Wednesday, April 1, 2020

April 2020 Challenge - Dealing with Stress

A Path in the Woods
by Philips de Koninck (Dutch, 1619-1688)
Art Institute of Chicago

All around the world, especially in the Northern Hemisphere where the weather is cool at this time of year, people are experiencing high levels of stress due to the coronavirus—an especially difficult burden to those already stressed by poor health (their own or that of loved ones), low income, domestic violence, family or neighborhood conflicts, etc., etc. In many places, nursing home residents are not allowed visitors, schools are closed, workers who are not considered “essential” are not allowed to work, grocery shoppers wonder if the person in line next to them might be infected. Retail workers are yelled at by customers angry that a store shelf is empty or a limit is put on the amount of some item a shopper is allowed to purchase. School teachers are trying to figure out how to teach on-line. Weddings, funerals, birthday and anniversary celebrations are postponed, churches, synagogues, mosques and temples are live-streaming or cancelling worship services, families are lamenting the inability to get together for Easter dinner (or other special occasions). Doctors, nurses, medical technicians and others are working with inadequate equipment and protective gear.

Do poets have anything to offer people in stress? 

Without mentioning stress, Michael Escoubas writes about how he is dealing with the pandemic:

Beckoning Benches

Coronavirus or not . . .

I still enjoy
the daily circuit
of the sun
the gradual changes
the way the seasons run—

the way light
filters through maple leaves—
the art that God arranges
the arms of she
who welcomes me . . .

I sit among all of these
and whisper a prayer of thanks
that there remain
so many things
no plague can take away.

~ Michael Escoubas

Escoubas points to one way of dealing with stress in this difficult times. The poem below, by Susan T. Moss, was published on several years ago. It is a reminder that our lives can feel out of kilter for a variety of reasons; stress is not new. “Misalignment” can come from our busyness.

The Encounter

Sometimes, when the day’s frenzy
erects false shrines to necessity,
an inner scream crescendos
and all sensibility vanishes

taking with it what’s left
of the meditation classes,
time management guides
and lavender lotion.

It happens, this misalignment,
this conformity to chaos,
and like a bullet to the nerves
splinters me.

I take a walk along a road
grizzled with dry stalks
and ripe apples beginning
to drop from untended trees.

Near meadow’s edge a deer grazes
on fruit, stops and meets
my stare at that juncture when
the thread pulls taut between bone and dust.

~ Susan T. Moss

These poems were used by permission of the poets, who retain copyright to their work.

Galway Kinnell’s poem, “Wait,” tells us to “trust the hours.” We may be exhausted, “Everyone is exhausted,” but wait. Things will change. You can read his profound poem at

The April Challenge:

Write a poem about dealing with stress. It may mention a specific stressful situation, but that is not required.

Your poem 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 (don’t follow Emily Dickinson’s practice on that!). 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 April 2018 winners), or the post has to use small print.

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 April 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 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 wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”). Put “April 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. 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.

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.


Michael Escoubas began writing poetry for publication in 2013 after retiring from a 48-year career in the printing industry. Prior to this he read, studied and educated himself in poetry for approximately 25 years. Michael serves as editor and staff book reviewer for Quill and Parchment, an 18-year-old literary and cultural arts journal. His book, Monet in Poetry and Paint can be purchased at

Susan T. Moss’s poetry has appeared in numerous publications including Siftings From The Clearing, Soundings Door County in Poetry, Wisconsin Poets’ Calendar, Vermont Literary Review, After Hours, Kerf, Steam Ticket, Caduceus as well as on radio and cable television. She was granted a month-long residency at the Vermont Studio Center and received two Illinois Humanities fellowships. She is working on a third book of poetry and has two published chapbooks, Keep Moving ‘til The Music Stops published by Lily Pool/Swamp Press, and In From The Dark from Antrim House Press (See Presently, Susan is serving a fourth term as Illinois State Poetry Society president. Shed holds a Master of Arts degree from Middlebury College Bread Loaf School of English.

© Wilda Morris