Thursday, June 24, 2021

June Poetry Challenge Winners - Road Trip Poems

A Wagon Fording a Stream
Peter Paul Rubens
National Gallery of Art, London

Submissions this month told of interesting road trips. Some were exciting, some less so. Some involved conflict. Some created long-lasting memories. At least none of the road-trippers in the poems had to ford a river, as did the cart driver in the painting above! Most of us have it pretty easy when we take a road trip compared to people 100 years ago. When Horatio Nelson Jackson made the first known auto trip across the United States in 1903 (he went from San Francisco to New York City), he actually used part of the Oregon Trail for a road. The trip included a series of calamities that would have made a lesser person give up. You can read a summary of his adventures at Or look for Ken Burns' documentary about the trip (see

Jennifer Dotson of Highland Park Poetry fame (, served as judge this month. She selected three winning poems about road trips of “yesteryear” and three poems about more contemporary road trips. I hope you enjoy this selection of road trip poems – and feel inspired to write a road trip poem of your own if you haven’t done so.




First place went to Linda M. Crate.

pronghorn antelope

the road trip to
north dakota
was long, uncomfortable
and hot;
but i remember more
than simply sticking to the
seats because we'd been riding
in the car so long--
we saw pronghorn antelope
and dad was aggravated that no one
heard their correct name,
my mother and little sister thought
he had said "foghorn" and i heard "longhorn"
and there was such contention and annoyance
for not hearing him correctly
so i just looked out the window
to avoid it--
watched as the antelope ran and leapt,
wishing i could disappear into the sands
as easily

~ linda m. crate

The judge says this poem “captures the long car trip misery and the dynamics of the family.” She enjoyed “the argument over the misheard pronghorn and how the animals express the poet’s longing for escape.”


Next, we can ride along to Delaware with Beverly M. Collins (second place).

Those Delaware Times

Streetlights and telephone poles
lined our journey down the New
Jersey Turnpike. A 3-hour ride that
Felt like an anticipation-eternity to 10-
year-old me. In the back seat with me were
my sisters and a cooler full of cold drinks.
On our way from Central New Jersey
to cousins, summer fun, night air speckled
with lighting bugs, the salt scented breezes,
and the ground sandy under our feet.
We rode the highway with the car windows open.
Wind blasted my face. At times, it was hard
to breathe. I closed my eyes and listened
to the music on the radio while a happy
feeling of “I-can-hardly-wait-to-get-there”
filled my stomach.

~ Beverly M. Collins

Dotson liked how “this poem exuberantly shares the joy and anticipation of road trip to visit family in Delaware. It sounds wonderful.”


Now we hit the road again, leaving Wisconsin with Marjorie Pagel in the third place poem.

Family Vacation

Leaving Wisconsin and the farm chores behind,
all six of us crowded into the 1941 Ford sedan.
Dad driving, Mom and Vince upfront,
my sisters and me snugly fit in back.

Once a year we took the same family vacation
headed northwest to visit Minnesota relatives.
At La Crosse we climbed the giant iron swing bridge,
crossed the Mississippi. Peered out windows
to glimpse the river flowing far below.

We followed the river north to Winona, the cliffs
rising steep on the west. Spent a day or two
with Aunt Frances and Uncle Arden,
our cousins Dean, Elaine, Arlone. Then on
to Aunt Carol in Canton, Uncle Howard
on a farm near Harmony. I like the sound of all
those little towns: Mabel, Prosper, Lanesboro.

We’d spend five whole days visiting
aunts, uncles, cousins, friends. Weren’t
any motels back then, no money for such
luxuries if there had been. But somehow
our Minnesota families always made room
for us to spend the night. Prepared
special meals in honor of our visit.

On Sunday, before we had to leave,
they held a huge picnic for everyone
who came to say goodbye, until next year.
Then the six of us piled into the family Ford,
traveled back across the Mississippi River –
back on country roads to our Wisconsin home.

~ Marjorie Pagel

The judge responded to this poem’s “nostalgia for a simpler time of driving to visit family back in Minnesota.”


