Monday, January 30, 2012

January 2012 Challenge Winners - Color Poems

There were a number of excellent poems submitted for the January Challenge, a color poem. Since I knew several of the poets, I printed the poems without the names of the authors, and gave them to Judith Tullis, Vice President of the Illinois State Poetry Society, to judge. Tullis especially liked three of the poems, presented here in reverse order.

Winter White

Blowing, blowing-
The snowdrifts shift and whirl
Wafted fiercely upward,
Like so many ghost strokes.

Who wields the brush?
The One Unseen.
He lays not His hues on the canvas flat
But sends them swirling, drifting, flying.
Like sifted flour blown from beneath,
This ever-changing winter scene.

I watch.
The wind stills,
Its whirrs stop.
The Painter lays down His icy brush
And through the hush the snow-white drifts
In innocence recline.

~ Carole Mertz

This poem appeared in The Lutheran Digest, Winter, 2008.

“'Winter White,'” said Tullis, “is very descriptive of a winter storm and how wind makes the snow drift in all directions and then 'in innocence recline.'" The poet sees the hand of God conducting this event, brushing shades of white everywhere.

Come Evening

Aqua and cornflower-blue
streak the sky.

Rose tones flush and falter
as day draws to a close.

Clouds chase the blush,
make room for strokes

of turquoise, lavender, violet
that tuck in the night

and fade to indigo
with stars shivering white

as I lie
in shades of gray.

~ Marcia J. Pradzinski

Tullis wrote: “In 'Come Evening,' I like the way the poet uses color to progress from afternoon through sunset until finally day is 'tucked in' by the darkest color indigo relieved only by "stars shivering white," observed by the poet who rests in 'shades of grey.' That last line is a wonderful contrast to the rest of the poem.”

An Artist's Transformation

The black and white photograph in our family album
has been transformed into pastel shades
of blues and greens – a dab of pink.
Grandma Ella sits in the meadow,
arranging a bouquet of freshly picked flowers
as her young daughters – Vivian, Ruth, Mae –
all focus on their mother’s hands.

The old snapshot came to life a century later
when Mae’s girl, Diane, dipped her artist’s brush
into a palette of springtime colors.
These images emerge now, like old friends,
from a farm field many miles
and many years away.

~ Marjorie Pagel

“My favorite . . ., though," Tullis wrote, “is 'An Artist's Transformation.'
The idea of a mother and her three daughters in an old black and white family photograph being brought to life by the pastels of an artist from a later generation is simple and beautifully told. The springtime meadow is a perfect setting and I can almost smell the wildflowers.”

Pagel, herself, had this to say about her winning poem:
Although there are no personal pronouns used in this poem, my mother Vivian is one of the three girls seated in the grass as their mother (my Grandma Ella) assembles the bouquet. In my memory my grandmother was an austere woman, and I never would have imagined her sitting in a field of flowers, so I love to see this quiet side of her, as well as the relationship with three of her five daughters. She wasn't more than 30 years old when the photo was taken.

The original painting of this photograph has been copied in color (the wonders of modern technology!). It is framed and hangs on the wall overlooking my computer. When I thought about this month's challenge, I decided to attempt a word portrait which would capture some of the emotion I feel when I think about the original scene and the subsequent transformation by an artistic cousin.

Congratulations to the three winners, and thanks to Judith Tullis for judging the poems this month.

Copyright to the poems posted here remain with their authors.

Thank you to everyone who entered the January Challenge. Watch for the February Challenge, which will be posted soon.

© 2012 Wilda Morris

Sunday, January 1, 2012

January 2012 Poetry Challenge

Colors can inspire very interesting poems. In “That Vase of Lilacs,” in The Best of It: New and Selected Poems (NY: Grove Press, 2010), Kay Ryan tantalizes us with the immortality of purple. In Hailstones and Halibut Bones (Doubleday, 1990), her popular book of color poems for children, Mary O’Neill says purple is “sort of a great/Grandmother to pink.”

Purple was featured in a very different way in one of my poems, which was published in the Rockford Review (Winter 2005-2006).


Plum-purple truth drips blood
across pages of history,
across prairies and rivers and diaries.
Its fist slams into the sides
of mountains, bridges and breasts.
Its mouth devours all it desires:
dirt, deserts, and dresses.
Its boots battle, abuse,
kick against courage,
against compassion.
Where is the turquoise truth
which binds with soft scarves
not rough ropes, not scars,
the pastel pastiche of tender truth
that listens and loves?

~ Wilda Morris

Marge Piercy frequently makes use of color in her work. Perhaps that is why she entitled one of her books Colors Passing Through Us (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003). The title poem of the collection has a rich palette, with its various shades of purple, red, orange, yellow, green, blue and cobalt. It’s not just any yellow (for example), though, but “Yellow as a goat's wise and wicked eyes,” and the yellows of daffodils, dandelions, egg yolks, and more.

Another excellent and interesting poem with a broad palette recently won the free verse competition in the 18th Annual Illinois State Poetry Society Contest. In “Deluxe Box,” poet Kathy Cotton likens herself not to just one crayon but to the whole box of 125 colors.

Deluxe Box

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 here, Red as habanero; there—White as arctic ice.

Some believe I should defect from every hue but one,
become a single color’s citizen, wear its official seal.
But, no! 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.
I am male and female, flower and beast, bright light
and midnight. Come close, look inside. Watch me pull
from my chameleon stash a deluxe handful of myself

perfectly matched to you.

~ Kathy Cotton

You might also enjoy:
* "Theme in Yellow" by Carl Sandburg at
* "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost

The January, 2012, Poetry Challenge is to write a poem featuring a color – or colors. You may refer to paints or crayons, but that is not necessary. Your poem can be free verse or formal. If formal, please specify the form. The deadline is January 15. Poems submitted after the January 15 deadline will not be considered.

Copyright on poems is retained by their authors.

Due to formatting restrictions on the blog, all poems should be left justified. Unfortunately I am unable to publish indentations, shaped poems or even extra spaces between words or phrases.

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, you may submit it if you retain copyright, but 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]. Be sure provide your e-mail address. When you submit your poem, add a note indicating where you took poetic license with the facts of your life. The poem should be in first person, as if it actually happened to the speaker in the poem. 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.

© 2012 Wilda Morris