Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Fruit - March 2021 Winning Poems

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash


The United Nations has declared 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables so it is appropriate that our March challenge was for poems about fruits. Patrice Boyer Claeys. whose poem was used as an example this month, agree to serve as judge. For Second Place, she selected the following poem:

Golden Delicious

It’s January
boots in school hall.
I pull an apple
from my bag.

I see our tree
obscured by blossoms in spring
courting pollinators.
During summer visits
thistles pierce bare feet.
In August I examine hard green balls,
festoon my pants with burrs.
Leaves fall, first snow
frosts each gold orb.

We fill bushels,
leave the rest for deer.
They come at night
stretch high like dancers
eat warm sun
buried deep within
cold fruit.

-Jan Chronister

From Caught between Coasts (Clover Valley Press 2018).


Here are the comments the judge made about “Golden Delicious”:  This is a poem of concision. But what it lacks in length, it makes up for in images that strike us with a simple beauty. In a matter of 20 short lines, we are taken through the four seasons of an apple tree. We see the winter apple brought out from the school bag, the spring tree obscured by blossoms, the hard green balls of August, and autumn’s first snow that frosts each gold orb. But it is the final image that quickens the heart. The abundant crop is shared with deer that stretch high like dancers / eat warm sun / buried deep within cold fruit. The poet’s reverence for the natural cycles of the earth comes across with lyrical grace in the yin and yang of the warm/cold dichotomy. The poem ends with a quiet peacefulness as the apple sustains life for the coming winter. This is a poem of gentle natural rhythms that slows us down and perhaps allows a moment of breath, space and appreciation. 


For first place, Claeys selected the following:

When Our Guest Makes Breakfast

It’s not that I’m bored with toast and jam,
just that our guest has sliced a papaya
for breakfast this morning, and those red-orange slivers,
flushed and wet, lie curled on a plate
in the center of our table, offering themselves.

Just that I’m drawn to his hand on the knife,
the grace of his wrist as he peels and carves,
drawn to this blaze of mango, papaya—
and the speckled green kiwi
he tosses on top like a handful of coins.

Not that I yearned for a taste of the tropics
or favor pulp over toasted rye;
just that—this moment—I cannot resist
the cactus pear on the edge of the plate

that he’s pared and opened
and placed within reach of my fingers.

~ Lori Levy

“When Our Guest Makes Breakfast” was published previously in Nimrod International Journal,  Spring/Summer 2013, Vol. 56, No. 2.


Comments by Claeys: This poem got me from the opening line, It’s not that I’m bored with toast and jam. This type of statement usually means exactly the opposite of what it says. It creates a tension from the very beginning, at the same time conveying a certain tone, in this case one of sly playfulness on the part of the narrator. As we read through the stanzas, the narrator reveals time and time again how attracted he or she is to the fruit described in luscious detail. The papaya slivers lie curled on a plate…offering themselves. And later, the cactus pear on the edge of the plate is opened / and placed within reach of my fingers. This is the language of temptation, and it is my take on this poem that the narrator desires more than the fruit. The mysterious guest slicing and plating these tropical beauties is revealed only through his hand on the knife / the grace of his wrist as he peels and carves. And yet, these details are as sensuous as the flushed and wet fruit itself. When a poet achieves two plains of action/ thought occurring together, we have a work of skill and interest that rewards on several levels.

Congratulations to Lori Levy and Jan Chronister! And thank you to Patrice Boyer Claeys for judging the contest, and to everyone who entered. If you entered but did not win, good luck in finding a home for your poem.


Jan Chronister is a retired writing instructor who has been inspired by the beauty and starkness of northern Wisconsin for over forty years. She has authored two full-length poetry collections and four chapbooks.

Patrice Boyer Claeys is the author of The Machinery of Grace (2020) and Lovely Daughter of the Shattering (2019). She collaborated with photographer Gail Goepfert on Honey from the Sun (2020), a book exploring the secret life of fruit. Recent work has appeared in Indolent Press, The Night Heron Barks, little somethings press, Burningword, Inflectionist Review, *82 Review and Relief: A Journal of Art and Faith. She was nominated for both Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes. Find her online at

Lori Levy's poems have been published in Rattle, Poetry East, Confrontation, Mom Egg Review, Paterson Literary Review, and numerous other literary journals and anthologies in the U.S., the U.K., and Israel. She and her family live in Los Angeles. She enjoys her four grandchildren and is happy to have another one on the way.

Watch for another Poetry Challenge on April 1.

