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,” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44272/the-road-not-taken.
-Andrea Cohen, “Road Trip,” https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/09/18/road-trip.
-Jamie Miller, “An American Road Trip,” https://literaryyard.com/2017/11/08/poem-an-american-road-trip/.
-“Road Trip,” https://powerpoetry.org/poems/road-trip-4.
-Sheenagh Pugh , “What If This Road,” http://www2.open.ac.uk/openlearn/poetryprescription/what-if-this-road.html.
-Walt Whitman, “Song of the Open Road,” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48859/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 http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20210527-the-woman-who-walked-around-the-world?utm_source=pocket-newtab&referer=https%3A%2F%2Fgetpocket.com%2Frecommendations.

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 www.HighlandParkPoetry.org, 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 amazon.com). She loves to travel.



© Wilda Morris