Thursday, August 30, 2018

August 2018 Challenge - What Would You Save?

The challenge this month was to write a poem about what you would try to save if you had to flee your home. The poems reflected different angles from wanting to save irreplaceable photos (or taking recollections in lieu of photos) and members of an extended family gathering together and packing up a vehicle to flee (on an over-crowded highway), to more philosophical and theological approaches: saving what heals, in one poem; saving up treasures in heaven, in another.

The judge, Karen Paul Holmes, selected this poem by Elaine Sorrentino:

Unwelcome Estate Sale

My lids are drawn, my brain in REM.
In unsettling slumber I dream of bargain hunters
scavenging my home, as if in ruins before ruined,

fingering my grandmother’s bone china tea cups,
scrutinizing the yellow corn-shaped Belleek vase--
a gift from my departed mother-in-law--

questioning whether the vintage turntable, receiver
and oversized speakers still perform in tandem.
What are you asking for these treasures?

Stunned, I am unable to reply,
then insist the interlopers leave our beachfront
home, still intact, yet on forecasters’ death row list,

a second, deadlier No Name assault on its way,
predicted to devastate this time, not merely
deposit salty, gritty sediment, broken bits

of crab shells, untethered bait lines in our basement
as it did years ago. This one could yank
our Scituate home off its pseudo-solid foundation.

You cannot save everything, there’s too little time,
they announce, rubbing their hands together,
moving on to rummage through other rooms.

My heart instructs me to set boundaries.
Teddy Ruxpin and Puppy McPupster clutched
to my chest, I acquiesce: Ten dollars for the stereo.
Do not touch my children’s things.

~ Elaine Sorrentino

Elaine Sorrentino owns copyright on this poem.

The judge said, “I love all the detail and the horrible dream of people taking your things.” I agree. I also like how the mothering instinct takes over and the speaker says an internal, “Oh, well,” about losing her own belongings, but isn’t so ready to give up what belongs to her children.

The poem reminded me of what happened to Japanese families on the West Coast during World War II. When they were rounded up and taken to internment camps, they had little time to decide what to do with their property, and were not allowed to take much with them.

While the circumstances under which individuals and families have to flee natural or human-created disasters vary, the pain is always there. And often someone else takes advantage of the ones who have to flee.

Elaine Sorrentino is the Communications Director at South Shore Conservatory in Hingham, MA, where she creates promotional and first-person content for press and for a blog called SSC Musings. Her poetry has been published in Minerva Rising, won honorable mention in the June 2018 Wilda Morris poetry challenge, and her non-fiction piece, titled “It’s All About Attitude,” took grand prize in the Write a DearReader Contest at reader advisory blog, 

Karen Paul Holmes has two full-length poetry collections, No Such Thing as Distance (Terrapin Books, 2018) and Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press, 2014). She was chosen as a Best Emerging Poet in 2016 by Stay Thirsty Media. Publications include Prairie Schooner, Valparaiso Review, Tar River Poetry, Poet Lore, and other journals and anthologies. Holmes hosts The Side Door Poets in Atlanta and Writers’ Night Out in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

© Wilda Morris

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

August 2018 Poetry Challenge - What Would You Save?

A few days ago, a friend had to evacuate her California home due to raging wildfires. A few years ago, my cousin had only a few minutes to remove items from his office at the University of Iowa due to flooding in Iowa City. Thousands of people have fled their homes this year because of violence or persecution. Others have been uprooted by a tsunami, earthquake, and other natural disaster. When we have to get away fast, and can’t take much with us, there is always the question of what to try to save what to take with you; or in some cases, what to bury or hide in hopes you can return someday and retrieve what you left behind.

Karen Paul Holmes’ poem, “What do you save,” is more than a list poem of things to save. 

What do you save
when a wildfire swarms toward your home?
Ten-thousand acres last week, double today. The Nantahala Forest
combusts like hay: drought plus rough terrain. Bless firefighters
who've come Oregon-far to help the Blue Ridge. Bless everyone
praying for rain, damning
the arsonist. These mountains should flame
with autumn; instead, falling leaves become torches,
wind-carried, hell-bent.

Not morning fog, this scrim over my view, but smoke
the sun can't burn off. Eyes itch, I taste acrid hickory,
won't let the dogs play outside. Farmers fear for cattle—
the thick smolder, chemicals sprayed to stop it. What about lungs
of ducks here for winter refuge on Lake Chatuge?
And osprey, fox, bear, deer...

Eight miles away, police at my friend's door: Evacuate. She packs
her sister's sculpture, mother's portrait, binders of genealogy notes.
I could grab documents but not
Reverend Cobb's table cut from a hundred-year oak
nor the maple desk made by a local man.
The mattress with its imprint of the body I loved.

There's an odd beauty I don't want to like—
the smell of campfire, the silver-ringed sun, striated
purple sunsets. I'm in a Turner painting, everything blurred,
obscured under goose down.
Last night the moon glowed red.

~ Karen Paul Holmes

Copyright © 2018 Karen Paul Holmes All rights reserved.
From No Such Thing As Distance (Terrapin Books). Reprinted with permission.

I like the way Holmes blesses the firefighters and others trying to help, and how she ends the poem with her reluctant appreciation of the beauty created by the devastating fire. These add depth to what could have been just a list of what to save or what to leave behind.

The August Challenge:

The August Challenge is to submit a poem about “what to save” in case you have to flee your home due to some kind of disaster. You can specify what kind of disaster if you wish. It can be in past, present or future tense (i.e., a disaster already experienced, one taking place in the present, or preparation for the future (poetic license allowed, of course). See how you can enrich your poem so it is more than just a list poem.

Your piece may be free verse or formal. If you use a form, please identify the form when you submit your poem.

Title your poem unless it is a form that does not use titles. Single-space and don’t use lines that are overly long (because the blog format doesn’t accommodate long lines). The example poem, and poems previously published on this blog will give you hints about the line lengths that 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 August 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. I do not register copyright with the US copyright office, but by US law, the copyright belongs to the writer unless the writer assigns it to someone else.

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 “August 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.

Poet Bio: Karen Paul Holmes has two full-length poetry collections, No Such Thing as Distance (Terrapin Books, 2018) and Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press, 2014). She was chosen as a Best Emerging Poet in 2016 by Stay Thirsty Media. Publications include Prairie Schooner, Valparaiso Review, Tar River Poetry, Poet Lore, and other journals and anthologies. Holmes hosts The Side Door Poets in Atlanta and Writers’ Night Out in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

© Wilda Morris