Thursday, February 1, 2018

February Poetry Challenge - Musical Instruments

The Music Lesson by Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675)

NOTE: Due to some difficulty with email communication, the winner of the January Challenge has not yet been announced. I apologize. Hopefully the results will be available soon.

My Daughter at the Piano

Your fingers are long and slim,
like mine, as you lay them down
on the piano keys:
Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater...
Eden is a garden of the mind,
an amusement park where every ride is free.
“Would you like to learn another song?”
I ask, but you are smiling now,
apple in hand.
“Only on the black keys,”
you answer. "I like them best."
Together we play the dark
harmonies of earth.

~ Kathleen Kirk

First published in After Hours, Summer 2010. Used by permission of the author.

At the Piano

My father asked how often I play now,
remembering me at the piano.
“Not often,” I answered, then tried to say why

but it was like trying to lay flat the pages
of a book of songs while keeping the melody going
with one hand, or watching the sheet music slip off

in the breeze of a door opening
and closing again, something invisible passing
through and pulling shut with the click of a latch.

Sometimes when I have the evening to myself
I flick on the piano light and play
three or four measures in joy before the sorrow

arrives, left hand, bass clef. I close up the music,
twist the light back off, and turn away
from the chamber of soft hammers I’ve built in my heart.

~ Kathleen Kirk

First published in PoetsArtists: From Motion to Stillness, February 2013.

These fine and poignant poems are part of long tradition of poems involving musical instruments. Think of the psalms of Hebrew Scripture. Psalm 57:8, for example, has both a lute (psaltery, in the King James Version) and harp.

There are many poems featuring musical instruments on the Internet. Here are links to a few that you might enjoy reading:

“Little Flute,” by Rabindranath Tagore -

“My Violin” by Bruce Lansky -

One of my very favorite poems featuring a musical instrument is "The Broken String," by Grace Schulman, the title poem of one of Schulman's books. Unfortunately I did not find the poem on line, but it would be worth a trip to the library (even an interlibrary loan request) to read this poem about a Itzak Perlman's performance of Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto on November 18, 1995 in which he played the concerto despite the fact that one of his strings broke.

The February Challenge:

The February Challenge is to submit a poem featuring a musical instrument (or musical instruments). It may be free verse or formal. For this challenge, do not use the instrument or instruments as metaphors or similes for elements of weather or nature (as Emily Dickinson often did).

Title your poem unless it is a form that does not use titles. If you use a form, please identify the form when you submit your poem. Single-space and don’t use lines that are overly long (because the blog format doesn’t accommodate long lines). Read previous poems on the blog to see what line lengths can be accommodated.

You may submit a published poem if you retain copyright, but please include publication data. This applies to poems published in books, journals, newspapers, or on the Internet.

The deadline is February 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 (some children read this blog). 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.

The poet retains copyright on each poem. If a previously unpublished poem wins and 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”). Put “February Poetry Challenge Submission” in the subject line of your email. Include a brief bio that can be printed with your poem if you are a winner this month. Please put your name and bio under the poem in your email.

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 multiple 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 but longer poems will be considered.


Kathleen Kirk is the author of seven poetry chapbooks, most recently ABCs of Women’s Work (Red Bird, 2015), with The Towns forthcoming from Unicorn Press in the spring of 2018. Her work appears in many print and online journals, including After Hours, Another Chicago Magazine, Crab Creek Review, Nimrod, Poetry East, and Sweet. A past co-editor of RHINO, she is currently the poetry editor for Escape Into Life.

©  Wilda Morris