Friday, April 3, 2015

April 2015 Poetry Challenge

Emily Dickinson wrote a number of poems in which the bee appears. Here is one:


The PEDIGREE of honey
Does not concern the bee;
A clover, any time, to him
Is aristocracy.

~ Emily Dickinson

Better known, perhaps is this one:


To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, —
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do
If bees are few.

~ Emily Dickinson

There are many contemporary poems about bees. Bees buzz through Naomi Shihab Nye’s book of “poems and paragraphs,” Honeybee. Carol Ann Duffy, the poet laureate of Great Britain, has written a whole book of bee-related poems entitled The Bees. I will provide a list of bee poems at the bottom of the page – not a complete list, but a fairly long one.

Why so many bee poems? Bees, especially honeybees, are fascinating, productive, scary, and vital to the wellbeing of the planet, including human beings. And they produce honey.

Here is a poem that combines some scientific knowledge with the poet’s feelings and thoughts.


God gave the honeybee six weeks
and so
she flies
five hundred miles                                                                                        

in short refrains
of alleluias
to windy, white clover fields
to pink and proper rose gardens
gathering nectar in that careful needle
taking no time for self-pity, though
her life’s work, together
with that of eleven sisters
was the teaspoon of honey
I just stirred into my tea.

Sometimes she stops to walk
on my sunflowers,
her sturdy legs grow heavy
as she fills her pollen-baskets
with food for the bees back home,
but I like to think her stroll
on those upturned yellow faces
is more for the joy of making me wonder
what I know of happiness.

~ Jeanie Tomasko

From Tricks of Light (A Parallel Press Chapbook; Madison, WI: Parallel Press, University of Wisconsin-Madison Libraries, 2011), p. 17. This poem will appear in If Bees Are Few: A Hive of Bee Poems, a new anthology edited by James Lenfestey, soon to be published by the University of Minnesota Press. Tomasko owns copyright to this poem. Please do not copy and distribute it without her permission.

Jeanie Tomasko is the author of Tricks of Light (Parallel Press), Sharp as Want (Little Eagle Press), a poetry / artworks collaboration with Sharon Auberle, an e-chapbook, If I Confess Before 5:00 (Right Hand Pointing) and most recently, (Prologue), the recipient of an Editor’s Choice award from Concrete Wolf Chapbook Series . Her work has been published in The Midwest Quarterly, Right Hand Pointing, Rattle, Wisconsin People and Ideas and Birdsthumb. She works as a home health nurse in Madison, WI and can be found online at 

April Poetry Challenge:

The poetry challenge for March, as I’m sure you have figured out by now, is to write a poem about bees. Your submission can be a memory poem, a lament for the decline of the bee population, a persona poem in the voice of a bee—use your creativity! The bee or bees in your poem can be any kind of bee. They can be literal or metaphoric. It can be free verse or formal. If formal, please mention the form in your email.

Submit only one poem. The deadline is April 17. Poems submitted after the April 17 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 far from “family-friendly” language. No simultaneous submissions, please. You will know before the month is over whether or not your poem will be published on this blog.

Copyright on each poem is retained by the poet.

Poems published in books or on the Internet (including Facebook and other on-line social networks) are not eligible. If your poem has been published in a print periodical, you may submit it if you retain copyright, but please include publication data.

How to Submit Your Poem:

Send one poem only to wildamorris[at]ameritech[dot]net (substitute the @ sign for “at” and a . for “dot”) . Include a brief bio which can be printed with your poem, if you are a winner this month.

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. 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 in capital letters); your name at the bottom of the poem). Also, please do not use 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 30 lines are generally preferred. Also, if lines are too long, they don’t fit in the blog format and have to be split, so you might be wise to use shorter lines.

