Monday, July 28, 2014

July 2014 Poetry Challenge Winners: That Special Place


Patrick Dunn, the judge for the July poetry challenge, is an associate professor of English at Aurora University, where he teaches linguistics, stylistics, and creative writing.  He is the author of three books on esoteric spirituality and a book of poetry, Second Person.  His poetry has appeared in Fifth Wednesday, Poetry Sky, and Edgz.  His work has been translated into several languages, including Czech, Russian, and Chinese.  His poetry has won the NWG Founders Prize, and his second book won the COVR award. He selected first, second and third place poems. We’ll begin with the first place poem:

Illinois Fragment

one April Sunday
we hiked a mile
over fences and
across a fallow field

splashed  through
a pebbled brook
to a spot you’d found
while hunting

your old lab
ran in zigzags
through the woods
bewitched by spring

deep inside
an old woodlot
a pool of bluebells
in a hollow curve

a quiet cup of ocean
a scrap of fallen sky
so blue even the air
above was blue

a place so still
we felt the bluebells
bend and blow
inside us.

~ Joan Peronto

Professor Dunn's comments:  "Illinois Fragment" stands in the tradition of American Imagism without being an imitation of it.  There's a lot to enjoy in this poem, and it's the sort of poem that I need to read over and over.  There's a sense of love, companionship, in that ‘we’" but then why is the speaker speaking?  There's a wistfulness, as if the persona is reminding another of a happier time.  In the second half of the poem, the bluebells take over, as they've taken over the hollow, to the point where they even color the air itself.  We're reminded of the past, and then moved back to dwell in it and see this special place from the eyes of the persona and the person to whom he or she speaks.  And then, surprisingly, our point of view is pushed even farther, and instead of seeing the bluebells we experience becoming them as the persona did when she first saw them.  There's a lot going on in this seemingly simple poem, which makes it a deep and engaging read.  Thank you for the opportunity to enjoy it.”

Dresbach Rest Area

It’s called a thin spot—
where I sit beneath
a blue washed sky
beside the Mississippi
and feel the power of God
through the warm sunshine
caressing my back
and the blades of grass
running between my fingers.

The ebb and flow of small town life
meanders through the lock and damn
releasing fishermen in to the hope
of a better catch on the other side
and I watch her beauty
and remember the cautions
of her deadly current
that spins water snakes
around beaches
that have no lifeguards.

She cuts through
two states here
and spits Eagles into the wind
soaring like guardian angels
here, over my thin spot,
perhaps protecting God
from the sight of empty Coke cans
and cigarette butts.
~ Pamela Larson

The judge’s comments on the second place poem:  "’Dresbach Rest Area’ deftly paints a picture of the Mississippi as we Midwesterners know her.  I was particularly struck by the triple juxtaposition of dangerous but beautiful nature, the corruption and detritus of humanity, and the silent gaze of the divine.”

Remembering Puck

Grandma’d placed the bench at orchard’s edge
behind the big farmhouse,
pungent apples fallen at my feet
heady liqueur for the sucking bees.

There sat I, deep into July,
With A Midsummer Night’s Dream 
in my lap. Virginal at sweet sixteen,
Shakespeare’s magic belonged to me.
Mine, too, Grammy’s garden on that glowing, sweet,
summer night. Greater my 
wish for puckish pranks, and reading more 
into the five acts: my high delight.

~ Carole Mertz

About this, the third-place poem, Professor Dunn wrote:  “Having spent time myself as a teenager reading out in the woods (although, for me, it was Keats), I really enjoyed ‘Remembering Puck.’  I thought it worked well, engaging the senses and creating a firm image of the bench, the orchard, and the growing fascinating with literature and nature in a young mind.”

Congratulations to the three winners! The winning poems are property of the poets who wrote them. Please do not reproduce them without their consent.

A new challenge will be posted on August 1, and the winner of the January challenge, which was extended, will be announced soon thereafter.

