Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Some poems give advice—or even orders—to the reader. They contain a lot of imperatives—do this, don’t do that. These poems can be free verse or formal. Here are two old examples, both in the public domain.

Kindness to Animals
Speak gently to the herring and kindly to the calf,
Be blithesome with the bunny, at barnacles don’t laugh!
Give nuts unto the monkey, and buns unto the bear,
Ne’er hint at currant jelly if you chance to see a hare!
Oh, little girls, pray hide your combs when tortoises draw nigh,
And never in the hearing of a pigeon whisper Pie!
But give the stranded jelly-fish a shove into the sea,—
Be always kind to animals wherever you may be!

Oh, make not game of sparrows, nor faces at the ram,
And ne’er allude to mint sauce when calling on a lamb.
Don’t beard the thoughtful oyster, don’t dare the cod to crimp,
Don’t cheat the pike, or ever try to pot the playful shrimp.
Tread lightly on the turning worm, don’t bruise the butterfly,
Don’t ridicule the wry-neck, nor sneer at salmon-fry;
Oh, ne’er delight to make dogs fight, nor bantams disagree,—
Be always kind to animals wherever you may be!

Be lenient with lobsters, and ever kind to crabs,
And be not disrespectful to cuttle-fish or dabs;
Chase not the Cochin-China, chaff not the ox obese,
And babble not of feather-beds in company with geese.
Be tender with the tadpole, and let the limpet thrive,
Be merciful to mussels, don’t skin your eels alive;
When talking to a turtle don’t mention calipee—
Be always kind to animals wherever you may be. 

~ Joseph Ashby-Sterry

Don't Take Your Troubles to Bed

You may labor your fill, friend of mine, if you will;
    You may worry a bit, if you must;
You may treat your affairs as a series of cares,
    You may live on a scrap and a crust;
But when the day’s done, put it out of your head;
Don’t take your troubles to bed.

You may batter your way through the thick of the fray,
    You may sweat, you may swear, you may grunt;
You may be a jack-fool if you must, but this rule
    Should ever be kept at the front: —
Don’t fight with your pillow, but lay down your head
And kick every worriment out of the bed.

That friend or that foe (which he is, I don’t know),
    Whose name we have spoken as Death,
Hovers close to your side, while you run or you ride,
    And he envies the warmth of your breath;
But he turns him away, with a shake of his head,
When he finds that you don’t take your troubles to bed

~ Edmund Vance Cooke

Other Advise Poems

Here are a few other advise poems you can read on-line:

Kent M. Keith, “The Paradoxical Commandments,”

Sarah Teasdale, “Advice to a Girl,”

e. e. cummings, “A Poet’s Advice to Students,”

Louise Erdrich  “Advice to Myself,”

The July Poetry Challenge: an Advice Poem

The Challenge for June is to write an advice poem. Tell the reader what to do or not do. The poem could be advice to everyone, or it could be advice to a child, a student, a dancer, a preacher—or any specific individual or group to whom you want to address it. It could even be addressed to your pet, or to the deer who has been munching your lilies.

The deadline is July 15. Poems submitted after the July 15 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. No simultaneous submissions, please. You will know before the month is over whether or not your poem will be published on this blog. Your poem may be free or formal verse. If you use a form, please specify the form when you submit.

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 40 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.

© Wilda Morris

Monday, June 29, 2015

June 2015 Challenge Winner - A River Poem

Photos © Wilda Morris

Charlotte Digregorio, the judge for the June Poetry Challenge selected “Flow, River, Flow” by Carole Mertz as the winning poem. Mertz interpreted “river poem” in a unique and creative way.

Flow, River, Flow

I haven’t ridden on swift-flowing rafts,
but I’ve been swept along in waters
splayed by many a writer’s crafts.

I’ve travelled torrents in books
as varied and bright
as my rich reading nooks.

Petterson (of Out Stealing Horses) shows his boy
racing downriver on risky yellow logs, 
erupting with violent spurts of joy.

In dread I’ve watched the swollen Arno strip
gilded paint from Florentine treasures of old.
(The diary of K.K. Taylor records this river’s slip.)

And what of the Styx? I’d rather not travel
its ominous flows; but Dante and Milton
press me with knotty lines to unravel.

These rivers flow on and on. Never stopping, 
I read them again and again,
enjoying vintages of each writer’s outcropping.

This River of Words smooths my way,
gift from writers ‘round the world.
How wide its reaches? I cannot yet say.

~ Carole Mertz

Carole Mertz owns copyright to this poem.

Carole Mertz has published poems in The Write Place at the Write Time, Page & Spine, Rockford Review, Lutheran Digest, Westward Quarterly, and in various anthologies. Her reviews of poetry collections are at Arc Poetry Magazine and in World Literature Today. 

About the judge:  Charlotte Digregorio is the author of six books including, Haiku and Senryu: A Simple Guide for All. Her books are sold in forty-four countries, and have been featured by book clubs. She has won thirty-three poetry awards and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She speaks at national writer's conferences, and is a writer-in-residence at universities. She hosted and produced, “Poetry Beat,” a radio program on public broadcasting. She is the Second Vice President of the Haiku Society of America. She has given dozens of haiku workshops at libraries and schools, and judges national poetry contests. Her poems have been translated into six languages and exhibited on public transit, in banks, supermarkets, museums, apparel shops, botanic gardens, restaurants, and libraries. You can check her website at

Check back early in July to see the next poetry challenge.

© Wilda Morris