Present Day Road Trips


Road trips come to an end, so Christy Schwan takes us home in the "present day" first place poem.


cocooned in my car with
audio books muffling road noise
wheels whir, ba-bump over
tar-seamed bandages
state after state floats by
invisible lines crossed
rolling hills yield to flatlands where
towering wind farms mar horizon
my mind cruises to its own rhythm
caught in hypnotic highway trance
oblivious to exit signs and rest stops
memories bounce into view
I lose track of where I am
toll booth cameras capture
my license plate
prove I was here

~ Christy Schwan

Dotson reported that she loves “the sounds and sights of this long drive,” and singled out the expression, “Tar-seamed bandages” as being fresh.


Interesting images and similes abound in Christian Ward’s poem about a road trip the speaker might want to forget, garnering second place. 

From Las Vegas to San Diego 

Clouds did not roam
like prowling mountain
lions on that road trip. 

The sun, a light bulb
refusing to be turned off.
The curtain of sky
in cahoots, refusing
to be drawn back. 

Mile upon mile
of asphalt, grey
like our arguments
over money or jobs
or housing. Joshua trees
tutting like a mother-in-law.
I inhaled my unhappiness
and looked towards
the horizon. 

I can only remember
a handful of places:
Barstow, Victorville,
Inland Empire

Cholesterol of LA traffic.
Route 66 burning me

like the fries at Victorville.
I exhaled everything
at San Diego. Almost
caused a tidal wave

~ Christian Ward 

The judge characterized this as a ”miserable road trip where the environment reflects the interior energy of the people in the car arguing.” She especially liked “cholesterol of LA traffic” and the last verse.


The third-place poem was written by Bonnie Proudfoot, is a variation on the form called the ghazal, a form which originated in Arabic. You can find a definition of the ghazal and links to sample poems at

Glacier National Park (a ghazal)

The Welcome Center tells the history of native lands, appropriation.
The Blackfeet say the 1895 treaty was a lease, not a confiscation.

Blackfeet, Salish, Kootenai can no longer hunt inside the National Park
no ceremonies on sacred peaks, rites are held on the reservation.

Information plaques mention that in 1850 there were 150 glaciers.
now 35 remain, by 2130 they may all disappear back into creation.

At the park entrance, in awe with other tourists in early June,
impossible to deny the elation with every geological formation.

It’s a tricky determination: is it winter snowpack or glaciation?
Driving Going-To-The-Sun Road, we question every icy elevation.

On foot, we ascend along a narrow rocky trail, skirt a steep chute,
scramble between fallen limbs, last winter’s devastation.

Snow melts above Avalanche Lake, streams cascade in 9 torrents,
in a clear reflection, snowy peaks, but no closer to our destination.

Surrounded by mountains that keep their own counsel,
words of rock, water, and wind, spoken in the imagination.

We strain to hear the echo of a lost word, Glacier, knowing
that all words have dissolved in our silent fascination.

What is silence? no beep, beep, beep of trucks backing,
no boogie-woogie ring-tones, no clatter of civilization.

Returning through 500-year-old cedars and ferns, a realization:
as the mercury inches up, all tilts toward obliteration.

A last view, meadow of Beargrass, Indian Paintbrush, stoic peaks.
Sing, Northern Flicker, sing. Your voice is our consolation.

~ Bonnie Proudfoot

Jennifer Dotson said that this poem is a “nice use of form for this epic exploration of the park by car and by foot.” She liked the expression, “no clatter of civilization” and said that “the last line packs a punch.”


Congratulations to the six poems whose work was selected. They maintain copyright to their own work. Thank you to Jennifer Dodson for serving as the judge.

Sign back in on July 1 to see what the next Poetry Challenge will be.



Beverly M. Collins is author of the books, Quiet Observations: Diary thought, Whimsy and Rhyme and Mud in Magic. Her works appear in California Quarterly, Poetry Speaks! A year of Great Poems and Poets, The Hidden and the Divine Female Voices in Ireland, The Journal of Modern Poetry (Chicago), Spectrum, Peeking Cat Literary (London) Altadena Poetry Review, The Galway Review (Ireland), Verse of Silence (New Delhi), Merak Magazine (London), Scarlet Leaf Review (Canada), Wild Word Magazine (Berlin), The Readers and Writers Magazine (UK) Truth Serum Press/Bequem Publishing (Australia) and others. Winner of a 2019 Naji Naaman Literary Prize in Creativity (Lebanon). Collins is also a prize winner for the California State Poetry Society, twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize and “short listed” for the Pangolin Review Poetry Prize (Mauritius). Her photography can be found on The Academy of the Heart and Mind, Fine Art America, Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Wend Poetry, Spectrum, and others.