© Wilda Morris




Monday, March 1, 2021

March 2021 Poetry Challenge: Fruit

Still Life with Fruit by Moise Kisling
1913 (Public Domain)

Two of my favorite poems relate to fruit: “After Apple Picking” by Robert Frost and “This is Just to Say,” William Carlos Williams’s poem about the plums. Here are two contemporary poems about fruit:


The tight eye
of the apple
squeezed shut:

here, my
finger finds it

where the wrinkled
sepals cluster closed,
where once

blew the white blossom.

If I cut
across the apple’s wide

inside I will find
the star

corecut star, star-

memory, petal bones,
in white, dark


~ Jan Bottiglieri

From Alloy: Poems by Jan Bottiglieri (Mayapple Press, 2015), p. 75.


One reason I like Jan Bottiglieri’s poem is that it brings back memories from my childhood. Our pastor, Elmer Dierks (called Daddy D by University of Iowa Students and others in our Iowa City church), cut an apple crosswise and used the seed star as the center of his “children’s sermon” every year at Christmastime. He also gave the same message to soldiers in train stations as they were transported across the country during World War II. Sometimes I cut my apple crosswise just so I can see that star!

In addition to that, I spent a large portion of my childhood in the branches of an apple tree my grandfather planted for his grandchildren to climb.

Of course, I chose this poem primarily because of its crafting. The line breaks are intentional, and pace the reading in ways that make me stop and notice each word or phrase. The word “corecut” adds an interesting dimension. The backstory of the apple, beginning with the sepals and the blossom, adds additional richness. Thinking of the sepals and blossom when cutting an apple seems to me to be a spiritual move.


Patrice Boyer Claeys is becoming known as an expert at the poetry craft called “cento.” Claeys did not write any of the lines of her poem. Each of the lines was written by a different poet (see the list of sources under the poem). But Claeys has skillfully assembled these orphaned lines into a beautiful new poem of her own. I think about this poem when eating a grapefruit.


Your task is
and then taste it,
clean and sharp as pepper
the slow puckering      
like the flowing patterns of little rivers.

A half globe, as if by cupped hands
God descends,
sweet scent, bitter tongue

a handful of holy water.

~ Patrice Boyer Claeys

Cento Sources:  Kirill Medvedev, Brian Swann, Jill Bialosky, Craig Arnold, Katherine Soniat, Michael McClure, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Wendy Videlock, Fady Joudah, Roisin Kelly

From, November 26, 2020.  

I think there is something magical about the combination of lines that brings us "the slow puckering / like the flowing patterns of little rivers."

I did not intentionally select two poems that each had a spiritual dimension! From the taste, "clean and sharp as pepper," and that puckering in the first stanza, the poem takes a surprise turn. The juice in that "half globe" becomes "a handful of holy water." 

Fruit Poems Online

You can find links to ten poems about fruit, including the two mentioned in the first paragraph above, at Satirist Elisa Gabbert assembled a list of “Fruits Ruined by Poetry,” at Several of the links in this web page do not work, and several of the poems have such minor reference to the fruit in question that they wouldn’t be appropriate for this challenge. Nevertheless, you may want to check it out.

Fruit was the subject of a previous Poetry Challenge. You can read the example poems at, and the winning poems at

The March 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 a judge, and your poem could be disqualified as a result, since judging should be done blind. 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.

The challenge for this month is a poem about fruit in general or about some specific kind(s) of fruit.

Your poem may be serious or humorous. The fruit may be metaphoric, or literal. 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 a brief third-person 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 March 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 “March 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. Please excuse repetition in stating the rules. You might be surprised how many poets do not adhere carefully to the guidelines.

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 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.


Bios: Jan Bottiglieri lives and writes in suburban Chicago. She is a professional editor, as well as a senior editor for the poetry annual RHINO, and holds an MFA in Poetry from Pacific University. Jan’s work has appeared in more than 40 journals and anthologies including december, RattleDIAGRAM, Willow Springs and New Poetry from the Midwest. She is the author of twos chapbooks and two full-length poetry collections: Alloy (Mayapple Press, 2015) and Everything Seems Significant (BlazeVox Books, 2019.) Visit

Patrice Boyer Claeys is the author of The Machinery of Grace (2020) and Lovely Daughter of the Shattering (2019). She collaborated with photographer Gail Goepfert on Honey from the Sun (2020), a book exploring the secret life of fruit. Recent work has appeared in Indolent Press,  The Night Heron Barks, little somethings press, Burningword, Inflectionist Review, *82 Review and Relief: A Journal of Art and Faith. She was nominated for both Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes. Find her online at


© Wilda Morris