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