Wednesday, December 31, 2014

January 2015 Poetry Challenge

C. J. Laity, editor of CRAM invited poems on the subject of writing poetry for issue 11. Below are three poems from that journal, each with a different take on the subject. Marilyn Peretti objected to the sometimes arbitrary rules imposed by teachers of poetry and members of critique groups. Pamela Larson reacted to rejections that poets so often receive, expressing her thoughts in a villanelle. Michelle Brinckerhoff wrote with tongue in cheek about "the dangers of dating a poet."

Poetry Mistakes?

To the writer who says
we poets must not use that,
I say that it is perfectly acceptable,
for that which is written in my poems
is all that one could want.

And to the poetry counselor
who advises that we must not
repeat words, I write and write
to find a way to tell her that here
is the way one can do that,
here is the freedom plane of
line breaks and stanzas where
truth inevitably belies arbitrary rules.

The muse is a sprite, a mischief-
maker who jumps to conclusions and
leaps to tipsy ideas, leaving the novel
in the dust, plants prepositions at
line-ends, hones the skills of delicious art
never to return again, inspiring then
hiding, to escape the harsh tongue of
the anti-muse.

~ Marilyn Peretti

The Poet’s Hell
(Via Villanelle)

Thank you for sending us your poetry
These words I always receive when they write
a rejection, worded so politely.

Send us your poems, three or four, they plead.
I run to the box to mail them that night.
Thank you for sending us your poetry.

For months at a time I wait patiently
for letters that read, ‘It wasn’t quite right”—
a rejection, worded so politely.

But On I will go with persistency
emailing attachments through cyber flight.
Thank you for sending us your poetry.

Someday I will win, so says history,
but meanwhile I suffer the poet’s plight—
a rejection, worded so politely.

My duty: submit with consistency,
even though this just seems to invite
Thank you for sending us your poetry—
a rejection, worded so politely.

~ Pamela Larson

Dangers of Dating a Poet

One day it might end.
You realize you are not paranoid—
a writer does not recognize the profane.
Every fight or tender moment between you might now
be immortalized in a poem you have
not given your consent to.
You could be reading something by
your now ex-lover and realize she
is holding you up too closely to the light.
Your personality is a persona and you
are trapped on the page. There is no voice
of rebuttal (unless you are a poet yourself
and you don’t need this poem to know what
you signed on for in the beginning.)

But if your ex-lover once swore off poetry—
don’t believe her. She will always return to it.
It is in her blood.
A necessary exorcism to express
what she’s eaten. Intimate moments are
never declared too difficult to digest.

~ Michelle Brinckerhoff

Poets whose poems are published on this blog retain copyright on their work. Do not copy and distribute the poems without permission of the authorsl

Write a poem about writing poetry or being a poet. Your poem can be free verse or formal. If you use a form, please specify what form you are using.

Submit only one poem. Poems published on the Internet are not eligible. Poems in print journals or books are eligible, if you hold the copyright and include publication data.  Submission of a poem gives permission for the poem to be published on this blog if it is a winner.

Please left-justify your poem and put your name at the bottom. Send a short bio with the poem so it can be posted if your poem wins. Submit your poem to wildamorris [at] ameritech [dot] net by January 15, 2015. Poems received after that date will not be considered.

CRAM has been replaced by a fine new publication, edited by C. J. Laity,  The Journal of Modern Poetry. You can read about this journal and how to submit your work at

Blog copyright by Wilda Morris

Friday, December 26, 2014

December Poetry Challenge Winners

The December Poetry Challenge was to write a poem about the passing of the old year and/or the arrival of the new year; a poem about the defining events of the year that is almost over; or a poem that express your hopes, dreams or plans for the coming year. It could be a prayer, an ode or a lament, in free or formal verse. The judge for this month was Barbara Eaton who, for the last ten years, has served as contest chair for Poets & Patrons of Chicago.

Third place was won by a sports-related poem:

The Big “O”

Her faithful participation in “Girls on the Run”
gave this fifth-grader the experience and steam
that the coach found valuable during tryouts
for a girls’ basketball team.

“Basketball is more than shooting the basket,” said the coach,
“but that’s a skill you can develop.”
Dribbling, passing, evading, eyes all around,
faking, and planning a move, too, are tops.

Way back in time, when grandma played basketball
in 7th and 8th grades, she too had some skills,
but only on half-court, per the stringent rules.
If players went over mid-line, the whistle was shrill.

On one end of the court, her job was to guard.
On the other, her job was to shoot.
Adept at guarding the forwards, she also
guarded the guards when on the other side. Ooops!

The Oakdale team became city-wide champs and she got her prized “O”, 
entered high school, but girls couldn’t play
because teams were only for boys who needed
what sports provided for their dossiers.

When Title IX became law,
girls got to play the school sports, but they were rarities.
It took quite a while for them to have gear, lockers, coaches
and time on the playing fields to approach parity.

