Saturday, May 30, 2020

May 2020 - Winning Poems about Aging


I’m happy that the winning poems in the May Poetry Challenge did not focus on aging in quarantine. We all need a few smiles!

Thank you to Bruce Dethfleson for judging the May contest. He selected “Breakfast at Midnight,” as first place, declaring it “delightful work, lyrical, with wonderful concrete images.”

Breakfast at Midnight

We are hungry after we kissed
all night in our driveway, and later
at an IHOP, the host splits our order
—two large pancakes & eggs—
places them in black styrofoam boxes.

We eat our midnight snack in the car
still running because we had to jump
the battery; it completely discharged
because we left the tailgate open
to let the cool honeysuckle breeze in
and hear the swish of pines where
spring’s first fireflies flashed together
with the cool gauzy light of stars—
green scintillations sparking the haze
of a hot mayapple moon.

I lean across the console, whisper
something holy, then caress her
face. We kiss. That salt-sweet savor
—bacon & maple syrupping our lips—
           even after fifty years.

~ John C. Mannone

This poem was first published in Poetry South (2017).

The second place poem, “Applause,” is “just a good, fun poem that skillfully captures a pleasant memory,” according to the judge.


I told some women
in my exercise class
that it was my birthday.
They spread the word
and soon everyone was singing
“Happy birthday to you”.
Then someone,  
not being shy,
asked how old I was.
Without speaking
I stood there,
holding up ten fingers.
Then, ten more. 
Friends began counting
out loud:
Others joined in:
After they shouted “eighty”
I waved my hands to stop them.
The applause that followed
made me grin.

~ Deetje J. Wildes

The third place poem, according to Dethlefsen, is “original and smart.”  He also commended the poet for the twist at the end.

The Cardinal's Mirror

As I climbed my steps
I saw a puff of red feathers
on the porch,
surrounded by swarming ants
feasting on the once-living cardinal carcass,
once a pretty bird.
now reduced to insect food. 
I reflected. Probable cause of the bird's demise?
He must have seen himself,
mirrored in our door's storm glass,
seen himself as a sleek, crested rival
flying toward him.
Enraged, he flew against it in attack. He lost.
I sighed. I understood.

When I approach that wicked glass,
an older, heavy woman often
steps out toward me.
She holds my purse and packages
in her arms.
I admit I've considered attacking her.
Now, seeing the bird's result,
my aggression dims. I'll
make peace with the crone.

After all, she has to clean the porch.

~ Joan Leotta

This poem was first Published in the anthology Poeming Pigeons, Spring 2015.

Poets whose work is published in this blog own copyright on their own poems.

Bruce Dethlefsen served as poet laureate of Wisconsin for 2011-2012. He is the author of five poetry collections and is a popular workshop leader. Two of his poems have been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. Bruce is also a musician, and has played with several bands. He sings and plays both bass and percussion. You can read more about him and find out how to order his books at

Joan Leotta is an aging writer and story performer who now lives in North Carolina. She had taken measures to keep birds from bumping into the door--and don’t worry, the actual inspiration for “The Cardinal’s Window” flew away, a bit dazed but ok. You can download a mini-chapbook of her poems at

John C. Mannone has poems accepted in North Dakota Quarterly, the 2020 Antarctic Poetry Exhibition, Foreign Literary Review, Le Menteur, Blue Fifth Review, Poetry South, Baltimore Review, and others. He won the Impressions of Appalachia Creative Arts Contest in poetry (2020) and the Carol Oen Memorial Fiction Prize (2020). He was awarded a Jean Ritchie Fellowship (2017) in Appalachian literature and served as celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). His latest collection, Flux Lines: The Intersection of Science, Love, and Poetry, is forthcoming from Linnet’s Wings Press (2020). He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex and other journals. A retired physics professor, John lives near Knoxville, Tennessee.

In addition to writing poetry, Deetje J. Wildes enjoys making music and experimenting with visual arts. She is an enthusiastic member of Western Wisconsin Christian Writers Guild, and a regular contributor to Faith Walk magazine (Eau Claire, Wisconsin  Leader — Telegram).