Linda M. Crate's poetry, short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in a myriad of magazines both online and in print. She has seven published chapbooks, A Mermaid Crashing Into Dawn (Fowlpox Press, 2013), Less Than A Man (The Camel Saloon, 2014), If Tomorrow Never Comes (Scars Publications, 2016), My Wings Were Made to Fly (Flutter Press, 2017), splintered with terror (Scars Publications, 2018), More Than Bone Music (Clare Songbirds Publishing House, 2019), and the samurai (Yellow Arrowing Publishing, 2020); and two micro-chapbooks, Heaven Instead (Oragami Poems Project, 2018) and moon mother (Czykmate Books, 2018). She also has three full-length poetry collections, the latest being Mythology of My Bones (Cyberwit, 20200.

Jennifer Dotson is author of Late Night Talk Show Fantasy & Other Poems (Kelsay Books, 2020) and Clever Gretel (Chicago Poetry Press, 2013). A recent finalist in the 2021 Mary Blinn Poetry Contest, Jennifer's work has been published in After Hours, East on Central, Grand Little Things, and The Macguffin, among others. She is the creative engine behind, which she founded in 2007.

Marjorie Pagel is a retired teacher from Franklin, WI where she enjoys long walks, piano, reading, writing, and online classes. Her two books, The Romance of Anna Smith and other stories and Where I’m From: poems and stories, are available from Amazon and at discounted prices from the author. (

Bonnie Proudfoot has had fiction and poetry published in the Gettysburg Review, Kestrel, Quarter After Eight and other journals. Her first novel, Goshen Road, was published by Swallow Press in January of 2020, and was selected by the Women’s National Book Association for one of its Great Group Reads for 2020.  The novel was also long-listed for the PEN/ Hemingway award for debut fiction.

Christy Schwan is a native Hoosier, rock hound, wild berry picker, and wildflower seeker. She is pursuing her "encore" career as a poet/writer and lives in Wisconsin where she enjoys quiet sports; snowshoeing, kayaking, canoeing, and loon spotting. 

Christian Ward is a UK-based writer who can be currently found in Shot Glass Journal, Asylum Magazine, One Hand Clapping, The Crank, Sein Und Werden and The Pangolin Review



© Wilda Morris





Tuesday, June 1, 2021

June 2021 - 12th Anniversary Challenge - Road Trip Poems

Open Road -  Photo by Wilda Morris

This month is the 12th anniversary of the first Poetry Challenge on this blog. The blog was designed as a part of Poetry Camp at The Clearing in Ellison Bay, Wisconsin. At that time. there was no Internet service available on the grounds of The Clearing, so Robin Chapman and the poetry group went to the Viking Grill where Barbara Malcolm showed us how to create a blog. Not wanting to begin a blog that would require almost daily updates, I decided to begin the monthly challenge for other poets. I appreciate all the poets who have submitted poems over the past twelve years, and the poets who have served as judges. It has been a lot of work—but also a lot of fun. Through this venture, I have become friends with poets from all over the country and even some from abroad. I has also allowed me to encourage other poets in meaningful ways, a good way to honor poets who encouraged me when I got serious about writing poetry. It has been a rich journey!

Summer is coming in the Northern Hemisphere, and with pandemic restrictions being lifted (or at least lessened), a lot of people are planning literal journeys, especially road trips, so that seems like a good theme for this month’s challenge.

Sometimes on a road trip, you discover a special spot you didn’t know about. On one trip, we drove though the Palisade area along the Mississippi River between Iowa and Illinois, and ended up stopping for a meal in Savanna, Illinois. We had a good meal at Café Blue. Even more than the food, though, I loved the decor. When I went through the area several years later, I was saddened to learn that the restaurant was no longer there. Tony McCombie and his mother had opened Café Blue on July 1, 2002. Unfortunately, due to his mother’s illness. McCombie was forced to sell the business after only two years. This road trip poem pays honor to McCombie’s dream, and to a very special place. I’m glad I got to experience Café Blue once before it vanished.


