Saturday, October 31, 2020

November 2020 Poetry Challenge: Babies



November is a time to be grateful—a feeling that is supposed to be the focal point Thanksgiving in the United States. Some people are having more trouble feeling grateful during this year of Pandemic. Many people around the world are discouraged or depressed, so it seemed good to focus on a subject that brings hope and joy to many people: babies. The following poem by Barbara Eaton (No, not the Barbara Eaton of “I Dream of Jeannie” fame), was written about her niece.


You are already loved

It was hard to love a sonogram at first.
In the early stages
you looked like snow on TV.

Then your body
started to take shape,
your shoulders, your head.
Fingers and toes.

But when I saw your cute little face
for the first time
on the sonogram,
you looked just like your mom
when she was a baby,


I felt a tiny flower
blossom in my heart

~ Barbara Eaton


Here are some poems about babies that you can read on-line:

*Betsy Sholl, “Lullaby in Blue” - 

*Don Paterson, “Waking with Russell” -

*Sylvia Plath, “Morning Song” -

*Mary Jo Salter, “Somebody Else’s Baby” -

*Sherman Alexie, “Dangerous Astronomy,” -

* William Blake, “Infant Sorrow” -

Neal Levine, “Baby Ate a Microchip” -

*Phillip Larkin, “Born Yesterday” -

*Alexander Posey, “Mother and Baby” -



Barbara L. Eaton, born and raised in the Chicagoland area, attended the University of Illinois and University of Maryland. She holds two master's degrees in English, and a Ph.D. in Shakespeare and Medieval Literature. An experienced PT Instructor, she has taught at Joliet Junior College, College of DuPage, and Morton College. Her second grade teacher, Miss Juliana Rotsko, published Barbara's first poem, "What Christmas Means to Me," in the Chicago Daily News. BTW, she says it was an awful poem. A member of the Illinois State Poetry Society, the National Federation of Poetry Societies, and the Academy of American Poets, Barbara facilitates the Lisle Chapter of ISPS. She edited a collection, Sacred Rivers, for poets Carolyn Sibr and Marvin R. Young. Barbara publishes in various literary journals, and also performs her poetry at local venues such as libraries, nursing homes, and coffeehouses. A former member of the Chicago-based group, Poets & Patrons, Barbara chaired their poetry contest for many years. Read her poems


The November 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.

Write a poem about a baby or babies. You may use free verse or a form. If you use a form, please include a note identifying the form.

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 November 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 wildamorris4[at]gmail[dot]com (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”). Put “November 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




Monday, October 26, 2020

Father's Workshop - Photo supplied by Guy Thorvaldsan

This month, I want to congratulate not only the winners, but also the judge, Christine Swanberg, who has just been chosen as the first Poet Laureate of Rockford, Illinois. And a shout out to Jocelyn Kuntz, too. She was just selected as the first Youth Poet Laureate of Rockford.

Swanberg reported that many of the poems submitted for the October challenge, with the theme of “tools,” were excellent. In addition to the three poems published here, she selected four honorable mentions, listed below in alphabetical order of the poets’ first names.


First place goes to Guy Thorvaldsen.



Blood wells up like ruby oil
laps the rim of a four inch gash
I’ve just sliced deep into my right palm.
I use my elbow to hit
the table saw’s off-switch,
sink to the ground,
clench the rent closed
between thumb and forefinger.
"Remember," my father has told me,
"when you get cut, tell the doc it doesn't matter
what it looks like. As long as it works."
I look: white bone and sinew float
in a pond of red– what we are
beneath the overalls,
the daily veil of coffee, cigarettes and beer.
A lineage of men with thick Norwegian tongues,
ropy muscles working
block-and-tackle hands,
bodies embellished
not with tattooed anchors or hearts,
but ghostly pale etchings
that match the shape of blades–
hatchets, draw knifes, bow-saws.
Tonight, I’ll call my father,
tell him the story, listen to his,
adding up our stitches as if we are tailors.
Then, I will follow the old rules,
declare that it’s nothing, really,
predict my early return to work.

~ Guy Thorvaldsen


Judge Swanberg’s comments: “Poetry can accomplish many things simultaneously, and this poem exemplifies that. It is narrative, has original and crisp phrasing, and a poetic flow that leads seamlessly yet energetically to the final lines. It is also indicative of a “bigger picture” without being heavy-handed.”



Susan Barry-Schulz wrote the second place poem.