More poems in which bees play a significant role:

Leslie Alexis, “The Flower and the Bee,”

A. R. Ammons, “Transfer,” Collected Poems 1951-1971 (NY: W. W. Norton & Company, 1972), p. 215.

John Ciardi, “Bees and Morning Glories,” The Collected Poems of John Ciardi. © The University of Arkansas Press, 1997.

Emily Dickinson, XCVII (“To make a prairie”), LVIII (“The bee is not afraid of me”), LIV (“The murmur of a bee”), CII (“Could I but ride. . .”),  LVI (“The pedigree of honey”), XXVII (“Did the harebell loose. . . .”), XXIV (“The nearest dream recedes”), XCVIII (“It’s like the light”), LXV (“Like trains of cars. . . .”), and XIV (“Some things that fly . . .”). This can be located via

Deborah Digges, “Telling the Bees,” Trapeze (Knopf, 2004);

Carol Ann Duffy, The Bees (Faber & Faber, 2013).

Norman Rowland Gale, “Bees,”

Eamon Grennan, “Up Against It,” Out of Sight: New & Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2010).

Jane Hirshfield, “Bees,” The Lives of the Heart (HarperPerennial, 1997), p. 61.

Rudyard Kipling, “The Bee-Boy’s Song,”

Sarah Lindsay, “Tell the Bees,” Poetry (October 2008).

Betty Lies, “End Notes for a Small History,” Southern Poetry Review XXXVIII:1 (Summer 1998), page 33.
Janet Loxley Lewis, “Austerity,”

Antonio Machado, “Anche Cuando Dormía” (Last Night as I Was Sleeping), translated by Robert Bly, See also some variant translations of part of this poem at

Bruce Mackinnon, “The Bees,” Poetry (February 2009).

Osip Mandelstam, “Heaviness, tenderness. . . .,” translation by EugeneSerebryany, A translation by A. S. Cline, with the title, “Sisters, Heaviness and Tenderness, you look the same,” is found at

Osip Mandelstam, “For Joy’s Sake,” translation by A. S. Cline,

Dave Marghoshes, “My Mother’s Ring,” 

Julie L. Moore, "Hells Angels," Particular Scandals (Wipf and Stock, 2013).
Naomi Shihab Nye, Honeybee (Greenwillow Books, 2008).

Lucia Perillo, “Daisies vs. Bees,”

Sylvia Plath, “The Bee Meeting,” “Bees,” “The Arrival of the Bee Box,” “Stings,” and “Wintering,” Ariel: The Restored Edition  A Facsimile of Plath’s Manuscript, Reinstating Her Original Selection and Arrangement (HarperCollins, 2004), pp. 81-90, 189, 193).

Lizette Woodworth Reese, Telling the Bees,” She Wields a Pen: American Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century (University of Iowa Press, 1997).

Matthew Rohrer, “Garden of Bees,”

Jeanie Tomasko, “Little Lives,” and “Watching Bees,” Tricks of Light (Poetry Series; Madison Wisconsin: Parallel Press, 2012), pages 11 and 26.

Kirsten Shoshanna Traynor, “The Song of Bees,”

Kirsten Shoshanna Traynor, “Nectar Flow,”,

Mona Van Duyn, “A Time of Bees,” If It Be Not I: Collected Poems 1959-1982 (Alfred A. Knopf, a 1959).
Jean Valentine, “Bees,” Door in the Mountain: New and Collected Poems, 1965-2003 (Wesleyan University Press, 2004).

Isaac Watts, “How Doth the Busy Little Bee,”

John Greenleaf Whittier, “Telling the Bees,”

Nancy Willard, “The February Bee,” The Sea At Truro (Knopf, 2012).

Eleanor Rand Wilner, “The Girl with Bees in Her Hair” and “Field of Vision,” The Girl with Bees in Her Hair (Copper Canyon Press, 2004).

Franz Wright, “Bees of Eleusis,” Poetry (January 2011).

William Butler Yeats, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree,


William Butler Yeats, “The Stare’s Nest By My Window,”

May you spend some part of April in a “bee-loud glade.”

