Monday, December 28, 2020

Poems for the New Year: December 2020 Challenge Winners

Portrait of a Lady with a Fan (Dutch, 1647)
The National Gallery, London
Note also her pearl necklace.


One thing I enjoyed about the submissions for the December Poetry Challenge—a new year’s poem—is the great diversity of approaches taken by the poets.

Linda Wallin, former President of Poets & Patrons of Chicago, served as the judge. She commented on the difficulty of deciding which poems to select because there was a number of excellent submissions. As first place winner, she settled on a rondel fill of images and metaphors:


The String of Auld Pearls


The pearl pressed from this first and final night
is hope I'll swim the rapids all next year.
In glitter, raising glasses full we cheer
on market peaks and our tribe's cloud of right.

But I've dodged tear gas snarls and felt war's bite
while hurricanes, mad kings, and plagues premiere.
The jewel I cut this first and final night
is hope I'll dance the rapids all next year.

I thank my flesh, with hearing and clear sight
and pain enjoyed drug free, that holds me here.
I've lived so wild, I've nothing left to fear.
The truth time’s tumble be dance, not a fight,
embraces me this first and final night.

~  Tyson West

The judge’s comments: “This poem shows the invaluable treasure of the year's journey and the hope we have for the coming year. The poet draws from the many crazy events of the past year and sees life as a dance, all without missing a beat or a rhyme.”


The second place poem also worked with metaphor and images:

Into the New Year

We are a band of stars
in a sky orchestrated with grief.
Each tuned to a different loss.
We improvise in the key of sadness.
For who can truly compose
the melody of longing
for someone else’s heart?
Say hold this note of desire
for this duration of time?
Place dynamics over tears?
We each have our measures of missing…

A baby was born today.

That second before midnight
is the conductor that will lead
us into a new year. 
Another child will be born.
Yet another, and another, and…
when they are caressed
by the light of this world,
they will fill this large earth
with their small cries.
In celebration, loving hands
will hold them, cease their tears.

What if we open our hands,
release into the deep darkness
beautiful memories of the ones
we hold in our hearts?

What if we made those memories
our planets, stars, clouds of jubilation
held together by the gravity of love?
Together, even as light streaks our tears,
maybe, even for a moment, we can create
a small galaxy of joy.
On the clear staff of morning,
the sky will compose a new song.

~ Loretta Diane Walker


“Into the New Year” was first published in Walker’s collection Ode to My Mother’s Voice, Lamar University Literary Press, 2019 (

Wallin said, “The poet expresses beautifully the immense loss we feel when a family member dies, and evokes hope for a beautiful new world we can make out of our grief.”


The third place poem invites us to watch and learn from a dolphin:


Dolphin at Dawn -
New Year's Day

From the porch
I looked out onto
a gray sea
extending to a gray sky
populated with just a few
dying stars.
As a bit of sun
tried to slip up
through the horizon,
a black dolphin
slowly, silently
bobbed up out
of the water.
He slipped through
the channel,
rhythm steady,
rocking up then
nosing down.
As I watched,
he moved ever
outward from the shore
to meet that spot
of orange on the horizon.
Slow, steady, never
minding the surrounding
hopeless gray of sea and sky.
His journey
gives me courage
for mine.

~ Joan Leotta


Previously published in Snapdragon in 2018, then as a part of my origami poems free chapbook, Morning by Morning, published in 2020.

This poem has a sense of hope. The judge especially like the contrasting of gray with the dawn.


The judge also awarded an Honorable Mention to CŸNTHIA Lozier for her poem, “Repurposed Resolutions.”



Joan Leotta loves to watch dawn, one the beach, in the mountains, in her own backyard. Her work has been widely published in US, UK, Australia, and elsewhere. She has two free mini-chapbooks of poems available through Origami Poems at and her book, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon is out from Finishing Line Press. She tells tales of food, family, travel, dawn, and strong women on page and stage.

Loretta Diane Walker, a multiple Pushcart Nominee, and Best of the Net Nominee, won the 2016 Phyllis Wheatley Book Award for poetry, for her collection, In This House (Bluelight Press). Loretta is a member of the Texas Institute of Letters.  Her work has appeared in various literary journals, magazines, and anthologies. She has published five collections of poetry. Her manuscript Word Ghetto won the 2011 Bluelight Press Book Award. Loretta received a BME from Texas Tech University and earned a MA from The University of Texas of the Permian Basin. She teaches elementary music at Reagan Magnet School, Odessa, Texas. Naomi Shihab Nye states, “Loretta Diane Walker writes with compassionate wisdom and insight—her poems restore humanity.”

