September winning poets, new guidelines, and October word of the month

Hi everyone,

I’m happy to announce our winning poets for September. They are:

Word of the Month Poet (chosen by our judges) is Liz Korba from New Jersey for her poem, “English as a Second Language Class.”

Here is Liz’s poem.

English As A Second Language Class

One heavy door that opened in
A hole where lock and key had been
(We needed to pass code.)
What kind of flame could cause concern
For cinder block and concrete floor?
The smell of sulfur in the air…
Perhaps that could explode…
Once storage space, now holding class –
(Not elements for science labs)
No windows, central air or heat
Were needed to pass code…
Still through the open door they came
With Buddha and a Sanskrit prayer
The Star of David, Crescent Moon
And Crosses made of gold and wood.
Chains, marked – I could not help but see.
In awe I knew I could not know
Such silence seeking sound.
First A…then O…that Y – sometimes…
U…and one day …
The word made flesh in sacred space
Inside one open door.

Second place goes to April Sopczak for her poem, “The Worthy Exense of Charm School.”

Hall of Fame Poet (chosen by ballot) is Bridget Magee of Tucson, Arizona, for her poem, “Passing Notes.” Here’s her winning work.

Passing Notes

I got in big trouble in class
For all the notes that I passed.
To the “Time-Out” chair I was sent
To sit and think and then repent.

So I sat and I thought,
But repent I did not.
For my notes were for Mr. Brown
To tell him his fly was down.
©2011, Bridget Magee

Congratulations to our winning poets for September!

Our word for the month inspired 14 poems, a bumper crop, and my congratulations go to each poet who shared his or her work. Many thanks!

October begins our third year of Word of the Month Poetry Challenge. As I mentioned the other day, I’m dropping the business of voting at the end of each month. Some of you may be sorry to see this activity dropped. If you are one of them, I apologize for the disappointment. Someday maybe we’ll revisit the idea of choosing someone to win each month but for now I want to try it this way. It’s simpler and allows us to focus on the fun at hand, which is to take a single word and see where it takes us poetically. It remains one of the best exercises I know for stretching the imagination and practicing at least once a month at writing a poem. And many of you have expressed how much you appreciate the comments of others throughout the month. We seem to have created a good support group and a number of poets have worked up the courage to post a poem for the first time on this blog. I’m proud of that.

Our new word for our first month of year three is NEW. Have a good time with it.

August poets and the word for September

BULLETIN: This just in from Nile Stanley. He and Gary Dulabaum will be appearing at the Nebraska State Reading Association in 2012. Nile and Gary have both been my Featured Guests and Nile was our judges’ selection for Word of the Month Poet in November, 2010 for his poem, “Words.” Congratulations to Nile and Gary.

Hi everyone,

It is my pleasure to announce our winning poets for August. Joy Acey, who lives in Tucson, Arizona and attended my poetry workshop at Honesdale in June, takes top honors in both categories with her poem, “The View from the Iron.” It doesn’t happen often that a poet wins both Hall of Fame Poet and Word of the Month Poet in the same month. The last one to accomplish it was Susan Carmichael from Columbus, Ohio, another poetry workshop attendee, who pulled it off in June for her poem, “Such a Good Puppy.” Susan has since placed her poem with Magazine.

Here are some comments by judges this month about Joy’s winning entry.

“One particular line ‘loose tongues when they went to town,’ is really splendid.”

“I love the easy rhyme and whimsical story of the snowman poem but really love the story of the
iron and the family … sooooooooo, soooooooooooo
I think I will go with ‘View from the Iron’ as my first choice, since it is so different and I do like the details in the poem.
But I really like ‘Can’t/Won’t Compromise,’ also.”

“Can’t/Won’t Compromise?” was posted by Liz Korba from New Jersey. Liz tied with Steven Withrow in January 2011 for Hall of Fame Poet with her poem, “Fathom,” and this month she finished in second place for Word of the Month Poet.

Congratulations to Joy for sweeping honors in August, to Liz for a close second, and to all of our poets who seized on one word to create a new collection of original poetry. I’m delighted each and every month by the diversity of approaches and voices and I’m grateful to everyone for supporting the exercise.

Once again, my thanks to our judges.

Are you ready for the word for September? Here it is: CLASS

September is the 12th month of our second one-year cycle of Word of the Month. During the first twenty-three months, Steven Withrow and Mary Nida Smith have posted poems in each month. Liz Korba posted a poem late one month but still posted it to share, making her another who has posted at least twenty-three times. There are others who are close to that number. I’ll try to bring the records up to date before long and post the whole thing. It’s fun to see how many poets have joined the fun over the past two years.

Beginning the third cycle of Word of the Month in October, I expect to make some changes regarding the voting aspect of the exercise. For some time now I’ve thought about dropping the voting process and focusing on the fun of writing, posting, and commenting on poetry. Steven Withrow has also suggested it and put it well. Here is a note from Steven a few weeks ago.

Hi, David.

I visited your blog to vote today, and it started me wondering if you might consider evolving your word-of-the-month “contest” into a word-of-the-month “challenge” — not unlike the Miss Rumphius Effect weekly poetry stretch, but on a monthly schedule.

The basic setup would be the same as you have now, and finished poems would be posted at the end of each month. It would eliminate, however, the competitive aspect as well as the time you invest in managing the judging and voting process. I noticed that the number of votes is generally low (for the adult side) compared with the number of entries — and the great thread of comments — each month.

