Monday, May 1, 2023

May 2023 Challenge: The Circus, Carnival, or Fair


At the Circus: Work in the Ring by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, 1899
In the public domain. From the Art Institute of Chicago

It is May—the month when families start planning for the summer. The children begin to dream of a trip to Grandmother’s, to the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone, Disneyland or Disney World. Or perhaps they are looking forward to the county or state fair, or expecting a carnival or circus to show up. Some children, especially in rural areas, are anticipating showing the animal they are raising, a cake they will bake, or various arts and crafts at the county and/or state fair. One of my best friends at Iowa City High School, was active in 4-H and won a blue ribbon for her angel food cake, made from scratch. In those days, City High sponsored a carnival (as a fund-raiser, I presume) each summer—an event we enjoyed each year.

Fairs, carnivals, and circuses date back a long time. Thanks to Jayne Jaudon Ferrer and her website, for publishing the following poem and thus bringing it to my attention.


The County Fair

Oh, let's go out to the county fair
And breathe the balmy country air,
And whittle a stick and look at the hosses,
Discuss the farmer's profit and losses.

We'll take a look at the country stock
And drink some milk from a dairy crock;
Look at the pigs and admire the chickens,
And try to forget it's hot as the dickens.

Forget there are any political rings
Just think of the butter and eggs and things;
So wash off the buggy and hitch up the mare,
And we'll all go out to the county fair.

~ Edwin Carty Ranck

This poem is in the public domain.


I loved hearing my dad tell me about attending a small traveling circus in his hometown, Solon, Iowa, when he was a little boy. Even in his later years, his eyes would light up as he remembered that day.  I put his story into a poem that was published by Cappers.

After the Circus
(For Dad)

See the little boy
hopping beside his mother,
chattering about the pony
that could add and count.
Chickens cackle and squawk
as he runs across the field
toward the outhouse,
shaking the stick
that holds his large red balloon.
He laughs out loud.
The circus will move on
to other small towns
but for eighty, ninety years
Orville Kessler will see
the circus train, tent,
caged animals, the pony
moving numbered blocks,
the red balloon on a stick,
cackling chickens
at the end of Third Street
in Solon, Iowa, and his mother
beside him, smiling.

~ Wilda Morris

“After the Circus,” Capper’s (August 1, 2005), p. 25.


The May Challenge:

The challenge for this month is a poem about a fair, circus, or carnival. Your poem may be literal (as are the two example poems) or metaphorical. They may be serious, or humorous. 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 May 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 or both, please put your submission in this order (on in one place):

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, May 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 “May 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 or both.

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.



Wilda Morris grew up in Iowa City, Iowa, where she enjoyed the annual carnival sponsored by City High. She has wonderful memories of attending the All-Iowa Fair in 1956 with Donna, one of her best friends. It was an election year, and the two teenagers participated in the Popcorn Poll—Donna bought a box of popcorn with Dwight E. Eisenhower’s picture on it; Wilda’s box portrayed Adlai Stevenson. They did not let political differences divide them—and are still friends to this day. Her favorite ride is the Tilt-a-Whirl.

Edwin Carty Ranck (1879-1957) was born in Lexington, Kentucky. After completing his degree at Harvard University, he became a journalist and poet. Over the course of his career, he wrote for papers in Lexington, Covington, Cincinnati, St. Louis, Brooklyn (and perhaps other communities). He is considered important enough in the history of American journalism and letters that his papers are preserved at the Wade Hall Collection of Letters at the University of Kentucky.


©Wilda Morris