Linda Wallin is a retired teacher and professor who discovered poetry in middle age. She loves family, needlework, technology, and, of course, poetry. Several of her poems have been published online and in collections. You can read a few on her web site ( or her blog “Wallin’s Wave” (

Tyson West has published speculative fiction and poetry in free verse, form verse and haiku distilled from his mystical relationship with noxious weeds and magpies in Eastern Washington. He has no plans to quit his day job in real estate. His poetry collection,  Home-Canned Forbidden Fruit, is available from Gribble Press.

Poets retain copyright on their own poems.


Watch for the January Poetry Challenge!


© Wilda Morris




Thursday, December 3, 2020

December 2020 Challenge - Poems for the New Year



December again—and 2020 coming to a close. Many of us have unhappy memories of this year. We look forward to 2021 with hope, especially hope that the pandemic will come to an end.

You might feel like Christina Rossetti:

Old and New Year Ditties

New Year met me somewhat sad:
Old Year leaves me tired,
Stripped of favourite things I had
Baulked of much desired:
Yet farther on my road to-day
God willing, farther on my way.


New Year coming on apace
What have you to give me?
Bring you scathe, or bring you grace,
Face me with an honest face;
You shall not deceive me:
Be it good or ill, be it what you will,
It needs shall help me on my road,
My rugged way to heaven, please God…


~ Christina Rossetti

(You can read more stanzas of this long poem at 

Or maybe the approach of a new year sparks in you the joy expressed by Alfred Lord Tennyson in this section of his longer poem, In Memoriam.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.


Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.


Ring out the grief that saps the mind
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.


Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.


Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.


Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.


Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.


Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

As I reread this poem, it struck me how relevant it is at the end of 2020. “Ring out old shapes of foul disease.” Yes, please! The world is holding its breath, awaiting virus protection to end the pandemic. But also, the call to ring out slander and spite, party strife and poverty and war, and to ring in more justice, gentility, and peace.


The Poetry Foundation has a set of poems to ring in the new year here:

The Academy of American Poets has its own “short list”:

Pan McMillian has a different set of poems for the New Year:

ThoughtCo has a different set of recommendations:


The December Challenge:


ALSO, please follow the guidelines carefully. For example, if your name is at the top of the page or under the title instead of at the bottom, I might accidentally miss it when preparing to send the poems to the judge, and your poem could be disqualified as a result. If it isn’t under your poem, I might mistype it. Also, if you don’t follow the directions in how to write the subject line of your email, your poem might be missed.

In her poem, “The Year,” Ella Wheeler Wilcox asked,
What can be said in New Year rhymes,
That’s not been said a thousand times?

The challenge for this month is to answer her question by writing your poem about the New Year, though it does not have to rhyme.

What is your wish or your expectation or prayer for the new year? How will you celebrate the passing of 2020 and the arrival of 2021? What resolutions are you making as the New Year approaches? What can you say about the New Year that is new?

Title your poem unless it is in a form that discourages titles. Single-space. Note that the blog format does not accommodate long lines; if they are used, they have to be broken in two, with the second part indented (as in the poem “Lilith,” one of the May 2018 winners), or the post has to use small print. Put your name and bio under your poem. Please keep the poem on the left margin (standard 1” margin). Do not put any part of your submission on a colored background. Do not use a fancy font and do not use a header or footer.

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. Poems already used on this blog are not eligible to win, but the poets may submit a different poem, unless the poet has been a winner the last three months.

The deadline is December 17 (since the challenge was posted 2 days late). 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 and teens read this blog). No simultaneous submissions, please. You should know by the end of the month whether or not your poem will be published. 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.

If the same poet wins three months in a row (which has not happened thus far), he or she will be asked not to submit the following two months.

How to Submit Your Poem:

Send one poem only to wildamorris4[at]gmail[dot]com (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”). Put “December Poetry Challenge Submission” FOLLOWED BY YOUR NAME 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 and/or attachment. If the poem has been published before, please put that information UNDER the poem also. NOTE: If you sent your poem to my other email address, or do not use the correct subject line, the poem may get lost and not be considered for publication. Do not submit poems as PDF files. Pease excuse repetition in stating the rules. You might be surprised how many poets do not adhere carefully to the rules.

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 (Doc, Docx, rich text or plain text; no pdf files, please). or both. 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.



© Wilda Morris