Sunday, December 27, 2015

December 2015 - The Winning Bell Poem

The judge for the December Poetry Challenge, Jim Lambert, said “What a great subject to use as a prompt. Bells can be sad, tolling the dead, and ecstatic, tolling in the New Year, the new marriage, the new life.” He added that the winning poem by Steve Klepetar “captures that interesting dichotomy.”

Here is that poem: 


Bells over the wide bay, a call on waves
for boats longing in the river’s mouth,
for glass-green shadows when tide ebbs.

Bells calling me to water’s edge, where
my journey begins with a day of waiting and rain.
Bells along cliffs with swirling birds. My mother’s

bells rung for the last time, her tiny voice
scraping against sand. My father’s bells
with their chests of brass and their fists gripping

frequencies, those braided ropes of sound.
How fine to hear bells on a day ground
into powdery blue, a day of compounds and magic

and flood. Oh bells, calling me home, calling
me to mud and frogs. How sound gathers and swells,
filling me with your tongue, or a meal from your hands.

~ Steve Klepetar

Congratulations to Steve. Remember he owns this poem, so please do not copy and distribute it without his concent.

Thank you to everyone who entered the December Poetry Challenge. I enjoyed reading all the poems after I sent them – without names – to the judge.


Steve Klepetar’s work has appeared widely, and several of his poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Recent collections include My Son Writes a Report on the Warsaw Ghetto (Flutter Press) and Return of the Bride of Frankenstein (Kind of a Hurricane Press).

Jim Lambert is retired and lives in Southern Illinois with his wife of 50 years and two desert tortoises. He is vice president of the Illinois State Poetry Society and past president of the Southern Illinois Writers Guild.

Come back to this website early next month to see the January Poetry Challenge. Happy New Year, everyone, and keep reading and writing poetry.

© 2015

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December 2015 Challenge - A Poem about Bells

The Bell on the Torre del Moro
This bell was cast in 1313 and still rings out the hour
in Orvieto, Umbria, Italy.
If you climb to the top, you get a wonderful view of Orvieto.
Photo © Wilda Morris

Bells are featured in many poems, including this poem from the time of the U.S. Civil War:

Christmas Bells

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
    And wild and sweet
    The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
    Had rolled along
    The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
    A voice, a chime,
    A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
    And with the sound
    The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
    And made forlorn
    The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth," I said;
    “For hate is strong,
    And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
    The Wrong shall fail,
    The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Some verses of this poem are often sung as a Christmas carol. It was a surprise to me the first time I read the poem and found the reference to the guns of war drowning out the bells' message of peace. I knew that Longfellow had been alive during the US Civil War, but had not realized there was a connection between the lovely carol we sang and that devastating conflict. Yet despite the ongoing destruction of lives and property, Longfellow found hope in the message the Christmas bells.

Two other bell poems may be even more well-known. They are “The Bells,” by Edgar Allan Poe, which you can read at on-line (The repetition, which is so appropriate, makes it a challenge for those who read it aloud. I am especially fond of the word “tintinnabulation,”); and  Ring Out Wild Bells,” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, which can also be read on-line.

The Challenge

As you have already guessed, the challenge for December is to write and submit a poem about a bell or bells.

There are many kinds of bells – church and temple bells, school bells, the Liberty Bell, the Great Bell of Dhammazedi, wedding bells, bells rung by Salvation Army volunteers collecting money during the Christmas shopping season in the U.S., cow bells, hand bells (rung by musicians), hand-crafted bells made by children (or adults), sleigh bells, decorative bells that don’t actually ring (such as those painted gold for my grandparents' golden wedding anniversary and later hung at the back of the sanctuary for my wedding) – these are just a few. For purposes of this challenge, we will exclude barbells and dumbbells, which are not bells in the same sense as those listed above.

Your poem may deal with a specific bell, or with bells more generally. It may reflect on a specific experience of yours, or it could relate to a historical or civic event in which a bell or bells played a part. Use your imagination and creativity. Your poem may be formal verse (as are the sample poems this month) or free verse. If you use a form. please specify the form. Unless your poem is haiku, it should be titled.

Poems already published in books, or published 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. Only one poem per poet, please.

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 too far from “family-friendly” language. No simultaneous submissions, please. You will know by the end of the month 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. Decision of the judge or judges is final.

Copyright on each poem is retained by the poet.

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