© Wilda Morris

Friday, May 1, 2020

May 2020 Challenge - Aging

The Four Ages of Man by Nicholas Lancret
National Gallery of Art, London

We all begin aging at birth, but don’t realize it until we are older. Many twelve-year-olds want to be eighteen, with a driver’s license and a lot more freedom to decide on their own activities. Some sixty-year-old have that same wish—“if only I could go back to when I was eighteen, without all these responsibilities.” Some cultures honor the elders; others seem to worship youth. British poet Ruth Fainlight wrote, “to have faith / that you'll be adored as an ancient / might make it all worthwhile” (from “Ageing." See the first link below).

I like the light touch in the following poem:


monday I crossed off cowboy
tuesday fireman
wednesday president
thursday I couldn’t find the list
friday my own fishing show
saturday catching for the cardinals
sunday I took a nap
I had to
the moons flew by too soon

~ Bruce Dethlefsen

From Unexpected Shiny Things (Cowfeather Press, 2011). Used by permission of the author

Dethlefsen’s poem is a list poem, as is the following:


                                                             . . .and when it is August
you can have it August and abundantly so.
Barbara Ras

In August you can’t have trillium
waking the dark floor of the woods,
wobbling fawns suckling mother’s milk. 
You can’t have snow birds at the feeder.
But when it is August you can have heat shimmering
from the lake, the plop of bass jumping,
concentric circles spreading out across the water.
When it is August you can have corn
steamed on the cob, rows of yellow teeth
drizzled with butter.  You can have blueberries,
plump and sweet and purple, painting your lips,
painting your lover’s lips as you plop them
in his mouth one by one. 

In August you can’t have icicles
or make angels in the snow,
pull each other in sleds,
tracking smooth white surfaces
but you can have cousins rolling down the hill
with you if you roll back the clock
to the year you were seven, cousins
with homemade ice cream dribbling
from sticky chins, swiping treats
from Grandmother’s cookie jar,
climbing the apple tree, singing Bible school songs,
chasing lightning bugs,
playing hide and seek as dusk
lays magic shadows on the lawn.
You can have your uncle again
spreading blankets near a fertile field
so you can all lie down
beneath a million glittering stars.

When it is August you can have tiger lilies,
the orange of their silent horns
louder than sound, setting the garden afire
with color, the gladiolus standing proud
on their tall stems, afraid of nothing.
And when it is August, you can have
one last dance with summer,
it’s willowy green gown  
whispering through the grass,
one last dance to the music of bluebird and robin. 
One last dance of wild abandon.

~ Wilda Morris

First published by Second Wind (Summer 2005).

"August," as you probably realized, is a poem about the season of the year, but also, metaphorically, about a season of life.

Many wonderful poems have been written about aging—not all are list poems. Some celebrate the “golden years.” Some lament the impact of aging on the body or the approach of death. This month, though, the focus is on poems that celebrate aspects of aging, or look at it in a positive or even humorous way. Check out the links below for more poetry on aging. Some of the poems in the last link are not great poetry, but they may give you a laugh—and we all need a few extra laughs this spring! Read, and then take out your pen, pencil, or computer and write your own poem about aging.

> A collection of poems about aging by contemporary British poets, with examples:
>A brief essay on poems about aging, with examples and links:
>Another interesting essay with examples and links:
>Humorous poetry about aging:


Write a poem about aging—a poem that celebrates aging or looks at it with a bit of humor. No poems tragic poems this month.

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 May 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 May 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.


Send one poem only to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”). Put “May 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. 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.

Bruce Dethlefsen served as poet laureate of Wisconsin for 2011-2012. He is the author of five poetry collections and is a popular workshop leader. Two of his poems have been featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. Bruce is also a musician, and has played with several bands. He sings and plays both bass and percussion. You can read more about him and find out how to order his books at

Wilda Morris Wilda Morris, Workshop Chair of Poets and Patrons of Chicago and a past President of the Illinois State Poetry Society, has been published in numerous anthologies, webzines, and print publications, including The Ocotillo Review, Turtle Island Quarterly, Li Poetry, Puffin Circus, and Journal of Modern Poetry. She has won awards for formal and free verse and haiku. She was given the Founders’ Award by the National Federation of State Poetry Societies in 2019. Much of the work on her second poetry book, Pequod Poems: Gamming with Moby-Dick (published in 2019), was written during a Writer’s Residency on Martha’s Vineyard. Pequod Poems can be ordered from the publisher or, or, if you would like an autographed copy, email the author at wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”).

© Wilda Morris