Sunday, April 24, 2022

April Poetry Challenge Winners: Body/Body Parts

Norsemen Landing in Iceland by Oscar Wergeland, 1909
In the public domain (from Wikimedia Commons)

Who would expect that a winning poem in the category of body/body parts would reference the ancient Vikings? But here are the Vikings, living again, so to speak, in Guy Thorvaldsen’s poem. Maybe, considering his Scandinavian name, I should not have been so surprised.

Off my Chest

In the basement,
I belly up to the air conditioner,
hump it up two flights for the renters.
With each step, my chest groans
like the hull of a Viking ship
in the North Atlantic.
But the Vikings were smart,
their clinker-built ships
designed to yield and give,
not fight, the waves.

My ribs give little these days,
old knots twist my interstitial gristle,
popping and creaking
like worn oarlocks,
residuals of a life in motion–
clambering up eighty-foot high pines,
diving full-out on the soccer pitch,
and then to work–
decades of pounding in kegs of nails,
lifting stud walls, shouldering
the dead weight of steel girders.

All this noticed most
as I lie down for the night,
cough and hack out the day’s dust,
ancient shards of fiberglass insulation.
My wife and I lean
against each other, feel
our traveled hearts and lungs rattling
in their boney cages,
still itching to know each other better,
get even closer,
listening like children,
like Vikings,
for signs of the new land.

~ Guy Thorvaldsen

About this poem, the judge, Kate Hutchinson, said: “The speaker provides a clear-eyed and poignant look at his aging body through the masterful use of an extended metaphor – a Viking ship. In stanza 2 we come to understand all the ways the man’s body, like an ancient wooden ship, has been lashed and worn over the years. This is a body that has seen hard work through decades of carpentry – and we are given a condensed list of all that has entailed, the ‘pounding,’ ‘lifting,’ and ‘shouldering’ hardware and lumber and steel beams. Uses of effective alliteration and assonance add to the poem’s tone, such as in the line, ‘old knots twist my interstitial gristle.’ The final stanza works beautifully to bring closure to another hard day of physical labor – and to the poem – with a glimpse of the speaker finding rest at last, with his wife, still harboring a childlike wonder at what tomorrow will bring, as they lie in bed listening ‘like Vikings’.”


Second Place goes to "Vigil."


I held my father's hands
while he died.
Extra-large-glove-sized hands.
By the thumb, wide faded reminder
of the axe at seventeen.
Crooked finger, broken by the mower.
Myriad silver scars.
Calluses softened now.
Fingers that routinely hit
two computer keys,
drummed the table when impatient,
or bored.
Knuckles aged boney,
veins dark and visible.
At ninety-eight, the vellum skin
Hands that skinned deer, built houses,
crimped pie crust.

We waited,
his firm grasp warm in mine.
When a thousand stars exploded,
he squinted hard,
and let me go. 

~ Peggy Trojan

“Vigil” was first published in All That Matters in 2018.

Hutchinson explained her selection of “Vigil” as a winning poem: “In this short poem, the speaker lovingly describes for us the final moment with his or her father, using a description of the father’s hands to catalog his life. In a list of carefully crafted phrases, we come to know much about this 98-year-old man whose large and now blotchy hands once wielded an axe, hit computer keys, built houses, and made pies. The ‘myriad silver scars’ on his hands, noted in stanza one, find an intriguing echo in stanza two, at the moment of death ‘[w]hen a thousand stars exploded.’ The poem’s ending line will resonate with many of us who have lost a parent, when we realize we are now utterly on our own.”


Although not published here, we want to give a shout-out to Karen Havholm, who received an Honorable Mention, for “After Shoulder Surgery.”

Winning poets retain copyright to their own poems.

Congratulations to the winning poets, and thanks to the judge, and to everyone who sent a poem this month.

Happy National Poetry Month!

Check for a new challenge on May 1.