About the Winners:

Joan Peronto lives and writes poetry in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts. She is a transplanted mid-westerner, having spent the first 22 years life in Central Illinois . She is a graduate from the U. of Wisconsin , Madison in history and science. Joan worked in the reference department of the Berkshire Athenaeum for 34 years and, with her husband, raised seven children, now educated and thrust upon the world.

Her  poetry has appeared in Crossing Paths, an anthology of Western New England poets, The Berkshire Review, The Berkshire Sampler, Hummingbird, The P.E.O.Record
and The Rockford Review.  Her children’s poetry has appeared in Ladybug and Spider.

Pamela Larson lives in Arlington Heights, IL. Pam has been published in the Daily Herald, Karitos, Cram Poetry Series, Journal of Modern Poetry, bottle rockets haiku journal and on and She has won many awards from Highland Park Poetry and a Pushcart Prize Nomination from

Carole Mertz studied in Salzburg, Austria and received her Mus. B from Oberlin College. She began writing poetry in 2008. Her work is published in Mature Years, With Painted Word, The Copperfield Review, Conium Review, Rockford Review, at Tiny Lights, Page & Spine, and at The Write Place at the Write Time. Her chapter on tips for writers is included in Writing After Retirement: Tips by Successful Retired Writers, Smallwood and Redman-Waldeyer, Eds. (Scarecrow Press) forthcoming 2014. 


© Wilda Morris

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

July 2014 Poetry Challenge

"My Creek" - Ralston Creek in Iowa City, Iowa, on June 28, 2014 - with the water higher and muddier than it usually was when I was growing up nearby.

My Brook

Earth holds no sweeter secret anywhere
Than this my brook, that lisps along the green
Of mossy channels, where slim birch trees lean
Like tall pale ladies, whose delicious hair,
Lures and invites the kiss of wanton air.
The smooth soft grasses, delicate between
The rougher stalks, by waifs alone are seen,
Shy things that live in sweet seclusion there.

And is it still the same, and do the eyes
Of every silver ripple meet the trees
That bend above like guarding emerald skies?
I turn, who read the city’s beggared book,
And hear across the moan of many seas
The whisper and the laughter of my brook.

~ Helen Hay Whitney

From Some Verses (1898).

Whitney writes of “my brook.” It is a piece of nature she claims for herself because it means a lot to her. She does it using exquisite language, simile, and imagination. The brook “lisps along” in its “mossy channels.” The birch are likened to tall ladies whose hair “lures and invites” a kiss—from “wanton air.” Only “waifs” see the delicate grasses.

When I read this poem recently, it reminded me of Ralston Creek, which ran between the home in which I grew up and the elementary school I attended. It was “my creek,” but my poem doesn’t have as happy an ending as does Whitney's poem.

My Creek

Stay out of the creek,
Mother warned again
and again. You might
get polio. You might
fall and split your head
on a rock. What she meant
was You might drown
like your cousin Junior.
But in summer the water
ran cool and rainbows
glittered between
narrow banks. Each
winter, the surface froze
a white short-cut winding
through the neighborhood,
an Arctic adventure waiting
after school each day,
till a neighbor called
to tell Mother, I saw
your daughter in the creek
this afternoon.

~ Wilda Morris

This poem was first published in Rockford Review.

The challenge for July is to claim your piece of the world. Maybe it is a piece of nature—a brook, a field, a woodland, a rock you sat on—but town or city (or city block), your farm, or your community. It might be the softball field where you have played ball for years. For purposes of this challenge, however, NO poems about buildings—your home, school, place of worship or other building, now or in childhood, or about a room in a house or other building. NO poems about your office or workplace. Whatever you pick, you must describe it as yours. Your poem may be free or formal verse. If you submit a formal verse, please specify the form used.

Submit only one poem. The deadline is July 15. Poems submitted after the July 15 deadline will not be considered. There is no charge to enter, so there are no monetary awards; however winners are published on this blog.

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 you 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 one poem only to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”). Be sure to provide your e-mail address. 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, and 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.

© Wilda Morris