Café Blue, Savanna, Illinois

Mirrors behind the soda fountain
reflect blue walls, blue bar stools,
blue soup bowls. Even the basement door
is blue. The restroom sports
blue walls, carpet, plumbing pipes,
soap dispenser, rattan stool, all blue.
Melancholy music from the radio
seeps into the dining room
But I can’t feel blue
on this blue-sky day when we’ve driven
between river and palisades,
up green hill crests with valleys
spread before us painted
in a cornucopia of russets and greens,
you and I together in our matching
plumb-purple pullovers.

~ Wilda Morris

This poem was published in the Rockford Review, XXIX:2 (Summer-Fall 2010).


The next poem comes from a road trip to Wisconsin, driving after dark.

Fawn at Night

You pause beside the road,
eyes glowing
like two small headlights
in the light of our larger ones.
If you run for it,
we are all doomed.
There will be no fawn,
no car, no poem.

~ Wilda Morris

“Fawn at Night” was published in The Avocet (Fall, 2018), p. 22.


Jennifer Dotson’s road trip poem is longer, more exciting, and scarier! If you have traveled in the mountains, you may identify with her. When I heard her read this poem at an open mic, it brought back memories of traveling through the Rocky Mountains in the West. It also reminded me of when I visited friends in Costa Rica. I rented a car and we drove from San Jose to the Monteverde Cloud Forest. Fortunately, I was not doing the driving!

Beartooth Highway

Like no other road I’ve ridden -
A rollercoaster ride of switchbacks
and blind curves with small
guardrails – only the thinnest
protection between the asphalt
and the abyss.

At the scenic lookout I admire
the tenacious scrubby pines
that send their roots down
into the mountain rock,
bowing and bending with
the wind to keep their purchase.

Where does my fear come from?
Is it because I see so much sky,
measuring the distance from a
dangerous edge in inches?
While I clench and cling, you grow
happier with the rising elevation.

You enjoy making the turns,
negotiating passing vehicles.
Soon the trees give way to
rocks and grass and neighboring
peaks disappear from view.
We could be on a flat prairie.

With shaky knees, I celebrate
our arrival at the summit.
I feel I could be plucked off
and plummet with a breeze.
That gravity would choose
to let me go.

~ Jennifer Dotson

Jennifer Dotson retains copyright on this poem.


A Few Road Trip Poems from the Internet:
-Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken,”
-Andrea Cohen, “Road Trip,”
-Jamie Miller, “An American Road Trip,”
-“Road Trip,”
-Sheenagh Pugh , “What If This Road,”
-Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road,”


The June Challenge:


Please follow the guidelines carefully. 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, 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 road trip poem. No poems about airline or rail travel. No cruise ships. Wikipedia says a road trip is “a long-distance journey on the road. Typically, road trips are long distances traveled by automobile.” I once dreamed that I walked from Iowa City to Fairfield, Iowa, to visit my Aunt Hattie. A trip of that distance by foot, horseback, camel, cart, covered wagon, or bicycle would count as a road trip! Just after posting this challenge, I discovered this article about a woman who walked around the world. See

Your poem may be serious or humorous. The poem may be metaphoric, or literal. It could be a historical poem or a dream. 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 June 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 “June 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.


Jennifer Dotson is author of Late Night Talk Show Fantasy & Other Poems (Kelsay Books, 2020) and Clever Gretel (Chicago Poetry Press, 2013). A recent finalist in the 2021 Mary Blinn Poetry Contest, Jennifer's work has been published in After Hours, East on Central, Grand Little Things, and The Macguffin, among others. She is the creative engine behind, which she founded in 2007.

Wilda Morris, Workshop Chair, Poets and Patrons of Chicago and past President, Illinois State Poetry Society, has published in numerous anthologies, webzines, and print publications, and has let poetry workshops for children and adults in several states. She has won awards for formal and free verse and haiku, including the 2019 Founders’ Award from the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. Her second poetry book, Pequod Poems: Gamming with Moby-Dick was published in 2019 (available from Kelsay Books and She loves to travel.



© Wilda Morris