© Wilda Morris

Saturday, March 28, 2015


Fish and fishing turned out to be popular topics for poets. Evidently I am not the only person with good memories associated with fishing, and not the only person who likes to eat fish!

The judges, Jim Lambert and jacob erin-cilberto, selected four poems – first and second place and a tie for third. I want to thank the judges and congratulate the winners.

Some of the winning poems are fairly concrete; others are more metaphoric. I hope you will enjoy all four poems. Please remember that the poets own the copyright to their poems; do not copy them without permission.


I can sense it a shooting star, 
a glint of stellular motion inspiring 
hope to fools and children, 
a delusion, a misunderstanding 
of what is actual, what is real 
that pierces the sky

It’s like a whisper of leaves 
hanging from massive cottonwood 
trees along the Missouri River, 
investing all year to growing cotton candy 
fluff while gossiping unabashedly 
like hotel maids in the laundry

~ Jessica Lindsley


Today at market on Devon
I bought a small lake trout,
brought it home to grill 
or sauté gently in the skillet
with lemon sliced, and garlic slivered,
an evergreen sprig of parsley
as a garland for my platter.

Now as heat transforms 
the pink translucent flesh into meat
light as air, white as bone,
I give thanks for I will eat
what was yesterday a rainbow
moving through the water,
translating sunlight into matter.

- Gay Guard-Chamberlin

The second place poem is:

The Line

She came to leave
A fishing lure
Firmly embedded in my lip
To wave in the breeze
As if to say
That I was the big one
Who got away

~ Phil Rice

And finally, the first place poem:


I’ve left myself open for love.

I crave the feeling of lightness,
the sudden lift of a heart
that’s traveled on such guarded wings.

I am defenseless:

a splayed flounder
on a bed of ice
in the window of a shanty
in the middle of town.

Love makes you want to take that risk.

~ Susan Mahan

The Winning Poets:

Susan Mahan has been writing poetry since her husband died in 1997. She is a frequent reader at poetry venues and has written four chap book. Her poems have been published in a number of journals and anthologies.

Phil Rice lives and writes in Woodstock, Illinois. He has edited Canopic Jar, a literary arts journal, since 1986.

Gay Guard-Chamberlin is a Chicago-based poet and performer, as well as a visual artist. Gay is currently working on a long-term multi-disciplinary collaborative project called Collage Collage. She is a member of Poets & Patrons and ISPS. Four of her shorter poems are currently featured on Nic Sebastian's website,  

Jessica Lindsley grew up in North Dakota before the oil boom. Her work has been published in the Smoking Pot, Blackwood Press, Thirteen Myna Birds, DEAD SNAKES, cryopoetry and other publications.

The Judges:

Jim Lambert lives with is wife of 50 years and two 31 year-old desert tortoises in Southern Illinois. He has had poetry and short fiction published in several small poetry and fiction magazines. He is a past president of the Southern Illinois Writers Guild and is active in Southern Illinois community theater.

jacob erin-cilberto, originally from Bronx, NY, now resides in Carbondale, Illinois. He currently teaches at John A. Logan and Shawnee Community colleges in Southern Illinois. His work has appeared in numerous small magazines and journals including: Café Review, Skyline Magazine, Hudson View, Wind Journal, Pegasus, Parnassus and others. erin-cilberto also writes reviews of poetry books for Chiron Review, Skyline Review, Birchbrook Press and others. His previous three books an Abstract Waltz, Used Lanterns and Intersection Blues are available through Water Forest Press. His books are also available on Barnes and and as well as Goodreads. erin-cilberto has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in Poetry in 2006-2007-2008 and again in 2010. He teaches poetry workshops for Heartland Writers Guild, Southern Illinois Writers Guild and Union County Writers Guild.

Check back on April 1 for the April Poetry Challenge. You just might be a winner!

© Wilda Morris