Monday, July 18, 2016

July Poetry Challenge Winners - Garden Poems

Photo by Lisa Morris

Judge Connie Walle says she looked for the “wow factor” as she read submissions for the July Poetry Challenge. And she found it. As third place, she selected a poem of six short lines per stanza, focused literally on the vegetable garden:

Zucchini Bread

Silver sky warns rain
Basket in hand
I rush to the garden
Red tomatoes
past their prime
glow amber

Thirsty leaves
cling to sleeves
Sticky fingers sort
twist, tug
until I’ve collected

Cucumbers long gone
allow dandelions
to dwell
in dried out pools
The garden is done
I say aloud

Always more zucchini
One long as my arm
hides among stems
strong as celery ribs
shreds to exactly
three cups

~ Barbara Toboni

For second place, Walle picked a somewhat less literal poem written in tercets, a poem that suggests that it is gardens, not fences, that make good neighbors.


is what we keep rereading into months,
decades, the unremembered squares of years
fenced between us, crabgrass, brown-edged lilacs;

is what we memorize like dog-eared almanacs,
or blandly hopeful seed packs
flattened in bottom drawers;

is what—across rusting shelves in backyard sheds—
become our snippets of care and compost,
stacked rectangles of warning. And yet,

we make good neighbors, two yards of well-
mowed yearning, tamed gardeners still coveting
each other’s most unruly seasons.

~ Marjorie Maddox

“History” was published in True, False, None of the Above © 2016.

The first place poem, in free verse, takes the prompt in a different direction. The poet draws on astrology as well as the garden, as she writes a memorial poem, a poem that hints at more than it tells.

Martha’s Solar Return In Her Last Saturn Cycle
for Martha Courtot 1942-2000

Here we are, vining into each other at the end of your 55 between sky and earth,
Weaponized reasons could have detained us at the border, kept us from this
party, this knowing, this sustaining of the will to
play, persist, presume to go out to the garden
yet again, in spite of joints and

bones protesting at the bending down, the carrying of water;
in spite of all inside that whimpers, “What’s the use? There’s bound to be too much sun or
rain, or if the seed should make its miracle of fruit
there’s bound to be a critter faster than myself, to steal it away.”
Look at our poems – see how we’ve chronicled the tooth marks left by
denizens of realms we never wanted to believe in
and don’t remember beckoning into our mulchy beds - yes, there’s reams
of evidence against the garden party.

Martha, I love you for your will, your
amendments to the soil, your tending of the
roots, the way you mark the seasons, the uninvited guests,
the starts that went to seed, the times you turned away, the volunteers, the
heirlooms harvested. I love you for your fierce face and for
all the times you turned around

~ Barbara Ruth

Congratulations to the winning poets. Remember that they own copyright to their poems, so please do not copy and distribute the poems without their consent. And thanks to Connie Walle for serving as the July judge.


Barbara Ruth says she is an old, arthritic, tree-loving, hypertensive, lesbian, epileptic, fibromyalgic Potowatomee, Ashkenazi Jewish, Welsh, chemically hypersensitive, neurodivergent daughter of Yemaya, spoonie, writer and photographer. She lives in San Jose, California USA in abundant poverty with one woman and one cat, both adorable. She is a repeat winner.
* * *
Sage Graduate Fellow of Cornell University (MFA) and Professor of English and Creative Writing at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania, Marjorie Maddox has published eleven collections of poetry—including True, False, None of the Above (Poiema Poetry Series); Local News from Someplace Else  (Wipf and Stock Transplant, Transport, Transubstantiation, (Yellowglen Prize); and Perpendicular As I (Sandstone Book Award)—the short story collection What She Was Saying (2017 Fomite), and over 450 stories, essays, and poems in journals and anthologies. Co-editor of Common Wealth: Contemporary Poets on Pennsylvania (Penn State Press), she also has published two children’s books with several forthcoming. For more information, please see
* * *
Barbara Toboni is a writer, blogger, and poet. Her work has appeared in literary journals, and anthologies including Cup of Comfort, Sisters Born, Sisters Found, and The Beat Goes On. She is the author of two chapbooks: Undertow, published in 2011, and Water Over Time, published in 2013. Her website is

Check back early next month for the August Poetry Challenge. You could be a winner!

© Wilda Morris

Friday, July 1, 2016

July Poetry Challenge

Photo by Lisa Morris

When we lived in Indiana, I had my first opportunity to do serious gardening. The previous owners had had a large garden of annual crops, a fact that made it easier for me. I planted lots of tomatoes, green beans, snow peas, watermelon, and other produce. I loved working outside, especially in the cool of the evening. Breezes and birdsong blessed me as I turned the soil, planted seeds, weeded and, eventually, harvested.

I had to start over when we moved to Illinois, gardening a much smaller plot that had not been gardened before. I decided to create a small herb garden outside the kitchen door. The herb garden was well-organized, until the year radiation therapy sapped my energy. I wrote this poem:

The Year the Herbs Went Wild

When breezes blew, sage and mint
shook seeds into the air.
They went wild, planting their offspring
in the daffodil patch, choking the mums,
filling the space between onions
and beans, leaping to the ground
beneath the gas grill.

Why did I allow this insurgency,
this rank attempt to take over
the garden? Perhaps because surgery
and radiation left me no energy
for coping with recalcitrance,
with over-abundance. Or perhaps
I couldn’t bear to be the surgeon
cutting into something so alive.

~ Wilda Morris

First published in SecondWind, #5 (Summer 2005).

My poem deals with gardening on a literal level, but seeks meaning beyond what happened to the garden itself. Bonnie Wehle was thinking more metaphorically when she wrote the following garden poem:


This is my season for gleaning,
for tending the orchard of denial,
memory, truth, lies.
Pulling weeds of hurt, anguish,
leaving blooms of glory, joy.
Sowing seeds of could-have-been
unable to germinate in a neglected plot.

Please, stop sending me postcards from reality,
I am too busy gardening to read them.

~ Bonnie Wehle

From Interiority by Bonnie Wehle (© 2013).

(Poems are the property of the poets. Do not reproduce them without permission).

The July Poetry Challenge

The July Poetry Challenge is to write a poem on the theme of gardening. It can be literally about gardening. Have the rabbits eaten more than their share of your lettuce? Do your children help in the garden? Do you have a special love for home-grown tomatoes? Do you lament that you can no longer garden as you once did? Do you have a plot in a community garden? Do you and your neighbors communicate across the fence as you work in your gardens? Or maybe you want to write about a formal garden you have visited in your town or elsewhere in the world.

On the other hand, as Wehle’s poem suggests, gardens and gardening are a rich source of metaphor and simile. What do those roses you grow represent to you? What is gardening like? Use your creativity as you focus in some way on gardening/gardens/the gardener/or the fruit, vegetables, or flowers grown in a garden.

Unless your poem is in a form traditionally not titled, such as haiku, it should be titled.

If your poem has been published you may submit it if you retain copyright, but please include publication data. This applies to poems published in books, journals, newspapers, or on the Internet. Note that this is a change in the rules.

The deadline is July 15. Poems submitted after the 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 should know by the end of the month whether or not your poem will be published on this blog. Decision of the judge or judges is final.

Copyright on each poem is retained by the poet. If a winning poem is published elsewhere later, please give credit to this blog.

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 (no pdf files, please). 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.

Bio: Bonnie Wehle began writing serious poetry somewhat late in life. She has self-published a book of her poems and has had her work published in Sandcutters Poetry Journal of the Arizona State Poetry Society and in a couple of online journals. She was an award winner in the Arizona State Poetry Society’s annual contest in 2015. Bonnie has participated poetry workshops at Poetry Week in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, U. S. Poets in Mexico in Oaxaca, and the Palm Beach Poetry Festival in Del Ray Beach, Florida, as well as at the University of Arizona Poetry Center in Tucson, Arizona, where she also serves as a docent.

© Wilda Morris

Photo by Lisa Morris