Then in 2014 young Mo’ne Davis, who “threw like a girl”, had the gall
to earn a no-hitter in the national finals of Little League baseball.

~ Jeanne Gerritsen

Jeanne Gerritsen was a life-long resident of Michigan except when she traveled to Mexico, Canada, England, Zimbabwe, Ukraine, Moscow and Uzbekistan for many weeks at a time to study, teach, observe and photograph. She moved in 2012 to Chicago to be near her daughter and family when she retired--again. She is a relative new-comer to writing poetry, having written news articles, speeches, brochures, advertising, film, most of her adult life. She is a recipient of several professional awards.

The second place poem came at the prompt from a very different perspective:

Date Inconsequential: New Year

This calendar is blank. What does it mean?
The numbers lie below. They spell whatever.
I choose a square to designate the now. 
I want to name it number twenty-five.
The number matters not. What really counts
Is you and I together, and it’s now.
On April first a turkey salad means
Thanksgiving, conjuring up good things,
And June the twenty-first produces toys
From Santa.  And so who can tell?
The greatest joy of all may rise within
On January first or second when,
Through snow, we hear the other’s voice
And offer gift of listening heart to heart.
With you and me, the date’s not on a chart.

~ Julia Rice

Julia Rice admired the biography of Louis V. Clark III, spoken at a conference of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets.  He interspersed his story with his poems.  She thinks that might work for her, whose poems have appeared in WFOP Museletters and 2014 and 2015 Calendars, Songs of St. Francis, Echolocations:Poets Map Madison, Goose River Anthology 2013, Alive Now, Soundings Review, Stoneboat, and on the Internet in Wilda Morris’ Poetry Challenge. It might even be more interesting than the computer newsletter she edits: WAUCtalk.

The first place winner focused on the Winter Solstice. Here is the winning poem:

Winter Solstice

The herb garden has been cut back: rosemary, thyme,
sage, and oregano. All the strawberry plants huddle
beneath burlap cloth like coddled babies. The pear
tree still holds a few brown leaves.

My breath mists like steam from a whistling kettle
as I stand on the back porch in a winter coat. You
wander into the kitchen in your flip flops and call
out to me to join you.

I can smell the pungent scent of the upside down
bells of Ireland that hang from the kitchen ceiling.
Dried and blanched stalks hide their tiny flowers
in each beige calyx.

I begin to wipe one beaded windowpane clean
so you can see it, this new world outside, dusted
with snow.

~ Jenene Ravesloot

Jenene Ravesloot is a member of the Poets’ Club of Chicago, Poets and Patrons of Chicago, The Illinois State Poetry Society and Virtual Arts Collective. Her poetry has been published in many journals online and in print. Jenene Ravesloot has published three books of poetry and regularly runs writing workshops at Chicago venues.

Congratulations to the three winners. They retain copyright to their poems. Please do not reproduce them without permission.

Check this blog again on January 1 for a new poetry challenge.

© Wilda Morris

Monday, December 1, 2014

December 2014 Poetry Challenge

December has slipped in the door, a reminder that the year 2014 is coming to an end. One way to celebrate New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day is to write a poem. Ella Wheeler Wilcox, who died in 1919, was a popular poet in her day and for many years thereafter, but she was not a literary poet. Her New Year’s poem is not, in my judgment, great poetry. What do you think?

The Year

What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That's not been said a thousand times?

The new years come, the old years go,
We know we dream, we dream we know.

We rise up laughing with the light,
We lie down weeping with the night.

We hug the world until it stings,
We curse it then and sigh for wings.

We live, we love, we woo, we wed,
We wreathe our prides, we sheet our dead.

We laugh, we weep, we hope, we fear,
And that's the burden of a year.

~ Ella Wheeler Wilcox

So maybe Wilcox it’s not a great poem. But it provides the December challenge. Was Wilcox right in suggesting that whatever can be said in New Year poems has already been said a thousand times? Can you think of something new to say? Or, if not, can you find a new and more creative way to saw it?

The December Challenge:
Write a poem about the passing of the old year and/or the arrival of the new year, a poem about the defining events of the year that is almost over. Or maybe your poem will express your hopes, dreams or plans for the coming year. It could be a prayer, an ode or a lament. You can use free or formal verse (if you use a form, please identify the form in your email).

Submit only one poem. The deadline is December 15. Poems submitted after the December 15 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 far from “family-friendly” language.

Copyright on each poem is retained by the poet.

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 print periodical, you may submit it if you retain copyright, but please include publication data.

How to Submit Your Poem:

Send one poem only to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”) . Include a brief bio which can be printed with your poem, if you are a winner this month.

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. 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 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 30 lines are generally preferred. Also, if lines are too long, they don’t fit in the blog format and have to be split, so you might be wise to use shorter lines.

© Wilda Morris

Thursday, November 27, 2014

November Poetry Challenge Winners

The November Poetry Challenge elicited a number of interesting poems. Congratulations to all who entered for their creativity. And a special congratulations to the four winners.

