Friday, July 31, 2015

July Challenge Winner - An Advice Poem

The winning poem in the July Poetry Challenge uses a metaphor from soccer to advise a young poet. It is a fairly complex metaphor, but then soccer and the writing of poetry are complex, each in its own way. Here is the winning poem:

Advice to a Young Poet

You don’t have to love
but know it will be your
constant companion

whether your poems
hit readers with the shine
of new currency, or tarnish
the dank water of a well.

Fragile is not futile, but know
when writing is going well
it’s like striking a ball off your foot

perfectly placed to meet
the run a teammate’s
stretching towards the goal—
you feel it,
the vector,
the angle,
the speed
of the ball
in icy coordination
with the speed
of the runner, both
will meet at full go,
 and the ball will land
like a blessed dactyl
for the player’s foot to kiss
but then, 
along the way,
a random divot
catches the ball’s round rind and it all
skitters off to the side like a thought
interrupted, a scattering of words
at a random dog’s bark or the unbidden
memory of a lazy afternoon
and a sudden flash of thigh.
And the phrases tangle, the lines unword.
Deep breath. Again. Start over. Again.

~ Steve Werkmeister
Steve retains copyright on his poem.

I especially like the first stanza, which I think could stand alone as a complete poem, and the next to last line. Congratulations, Steve.

Steve Werkmeister is an Associate Professor of English at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. He teaches composition and literature courses, hangs out with his family, and, when he has time, writes poetry and fiction, even occasionally publishing some.

Linda Wallin, the judge for July, is a retired special ed teacher, speaks German, some sign, and some Spanish. At National-Louis University, she taught teachers how to use educational technology. She writes poetry when she is not quilting, tutors children and adults, and teaches Lego Robotics, Artbotics, and art quilts to gifted children. Linda is Vice-President of Poets and Patrons in Chicago.


Consider attending the Green Lake Christian Writers’ Conference in August. It is the conference that got me serious about writing poetry. And it is for writers of prose, too. Check out the link at The grounds are so beautiful it is almost impossible not to write poetry there. Everyone is kind and helpful. If you are looking for a conference to help you improve your writing, this may be the answer for you.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Some poems give advice—or even orders—to the reader. They contain a lot of imperatives—do this, don’t do that. These poems can be free verse or formal. Here are two old examples, both in the public domain.

Kindness to Animals
Speak gently to the herring and kindly to the calf,
Be blithesome with the bunny, at barnacles don’t laugh!
Give nuts unto the monkey, and buns unto the bear,
Ne’er hint at currant jelly if you chance to see a hare!
Oh, little girls, pray hide your combs when tortoises draw nigh,
And never in the hearing of a pigeon whisper Pie!
But give the stranded jelly-fish a shove into the sea,—
Be always kind to animals wherever you may be!

Oh, make not game of sparrows, nor faces at the ram,
And ne’er allude to mint sauce when calling on a lamb.
Don’t beard the thoughtful oyster, don’t dare the cod to crimp,
Don’t cheat the pike, or ever try to pot the playful shrimp.
Tread lightly on the turning worm, don’t bruise the butterfly,
Don’t ridicule the wry-neck, nor sneer at salmon-fry;
Oh, ne’er delight to make dogs fight, nor bantams disagree,—
Be always kind to animals wherever you may be!

Be lenient with lobsters, and ever kind to crabs,
And be not disrespectful to cuttle-fish or dabs;
Chase not the Cochin-China, chaff not the ox obese,
And babble not of feather-beds in company with geese.
Be tender with the tadpole, and let the limpet thrive,
Be merciful to mussels, don’t skin your eels alive;
When talking to a turtle don’t mention calipee—
Be always kind to animals wherever you may be. 

~ Joseph Ashby-Sterry

Don't Take Your Troubles to Bed

You may labor your fill, friend of mine, if you will;
    You may worry a bit, if you must;
You may treat your affairs as a series of cares,
    You may live on a scrap and a crust;
But when the day’s done, put it out of your head;
Don’t take your troubles to bed.

You may batter your way through the thick of the fray,
    You may sweat, you may swear, you may grunt;
You may be a jack-fool if you must, but this rule
    Should ever be kept at the front: —
Don’t fight with your pillow, but lay down your head
And kick every worriment out of the bed.

That friend or that foe (which he is, I don’t know),
    Whose name we have spoken as Death,
Hovers close to your side, while you run or you ride,
    And he envies the warmth of your breath;
But he turns him away, with a shake of his head,
When he finds that you don’t take your troubles to bed

~ Edmund Vance Cooke

Other Advise Poems

Here are a few other advise poems you can read on-line:

Kent M. Keith, “The Paradoxical Commandments,”

Sarah Teasdale, “Advice to a Girl,”

e. e. cummings, “A Poet’s Advice to Students,”

Louise Erdrich  “Advice to Myself,”

The July Poetry Challenge: an Advice Poem

The Challenge for July is to write an advice poem. Tell the reader what to do or not do. The poem could be advice to everyone, or it could be advice to a child, a student, a dancer, a preacher—or any specific individual or group to whom you want to address it. It could even be addressed to your pet, or to the deer who has been munching your lilies.

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 rewards; however winners are published on this blog. Please don’t stray too far from “family-friendly” language. No simultaneous submissions, please. You will know before the month is over whether or not your poem will be published on this blog. Your poem may be free or formal verse. If you use a form, please specify the form when you submit.

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 40 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