Sunday, February 26, 2023

February 2023 Winners: Beach Poems



Dunes by the Sea, 1648
by Jacob van Ruisdael
National Gallery of Art, DC

There were a number of excellent poems submitted for the February Poetry Challenge. A lot of people have good memories of time spent at the beach or have a yearning to find out what a day on the beach would be like. The judge, Linda Wallin, former president of Poets & Patrons of Chicago, selected Bonnie Proudfoot’s poem as the winner.

Behind the Dunes

And here we are again, on this hot blanket
on this scorching sand, under this scorching sun,
while the surf rolls in, rolls in, in silken curls,
each swell rising, rising up the shoreline,
and we’ve set the large umbrella to shade
our mother’s small frame, her silken curls,
her brown arms as thin as driftwood.

She moves slowly now, as if she has
so much time, solar time, the span of the arc
of all these sunlit days, of all of us
in her orbit, drawn to her side. We watch
her eyes close, see that she is, for the moment,
at peace with all the many defeats.
She used to do it all, bike to the beach,
powerwalk the shoreline, swim laps,
everyone had to race to keep up. 

These days she relies on our arms
or a cane, and I question the effort it takes
to get her to this blanket near the shore.
Still, we ease her into her chair,
tote the ice chest, food she can barely digest.
We are here, then, when the wind brings
the dank musk of seaweed, when other families pack up.
Their blankets drag trails on the sand, and their laughter
and calls fade into the flap and cry of the gulls.

Off shore, schools of spearing leap,
a sailboat bobs beside a buoy, dark surf
froths along a rocky jetty, but here she is,
under the fluttering umbrella,
the sun melting behind the dunes,
the crook of her fingers holding fast,
and why wouldn’t we stay until
all the shadows lengthen, why shouldn’t
this last day last long into the night?

~ Bonnie Proudfoot

Proudfoot’s poem has a lot of “s” sounds which seem to echo the sound of the water, and a lot of other alliteration—not enough to call attention to itself but enough to make the poem sing. It is a beach poem, a poem about aging, a poem about the family and the role of the mother, a poem about a strong woman nearing the end of her life. It is the poignancy of the poem that especially impressed Wallin as she judged the poems.

“Behind the Dunes” appeared Proudfoot’s chapbook of poems, Household Gods, published by Sheila-Na-Gig Editions in September 2022.


For second place, Wallin selected a poem reflecting on a particular day in 2020:

Ocean Beach San Francisco March 4, 2020

You begged and I promised to leave you
along the landing strip of sand
where once the unwrinkled less reliable characters
in our prequel rolled brave and tender
words between the ocean breeze over slaps
of great waves breaking from the west.
You call this place the end
of land while in my ken here begins
ocean―point A on the whale road to Asia.
For hours we wove fancies between flotsam
and jetsam of a comfortable cottage among dens
of the wealthy. Still we paused to pity unlucky
jellyfish caught in wind and wave
who could control no more than we.
Or we would admire harbor seals bouncing across the littoral
into fish rich upswell moving kelp forests under seabird wheels.
The tide ebbs and the tide flows
whether or not we cuddle hands to watch it.
A lucky wind blew us our daughter and
cold waves tumored your essence
leaving us scattering your sand
to accompany that of the intertidal zone and mine to come
where one day we will loop when rip tide
or typhoon remnants
see fit to ouroboros us
together for an end and

~ Tyson West

West’s poem also takes us on a poignant journey, while pushing us to think philosophically. Is the shore (or beach) the end of the land or the beginning of the ocean, “point A on the whale road to Asia”? And what can any of us control, anyway? Wallin also liked how the poet included such a beautiful picture of the beach within what is really a love poem.


These poets retain copyright on their own poems.


Honorable Mentions selected by the judge:

“Beaches Are for Baby Feet” by Thomas Hemminger
“Kovalam Call and Response” by Lee Conger
“Chatterbox” by Joe Cottonwood
“Memories Made from the Impossible” by Angela Hoffman
and an untitled poem by Joan Leotta



Lee Conger is a community organizer, native habitat restorer, and amateur opera singer in Los Angeles, California. He makes money as a Narrative Therapist and teacher of Integral Qigong and Tai Chi. Lee boosts his own microbiome diversity with homemade lactofermented ketchup.

Joe Cottonwood has repaired hundreds of houses to support his writing habit in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His latest book of poetry is Random Saints.

Thomas Hemminger is an elementary music teacher living in Dallas, Texas with his wife and son. He writes many poems and songs for his classroom. His personal and professional hero is Mr. Fred Rogers, the creator and host of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood. Being the son of an English Language Arts teacher, Thomas grew up surrounded by prose and poetry. Furthermore, his mother’s love of verse, and her own talented pen, impressed a deep love for the art within him. He recently started having poems published online through the Wilda Morris Poetry Challenge, and through

Angela Hoffman’s poetry collections include Resurrection Lily (Kelsay Books, 2022) and Olly Olly Oxen Free (forthcoming, Kelsay Books, 2023). She placed third in the WFOP Kay Saunders Memorial Emerging Poet in 2022. Her poems have been published internationally. She has written a poem a day since the start of the pandemic. Angela lives in rural Wisconsin.

Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. She performs tales of food, family, strong women. Internationally published, she’s a 2021 and 2022 Pushcart nominee, Best of the Net 2022 nominee, and  2022 runner-up in Robert Frost Competition. Her essays, poems, and fiction appear in Ekphrastic Review, The Lake, and more. Her new chapbook, Feathers on Stone is out from Main Street Rag.

Bonnie Proudfoot's debut chapbook of poems, Household Gods, was published by Sheila-Na-Gig Editions in September 2022. Her novel, Goshen Road (2020, OU Swallow Press) was Long-listed for the PEN/Hemingway, and awarded the 2022 WCONA Book of the Year. She's published fiction, essays, and poetry. Bonnie lives outside of Athens, Ohio.

Linda Wallin found out late in life that all of her degrees did not help one bit when it came to writing poetry. She continues to write down what bubbles up and is grateful for friends who encourage her. You can read some of her poems on, Wallin's Wave at,  and Living with Geniuses at

Tyson West has published speculative fiction and poetry in free verse, form verse and haiku distilled from his mystical relationship with noxious weeds and magpies in Eastern Washington. He has no plans to quit his day job in real estate. He was the featured USA poet at Muse Pie Press from December 2019 through December 2022.


Tune in on March 1 for a new Poetry Challenge.  


© Wilda Morris






Wednesday, February 1, 2023

February 2023 Poetry Challenge: Beach Poems

Children Playing on the Beach by Mary Cassatt, 1884 

National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

This painting is in the public domain

It is very cold today here in the Chicago area—and across much of central and northern United States.  I’m sure a lot of people are wishing they could be on a Caribbean beach enjoying the sun, so I thought it would be fun to feature beaches as our February Poetry Challenge. Here are a couple of examples of beach poems:

Beach Time

When long-ago bikini fades
into one-piece swimsuit,
a different slant on life
sifts like fine sand
through grasping fingers

and there’s no way to swim back
or float for hours in youthful
innocence when radiant tan
and sun-streaked hair
held sway over caution.

It’s now when you meet
yourself coming and going
in a watery world of memories,
salty aftertastes mixed
with sunburned longing

for another era when waves
washed hopes and dreams
over you, when the scattered
sea glass, smooth pebbles
and bleached shells

hadn’t been collected yet
as reminders of passing time
before yesterday, and more
frothy rollers pound the beach
into tomorrow.

~ Susan T. Moss

“Beach Time,” Mapping A Life (Antrim House, 2021), p. 63. Used by permission.


The next poem was written in Playa del Carmen where I went a number of years ago to see my new-born grandson (he’s now a young adult). Playa del Carman is near Cancun, and is a little lest touristy. I enjoyed watching a group of young men play volleyball near a restaurant where we ate lunch one day.

Beach Volleyball

Like Caribbean waves, his body is all motion.
His feet are never still; his hands shift, stretch
for the ball coming over the net. His feet propel
him into air. He slaps the ball with open hand,
waits for it to come steaming back into his court.
Beads of sweat roll and bounce from his browned skin
to white sand. His muscles glisten. Diving low
for the spiked orb, he sprawls, rises powdered with sand.
He hasn’t yet learned life isn’t winning or losing,
but volleys with sudden unexpected turns he can’t control.
It sometimes soars, sometimes bounces,
sometimes shatters hours or years into grains of sand.

~ Wilda Morris

This poem was first published by Highland Park Poetry.

For more beach poems, see

The February Challenge:

The challenge for this month is a beach poem. Your poem may be literal or metaphoric, serious, or humorous. About vacationing on a beach, the beaches of Normandy, building sandcastles, etc., etc. It can be an ocean beach or a lake beach, or even an artificial beach. It can be for children or for adults. Be creative! Note that the blog format does not accommodate shaped poems or long lines; if a poem with long lines is used, the lines 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 poems over 25 lines are at a disadvantage.

Poems could be disqualified if the guidelines are not followed. Submit your poem by February 15.

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


3-Whether you put your poem in the body of your email or in an attachment, please put your submission in this order:

Your poem

Your name

Publication data if your poem was previously published

A brief third-person bio

Your email addressit 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 midnight, Central Time Zone, February 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 “February Poetry Challenge Submission” FOLLOWED BY YOUR NAME in the subject line of your email. 

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, either in the body of the email or in an attachment.

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 preferred.



Susan T. Moss is the author of three books of poetry including her most recent full-length collection, Mapping A Life. She also has written two chapbooks, In From The Dark and Keep Moving ‘til The Music Stops. Susan is presently serving a sixth term as president of Illinois State Poetry Society and is a member of Poets Club of Chicago and The P2 Collective. Her work has appeared in publications including Caduceus, After Hours, the Kerf, Steam Ticket and Soundings Door County in Poetry. Credits include a month-long residency at Vermont Studio Center and two Illinois Humanities fellowships and readings on radio and cable television.

Wilda Morris, Workshop Chair of Poets and Patrons of Chicago and a past President of the Illinois State Poetry Society, has published numerous poems in anthologies, webzines, and print publications, including Quill & Parchment, The Avocet, Presence, Turtle Island Quarterly, and The Broken City. She has won awards for formal and free verse and haiku, including the 2019 Founders’ Award from the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. She has published two books of poetry, Szechwan Shrimp and Fortune Cookies: Poems from a Chinese Restaurant (RWG Press) and Pequod Poems: Gamming with Moby-Dick (Kelsay Books). Her book, The Unapproved Uncle is scheduled for publication this spring.



© Wilda Morris