Kate Hutchinson recently retired from a 34-year career of teaching high school English in Chicago's northwest suburbs. Her poetry and personal essays have appeared in dozens of publications and won numerous awards, both regional and national, as well as three Pushcart Prize nominations. Her latest collection of poems, A Matter of Dark Matter, was released in 2022 by Kelsay Books; her previous two books include Map Making: Poems of Land and Identity (2015, THEAQ Press) and The Gray Limbo of Perhaps (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Kate is active with several local poetry organizations, including serving as contest chair for Chicagoland Poets & Patrons and as assistant editor for the literary arts journal East on Central in Highland Park. To find more of her work and information about her new book, visit:

Guy Thorvaldsen’s poetry has appeared in, among others, Alligator Juniper, Forge, Magma 69, Zone 3, and Poet Lore. His first full-length book, Going to Miss Myself When I’m Gone came out in October 2017 through Aldrich Press.  He is a journeyman carpenter, English Instructor, and contributing poet/essayist for community radio.          

Peggy Trojan, age eighty-nine, published her first poem when she was seventy-seven. Her recent release, River, won second in the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Chapbook contest in 2021. It also won an award of Outstanding Achievement from the Wisconsin Library Association. Her new release is a collection about her father, titled PA. She is the author of two full collections and five chapbooks. Her books are available on Amazon. 


© Wilda Morris





Friday, April 1, 2022

April 2022 Challenge: The Body

Man on a Ladder by Luca Signorelli - National Gallery of Art, London

This painting by Luca Signorelli (1440/50-1523) could serve as a good prompt for a poem about the hands of this working man—or about his feet as he climbs the ladder.

I had already decided I wanted to do a challenge for poems related to body parts—poems that could be shared on a family-friendly website. I had saved several poems by Donna Puccini from which I would select one. This morning when I opened, I found a delightful poem that fit the topic perfectly. I think you will enjoy it! And it may inspire you to check out yourdailypoem, if you don’t already subscribe to it.


A Man of Many Parts

I am a man of many parts
And for those parts I’m grateful.
The parts though, don’t reciprocate.
Some days, they’re downright hateful.

My head might hurt, my teeth might ache,
Or sometimes my left shoulder.
I hear from long neglected parts
Each day that I grow older.

On some days there is brand new pain.
Sometimes it hurts so bad
In places heretofore that I
Did not know that I had.

There’s cheek and jaw and palate
And mandible and chin.
And upper arm and elbow
And femur, knee, and shin.

There’s eyebrow, ribs and sinus.
There’s finger, knuckle, nose,
Or wrist and palm and ankle,
Or heel, foot, and toes.

There’s neck and throat and clavicle.
There’s diaphragm and lung,
Scapula and hamstrings,
Sternum, lips and tongue,

Stomach, heart or abdomen
Bicep, eardrum, thigh
Gall bladder and kidney
Liver, spleen, and eye.

And some parts have parts of their own
Like my old aching back —
Thoracic, lumbar, cervical,
And sacroiliac.

The pain they offer cause me
To groan and moan and grumble.
Tis’ only one of many ways
God finds to keep me humble.

Each part provides a service
From heel to top of head
Gleefully reminding me,
That I am not yet dead.

The parts decide which part will hurt.
I am not the chooser
My body is an equal
Opportunity abuser.

~ Darrell Arnold.

First published this morning at  Used by permission of the author, who retains copyright.

If you compare the poem as published here with the poem as previously published, you may notice that Darrell has made a few changes, including adding another stanza. Some readers may be surprised to learn that poets often change poems after they have been published. Evidence, perhaps, for the truth of a quote from French poet Paul Valery: “A poem is never finished, only abandoned.”


Darrell’s poem mentions a lot of body parts. It is the first poem in which I’ve see the word “sacroiliac”! I found it very amusing. In contrast, the poem by Donna which I selected, is about only one body part—a left hand. And not even the left hand of the poet or a member of her family. Rather, it is about the left hand of the conductor of the Chicago Symphony orchestra.


Muti’s Left Hand

For Riccardo Muti
and the Chicago Symphony

His right hand gives the downbeat
with the stick. The opening chords
rise into the chandelier netted
with lights and microphones.