To the Colander on My 25th Wedding Anniversary

Tin bowl
full of holes,
a sharp edged handle
on each side,
a shower gift; accepted back
when I believed becoming a wife
would uncover my latent cooking skills—
missing a leg,
caved in and punched out
in equal measure,

a little unsteady
after twenty-five years of running
cold water over garden tomatoes
and store-bought  grapes,
kidney beans and strawberries,
twenty-five years of draining
hot potatoes and Brussels sprouts,
steaming heaps of thin spaghetti—
tin bowl,
still holding its own
after twenty-five years of practice—

keeping all that is needed inside
and letting
the rest


~ Susan Barry-Schulz


“This poem shows intense focus on one item—a quirky one at that! It is confessional and a wee bit wistful. It ends on an image, which is also metaphorical, and leaves the reader resonating with what we pour through and what we keep.” according to Swanberg.


For third place, Swanberg selected a poem by Thom Brucie.


The Mathematics Of Enchantment


A 3 foot by 4 foot by 5 foot triangle

makes a right angle.

This knowledge allows the builder to carry

a straight line

along and away from an already existing point

in space and time.

The line, if extended, has two options –

if the universe is flat, like the earth,

the line will extend to the end of eternity;

if it is flexible, and self-contained,

like an Einsteinian glass ball

resting on the back of a turtle,

the line will continue in an ever-lasting 180 degree angle,

and eventually return to discover its beginning.


The elegance of mathematics,

its geometric subtlety

of right angles and straight lines,

can connect a room addition to a house

and a straight line to the universe.

The thunderous accuracy of mathematics

suggests that a house is more than angle and line,

more than mortar and brick,

more than foundation and roof.


If properly constructed,

a house is its own universe,

the beginning and end

of memories in the table top,

and growth charts on the wall;

of holding fast to grandma’s stew recipe,

and the crawling stage of granddaughter’s daughter;

of summers running out the back screen door,

and all things stored in three-dimensional boxes,

and stories,

and hearts.


~ Thom Brucie


Swanberg says, “The use of math as a tool is clever. The poem is interesting and very intelligent. The poem moves with just the right kind of energy to its excellent poetic ending lines.”


Winning poets retain copyright on their poems.


Honorable Mentions, with comments by the judge

Congratulations to these fine poets:

“How to Use a Chisel” by Joe Cottonwood
The crisp language and elliptical phrasing picks up on the chisel itself. The use of imperative voice and first person narrative is clever and effective.

“Simple Machines” by John C. Mannone
The poem shows an admirable density, complex language, and beautifully sculpted stanzas.

“Tools of the Trade” by Margaret King
This poem shines with interesting and complex language.

“Hephaestus in Winter” by Tyson West
This poem stands out not only for its adherence to classical allusion throughout the poem, but also from the point of view.



Susan Barry-Schulz is a licensed physical therapist in New York. Her poetry has appeared in The Wild Word, SWWIM, Shooter Literary Magazine, Barrelhouse online, South Florida Poetry Journal, The New Verse News, and Panoply and elsewhere. She is a member of the Hudson Valley Writer's Center.

Thom Brucie has published two chapbooks of poems: Moments Around The Campfire With A Vietnam Vet, named “the best chapbook of 2010” (Irene Koronas, Ibbetson Street Press), and Apprentice Lessons, poems which explore the dignity of labor. His work has appeared in a variety of journals and publications, including: DEROS, San Joaquin Review, Cappers, The Southwestern Review, Editions Bibliotekos, Pacific Review, Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, Wilderness House Literary Review and others.
“Mathematics of Enchantment” is from his chapbook, Apprentice Lessons.

Christine Swanberg has published 500/ 600  poems in anthologies such as Earth Blessings, Garden Blessings, Gratitude Prayers and Back to Joy; journals such as American Aesthetica, Spoon River Quarterly, RHINO, Louisville Review, River City Review, and hundreds of others.   Recent books include Who Walks Among the Trees with Charity (Wind, 2005), The Alleluia Tree (Puddin’head Press, 2012) and Wild Fruition (Puddin’head Press, 2017).  A community poet interviewed by Poets Market 2008, she has won many poetry awards and grants such as The Mayor’s Award for Community Impact, YWCA Award for the Arts, and Womanspirit Award. She is the first Poet Laureate of Rockford, Illinois. To view her most recent book, Wild Fruition go to

Guy Thorvaldsen's poetry has appeared in Alligator Juniper, Forge, Gulfstream, and Magma 69 (London). His first book of poetry, Going to Miss Myself When I’m Gone came out in October 2017 through Aldrich Press. Guy is a journeyman carpenter, taught writing at Madison College, and contributing poet/essayist for community radio.


© Wilda Morris