poem:

Send your poem to wildamorris [at] ameritech [dot] net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for [dot], and don’t leave any spaces). Or you can access my Facebook page and send the poem in a message. Be sure provide your e-mail address. Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be posted on the blog, if it is a winner. The deadline is March 15. Copyright on poems is retained by their authors.

To read more of Masefield's poetry or learn about his life: