Wednesday, May 24, 2017

May 2017 Poetry Challenge Winners

Marion and Alberto, 1942 immigrants to Rio de Janerio, Brazil (Grandparents of Alessandra Salisbury)

Thanks to Marjorie Rissman, whose poem was used as an example, for selecting the winners of the May poetry challenge.

Congratulations to the three winners. First place was awarded to Joan Leotta, who reflects on recent news stories of refuges:

Boats on Blue

Bodies and souls from
distraught lands shell out
thirty pieces of silver
to ride the waves to freedom.
Finding too late
that they have
paid the price of their
own betrayal,
overfilled, leaky craft
capsize, spilling warm blooded
cargo into cold blue seas

Souls float above
Broken bodies float below.
Some, still alive grab onto bits
and pieces of their dream
long enough for
those few who care to
to reach them, pull them out,
But it is not well.
No, it is not well for their souls
nor for ours.

~ Joan Leotta

This poem was first published in 2017 by Writing for Peace in the Anthology, Dove Tales. Used by permission of the author.

Second Place goes to Alessandra Salisbury, who writes about her grandparents, one Lebanese and one Italian, who immigrated to Brazil where three cultures influenced their offspring:

Hummus and Herbs

Born in Lebanon, Grandpa sang
only the chorus of an Arabic song.
Born in Italy, Nana spoke
a dialect from Sicily no one understood.

Birth countries left behind,
identities lost in the sea.
Big ship sailed the Atlantic,
in the direction of the east coast of Brazil.

Born fifty years later
in a house full of sound and smells,
I learnt laughter, spoken feelings.
Mum and Dad danced the samba well.

Italian hot sauces burnt my tongue,
chick peas and garlic made my taste.
My family taught me to cook, to eat,
to travel, to love, and not to miss.

Australia has me now,
baggage bursting three cultures inside.
In a land of so many immigrants,
Italians and Lebanese sure easy to find.

Home can be anywhere on Earth,
as long as it has hummus and herbs.

~ Alessandra Salisbury

Karla Linn Merrifield’s poem looks at immigration from a different angle:

Social Chemistry

Begin the experiment by rolling your tongue over
            Eastern Europe—

Yolanda Badinski, Maria Halupka, Francie and Joseph,
            the Mockevicius brothers.

Follow Maykovich the Ukrainian’s instructions
            at Max’s Delicatessen:

sample halvah, gifilte fish, lox on bagels or the challah
            from Bodner’s Bakery.

Write your lab results report, recording the monumental date,
            May 22, 1965,

when, at the intersection of Joseph Avenue and Farbridge Street,
            an alien teenager

arrived at the crossroads of the old neighborhood’s cultural quakes,
            her body rioting

in the public petri dish of racial violence, religious skirmishes,
            rampant sexuality.

Now, revise the arcane formulae to account for first bullet,

first bigot, first kiss.
~ Karla Linn Merrifield

Originally published

Winning poets own the copyright on their work.


It seems appropriate also to share what is probably the most famous poem related to immigration, the one engraved on a plaque on the Statue of Liberty.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

~ Emma Lazarus


Alessandra Salisbury is a Brazilian journalist, actress and creative writer. She lives in Australia with her husband and their 5 year old daughter Isabella who was the inspiration for her first published kids book Naughty Nana for sale on Amazon. She graduated in Creative Writing through Southern Cross University in Australia. Her works appeared in the American literary magazines, Anti-heroin Chic, BlogNostics and The Borfski Press.

Joan Leotta is a North Carolina -based writer and performer. Her first chapbook, Languid Luciousness with Lemon is out from Finishing Line Press. Her work is in or forthcoming in Fourth River, Silver Birch, Postcard Poems, Peacock Journal, Brass Bell and many others.

Karla Linn Merrifield, a nine-time Pushcart-Prize nominee and National Park Artist-in-Residence, has 12 books to her credit, the newest of which is Bunchberries, More Poems of Canada, a sequel to Godwit:  Poems of Canada (FootHills), which received the Eiseman Award for Poetry. She is assistant editor and poetry book reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye, a member of the board of directors of Just Poets (Rochester, NY), and a member of the Florida State Poetry Society, and The Author's Guild.  Visit her at

© Wilda Morris