Like a bird escaping its cage,
his left hand flutters out from his lapel,
then grasps his heart to keep it
from bursting. He lets it go,
a gull diving over a sea of violins
into the deep bell of the tuba.

Wait. Be still. I’ll tell you when.
He does so, punching sforzando
with a left hook, then flinging in a handful
of salt, seasoning soup as his grandmother did.
He knows how to simmer.

Palm upturned, he welcomes woodwinds,
shakes the open hand next to his chest,
strumming an invisible lute. Now leaning,
he points like an angry father, reproaching
the violas. Paw becomes claw, casting a spell
on the horns. Then fingers point up,
like Holman Hunt’s Jesus in the Doorway.

Brahms’ Second is long and he is tired.
He needs to rest that left hand. Tonight,
if he sleeps on his back, it will recline
on the blanket or crawl beneath it.
If he’s on his stomach, he will tuck it
under his pillow to keep it still. If
on his side, it will cradle his head
to catch leftover themes.

Crouching, he turns the page, nods to the flutes,
smiles a crooked smile at the oboes, and
flicks his wrist at the brass: Run with it.

~ Donna Pucciani

From Donna Pucciani, A Light Dusting of Breath (Purple Flag Press). Used by permission of the author who retains copyright.


The April Challenge:

The challenge for this month is a poem about a part of the body, but remember this blog is family friendly. Your poem, may be literal or metaphoric. You may concentrate on one part of the body, or multiple parts. Your poem may be serious or humorous. Use your imagination! Note that the blog format does not accommodate shaped poems or 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. Note, too, that long poems are at a disadvantage.

Poems could be disqualified if the guidelines are not followed.

1-Title your poem unless it is in a form that discourages titles.


3-Put your submission in this order:

Your poem

Publication data if your poem was previously published

Your name

A brief third-person bio

Your email address – it saves me a lot of work if you put your email address at the end of your submission.

4-Please keep the poem on the left margin (standard 1” margin). Do not put any part of your submission on a colored background. No colored type. Do not use a fancy font and do not use a header or footer.

5-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.

6-The deadline is April 15. Poems submitted after the deadline will not be considered. There is no charge to enter, so there are no monetary rewards. Winners are published on this blog.

7-Please don’t stray too from “family-friendly” language (some children and teens read this blog).

8- No simultaneous submissions, please. You should know by the end of the month whether or not your poem will be published.

9-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.

10-Decision of the judge or judges is final.

11-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.

12-Send one poem only.

How to Submit Your Poem:

1-Send your poem to wildamorris4[at]gmail[dot]com (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”). The poem must respond in some way to the specific challenge for the month.

2-Put “April 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.

3-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.

4-Poems may be pasted into an email or sent as an attachment or both (Doc, Docx, rich text or plain text; no pdf files, please). 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).  Put everything in the order listed above.

6-Also, please do not use multiple spaces instead of punctuation 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.


Darrell Arnold is a native of Colorado but now lives in NW Arizona because, “I’m too old to enjoy shoveling snow.” He worked as a photojournalist for 25 years, including 17 years as publisher/editor of his own Cowboy Magazine. Semi-retired now, his passion is writing rhyming poetry that can be set to music. He as won song-of-the-year awards from the Western Writers of America and from the Western Music Association. “I’ve loved rhyming poetry since I was a kid in high school. I love the works of  the old English poets as well as that of Robert Service, S. Omar Barker, Banjo Patterson, Badger Clark, and Bruce Kiskkadon. Contemporary poetry heroes are Joel Nelson, Wallace McRae, the late Mike Logan, Chris Isaacs, Virginia Bennett, and Sally Harper Bates.

Donna Pucciani, a Chicago-based writer, has published poetry worldwide in Poetry Salzburg, ParisLitUp, Meniscus, Shi Chao Poetry, Journal of Italian Translation, Agenda, Stand, and others. Her work has been translated into Italian, Chinese, Japanese and German. She has been nominated numerous times for the Pushcart Prize and has won awards from the Illinois Arts Council, the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, Poetry on the Lake, and other organizations. Her seventh and most recent book of poems is Edges.



© Wilda Morris