Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September 2014 - Winning List Poems


Photo Credit: Karin Addis

Wisconsin poet Janet Leahy picked the winners of the September challenge – a list poem. The first place poem is “Cats” by Jenene Ravesloot.
A feral female cat with bulging pregnant sides,
an old grey tomcat with one torn ear and damaged
voice box that leaves him miming his meows at 6 a.m.,
a tortoiseshell tabby cat with crusted eyelids and runny
nose whose skinny neck still carries a pink leather collar
and the memory of some long ago mistress, a long-haired
once-white odd-eyed Persian cat with matted fur and broken
tail, a striped ginger-colored kitten that balances on
                                                                          the clothesline
and hisses at you before hitting the ground hard and dashing
for the white porcelain soup bowls of milk and dunked pieces
of bread you’ve put out, while your mother stands in the kitchen
behind the Irish lace curtains because she’s afraid of cats
and thinks they’re sneaky.             
You begged and begged to feed these strays every morning
until your mother relented. Then you poured fresh milk into
the soup bowls, your grandmother’s best, and placed them on
the backyard stoop. You loved to watch the cats eat their
as greedily as you would soon eat yours. You loved their white
whiskers and chins dripping with milk, how they neatened
themselves, just like good children. 
~ Jenene Ravesloot 
Janet Leahy’s comments:  Cats of every stripe in this poem—details paint a picture of each one.  Love the story of the poet putting milk in her grandmother’s best white porcelain soup bowls, as her mother stands in the kitchen behind Irish lace curtains. A wonderful memory piece.

Second place goes to “Summer Green” by Peggy Trojan. 
Summer Green           
I relish the green riot of summer. 
Everyman’s greens—
Miles of corn stalks,
tree shaded roads,
hayfields everywhere anxious for mowing.
Black green of spruce with
cones growing seeds.
Shuddering aspens in wind.
Dependable maples,
delicate tamaracks, ferns in shadows,
and grass, of course. 
My garden greens—
Bright asparagus poking through mulch,
dark shiny cucumbers, chard, beans,
peas, spinach and feathery carrots.
Bold fans of rhubarb, whispy dill,
rough potato bushes,
and nameless weeds. 
Special greens—
pale hairless caterpillar,
inch big tree frog.
Iridescence of dragonfly wing,
emerald whir of hummingbird,
four leaf clovers, and frogs by the creek.
Rare visit of wondrous Luna,
and your eyes, inviting mischief,
above your Margarita. 
~ Peggy Trojan 
Janet Leahy’s comments on this poem: The list of summer greens in this poem is fanciful, the language precise and engaging:  hayfields anxious for mowing. Every line works to build the poem. The turn in the last line is a delight, a clever fun ending, the surprise here is well done!

Information about the winners and the September Judge:

Jenene Ravesloot is a member of the Poets’ Club of Chicago, Poets & Patrons, 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.

Peggy Trojan enjoys life in the north Wisconsin woods where she lives next to a trout stream. Although she had written occasionally throughout her life, she did not submit her poems for publication until she was seventy-seven.  Published in a wide variety of journals and anthologies:  Boston Literary Magazine, Naugatuck River Review, EchoesDust and Fire, Talking Stick, and to her delight, many others. 
Janet Leahy is well-known and admired among Wisconsin poets. She is a member of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets, she has two collections of poetry, The Storm, Poems of War, Iraq and Not My Mother’s Classroom.  Her poems have been published in print and online journals including The Wisconsin Poets' Calendar, Wisconsin People and Ideas, Fox Cry Review, and Verse Wisconsin.  Her work also appears on the web sites such as Your Daily Poem and New Verse News. She has been a featured poetry reader at venues in Wisconsin and Chicago. 
The poets retain copyright on their own poems. 
Check back soon for the October Poetry Challenge.
© Wilda Morris

Monday, September 1, 2014

September 2014 Poetry Challenge - a list poem

Dappled Things

A “list poem” (sometimes called a “catalogue poem”) may be composed of only items in a cleverly designed list, or a list may constitute an important segment of a poem, but not be the entire poem.

List poems date back almost to the beginning of poetry.  Lists are common in the Psalms in the Bible. Look for instance at Psalm 15. The psalm begins with the question of who will abide in the tabernacle and dwell on God’s holy hill. The poet then proceeds to list the characteristics of such a person—one who walks uprightly, does righteous works, speaks the truth, and so on.

Another list poem expressing faith is “Pied Beauty” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, an English poet and Jesuit priest.

Pied Beauty

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.

Hopkins’ list of reasons for praise s quite interesting. When calling the reader to praise God, why has he picked out “dappled things” for special attention? Why does he move from such objects of the natural world as trout and finches’ wings, and then agricultural land (“Landscape plotted and pieced”) and even include the trades in which human beings participate, and the gear that goes with them, as works of God?

List poems may be about any subject.  In the fourth chapter of the Song of Solomon in the Bible, the narrator describes the lover (Song of Solomon 4:1-5, KJV).

Behold, thou art fair, my love; behold, thou art fair;
thou hast doves' eyes within thy locks:
thy hair is as a flock of goats,
that appear from mount Gilead.
Thy teeth are like a flock of sheep that are even shorn,
which came up from the washing;
whereof every one bear twins,
and none is barren among them.
Thy lips are like a thread of scarlet,
and thy speech is comely:
thy temples are like a piece of a pomegranate within thy locks.
Thy neck is like the tower of David builded for an armoury,
whereon there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of mighty men.
Thy two breasts are like two young roes that are twins,
which feed among the lilies.
This description would not seem very flattering to a modern American woman! It does seem to have been a model for some English-language poets.  William Shakespeare wrote a humorous list poem, poking fun at classical poems describing a poet’s lover:

Sonnet 130

My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damasked, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress when she walks treads on the ground.
     And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
     As any she belied with false compare.

In her Sonnets from the Portuguese, Elizabeth Barrett Browning used the list approach to express her love in Sonnet 43:

Sonnet 43

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Here are links to a few list poems on the Internet:

*Walt Whitman, “I Hear America Singing,” http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/175779.
*Robert Herrick, “The Argument of His Book,” http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/176694.
*Rebecca Lindenbert, “Catalogue of Ephemera,” http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/243892.
*Serina Matteson, “Morning Sounds All Around,” http://templepoetry.blogspot.com/2009/02/catalog-poem-example.html.

September Poetry Challenge

The September poetry challenge is to write a list poem. The poem doesn’t have to be composed only of a list, but a list has to play a very significant role in the poem. Your poem may be free verse or a form, rhymed or unrhymed. If you use a form, specify the form when you submit it. The list should be constructed with intentionality, so that it is poetic, not just a haphazard list. Virtually any topic (no pornography or objectionable language, however).

Submit only one poem. The deadline is September 15. Poems submitted after the September 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 use “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 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 (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