The judge for the November Poetry Challenge was Maureen Tolman Flannery. She gave an honorable mention to Sheila Elliot for her prose poem.


For a change, I thought I'd go east down that old road with a saint's name, so white-knuckled, I watched beams of light ice the top flanks of a dozen octagonal signs.  Night approaching.  Wipers snapping like mean little whips against the windshield's elusive steaming. For this change, I paid a price, watched the fading light descend into the blackest grey.

Change is not cheap.  It rattles in pockets like something about to break. It somersaults its way into the beggar's cup or echoes with the sound of a flat note as it lands in the open shell of the street musician's open guitar case.  "Keep the change," I tell the waiter, so noblesse oblige.  I keep those old school coins cold as the sacramental medals that once dangled beneath my ironed uniform blouse, though change does not always warm the heart.  Change can still bring you back to start, to home where slippers replace shoes and spare change is tossed into an old can and takes its place discreetly in that illusionary wealth.

~ Sheila Elliott

Third place goes to a poem the judge says is thoughtful and captures a memorable moment. It is by
Mary Cohutt.


Grandma, I’m so in love with this toy….
You can’t fall in love with things…… I said with my grown up tone
And then I saw
His lashes fall to cheek
His chin fall to chest
His toy fall from hand
I felt my 60 year guard fall……. and remembered myself
…and thought of …
A falling star wish and hopes for tomorrow
The long fall from Grace and sweetness of redemption
Cool water as it falls over moss covered rocks
The liquid gold fall of late day light
The happy foot crunch of yellowed fall leaves
Falling asleep on a sun scented pillow
…and I could feel my heart fall in love with this life….
I fell to my knees and lifted his chin
Cajoled his fallen lashes ‘till blue met blue
And I let three simple words fall from my lips
I was wrong

~ Mary Cohutt

The judge said the second place poem by Eileen Kimbrough was very clever. She liked the “on-target word play,”

Just Write Right

Will you have the right to write a will,
and the will to be right
when you write your will?

Will you do the right thing
within your rights?

Will you write about
your right to write your will?

This rite of passage falls right when
all that’s left is to write a will.

Just step to the right of must
and trust your guts,
no windy gust of musts.

I trust you’ll write
your will and your trust,
not too far to the left.

It’s right that it’s your right.
Just be sure it’s just.

And make it just right.
Write just. Write right. Just write.

~ Eileen Kimbrough

The  judge said that Lindsey Bellosa's poem, “Solace” the first place poem, “is a very moving poem, not at all bogged down by the desire to re-use or overuse a word.” I think you will agree.


Snowflakes, small and sharp as tears, float into the lake
as each small pain sharpens into future—

the sky has been pregnant with snow for days. 
I have bled for five days, less pregnant each one.

The leaves shed on the ground, so vibrant,
as I shed color too: exposed; becoming barren

as each stark tree.  Winter bares down with gray.
The sun gleams dimly on the lake, and the earth

and God turn dimly away from the situation.
Your soul, whatever it was, melts

and becomes only me. The snowflakes melt
into the lake; leaves disappear under blank snow.

There will be another like you; there will be new leaves
in spring.  But you vanish, as this season vanishes—

all like a dream, as summer seems a dream
in the dead of winter.

The snowflakes still catch the light
and I catch each sharp breath

glittering.  Life goes on, coldly,
and there is solace in that.

~ Lindsey Bellosa

All of these poems remain the property of the poets who wrote them.


Lindsey Bellosa lives in Syracuse, NY.  She has an MA in Writing from the National University of Ireland, Galway and has poems published in both Irish and American journals: most recently The Comstock Review, The Galway Review, IthacaLit, Crannog, and The MOON Magazine.  Her first chapbook, The Hunger, was published with Willet Press in 2014.

Mary Cohutt is a Leasing Consultant in Western Massachusetts. She also has a small business called "The Good Daughter" in which she takes care of household paperwork/business for the elderly. She has two children and two grandchildren. In addition to writing, she enjoys gardening and reading.

Sheila Elliott's poetry can be found in the Illinois Women's Press Association's 2014 anthology of prose and poetry.  She is a regular contributor at Oak Park (IL) Writer's Group events, including their annual public reading in November.  Her poetry and prose can be found in their anthology, Keystrokes

Eileen Kimbrough is a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has produced visual arts in many media and exhibited in art galleries, museums, colleges, and gift shops throughout Illinois. She has been employed as a graphic designer, editorial and fashion illustrator, receptionist, bookkeeper and salesperson.  Eileen has sold many copies of her self-published poetry book, Painting with Words, and contributed the poems and art for Wings for the Soul, published by a non-profit. Her stories and poems were published in Rivulets. She lives in Aurora with her husband, Bob Walker, innumerable books and artistic clutter.

A bio for Maureen Tolman Flannery can be found in the previous post.

Check back early in December for the next Poetry Challenge.

© Wilda Morris