People mainly participate for the camaraderie, sharing, challenge, support, feedback, and inspiration that come from a regular group activity. We’re less concerned about whose poem wins. We also might think of new ways to encourage poets to revise their work based on group feedback.

Perhaps it’s something you’ll consider for the start of 2012? Or as early as September, with the start of the new school year?


Although I’ve made no final decision yet, I’m leaning toward doing exactly what Steven suggests. We have another month to decide and I am interested in hearing from others. Please let me have your comments about how Word of the Month should operate starting in October. Thanks very much.


July winners and August W.O.M. word

Hi everyone,

For the first time since I started my blog, I’m skipping a Sunday Poem of the Week slot. I haven’t run out of published poems. It just worked out that today is when I need to post winners for July and I didn’t want to delay doing it in order to post one of my poems. I’ll get back on track next Sunday.

Congratulations go to Heidi Mordhorst for being the judges’ pick for Word of the Month Poet with her poem, “tart text.” Thanks, Heidi, for introducing some of us to the cryptic vocabulary of the world of text. Here are some comments by the judges.

“tart text” is certainly contemporary and would no doubt appeal to a host of readers.

“tart text” is an original, clever text-message poem.
I’m sure the old purest out there will cringe at its
use of cryptic symbols in place of traditional words,
but there’s something fresh and fascinating about it.
It’s the kind of contemporary poem I’m sure
e.e. cummings would enjoy.

Michelle Ellison took second place with her poem, “Sour.” One of our judges had this to say: “Sour” has a strong emotional feel to it and I appreciate the sensitivity involved in this brief scene. I like the repetition of “Sour is…” plus the use of alliteration in “feel the fluid.”

Our winner for July’s Hall of Fame Poet is Cory Corrado for her poem, “Sour Luck.” Way to go, Cory! Congratulations to you and my thanks to all who participated in the fun for July.

And now, the word for August: HOT

Let the voting begin

Hi everyone,

We had another energetic month of poetry. If you are here for the fun of choosing a favorite poem to receive your vote, you’ll find all fifteen offerings from our adult poets listed immediately below the ballot box.

Don’t forget, you are entitled to one vote but it’s acceptable and encouraged to contact your network of friends, family, and fellow poetry enthusiasts to seek their support. The highest number of visits this blog has received was when two of our student poets locked into a contest that eventually brought more than 1,800 hits during a twenty-four hour period.

Even as we are selecting our July Hall of Fame Poet by popular vote, I’m sending poems to our panel of professional judges so they can select their top pick for July Word of the Month Poet. To remind you of our judges, here’s a link with their names, pictures, and places to learn more about them. As always, I ask that you read their work and let them know you appreciate their time and talents.

I’m sorry to report that we didn’t receive enough student poems this month to hold a vote, but that’s understandable during the summer. Our thanks to Taylor McGowan and Madi Montford for their delightful contributions. As for those missing other student poets, just wait until school starts again!

1, “Sour?” by Susan Carmichael

fever, achy, muscle pain
it feels just like the flu
drippy nose and droopy eyes
croupy coughing too

sinus pressure, ears stopped up
what am I to do
when Doctor Sunshine
breezes in and asks,
“S’our YOU?”

2, Sourpuss, by Steven Withrow

Too tart today
To grin—
The sour mood
I’m in
Tastes vinegar
And bittersweet.

I woke up late
And tried
To greet
All with a smile—
And faked it for
A little while—

But the tangy mango
On my tongue
That is my placid
Suffered acid

And now life’s flavor’s
How thin my lips
Are pursed—
With coffee made
With lemonade.
©2011 Steven Withrow, all rights reserved

3, Woodland Epiphany, by Sidanne

Treading silent, slow
Soft pine needles give
Grace to aching knees
Blue sky beckons forth
Come on, just a little more
Girl, you gotta go
Forth and find your dream
Amidst these trees, secrets
Stay kept, and greening leaves
Rustle flutter-by whispers
While the winds says hush
Now, quiet is kept and the
Birds betray nothing, chirp
Joyful nonsense, singing
Sweetly sour melodies of Now.

4, TESTY, by Mary Nida Smith

Sour is what
sour does
it gives puckerpower
to sing a sour note
while being a sourpuss.

5, Sour, by Joy Acey
(Note from David: This is a concrete poem but my program won’t let me establish different lines and margins. So sorry, Joy! To see what the poems really looks like, see it on Joy’s blog: )



atop the

Eiffel tower

feeling a great
sense of power

when along comes
an April Shower.
Boy does that make
the day seem sour!

I walk back down,
it takes an hour, all the while
thinking of a whiskey sour.

I guess I shouldn’t be so gloomy
and dour. But SHUCKS,
only ducks like rain
on their parade.

6, PUCKER UP, by Beth Carter

He’s such a sourpuss.
What a grouch.

That hateful old man
Who lives next door.

He never smiles.
He never laughs.

Maybe he just needs
a big kiss.

Pucker up!

7, SOUR, by Janet Kay Gallagher

What a powerful big bower.
Tall as a tower.
It’s pretty when in flower.
Big red cherries, “mighty sour.”

8, Moonshine Pie, by julie Krantz

Cocoa, sugar,
milk ’n salt—
sweeter than
chocolate malt.
But when my
gets good
and dry,
all I want is
Mee-maw’s pie—
pucker-up cherries,
blue tit plums,
sour mash rhubarb—
yum, yum, yum!
when the
one thing’s
sure to hit
the spot—
skip the sugar,
skip the salt,
even skip that
chocolate malt.
But forget those
Forget those plums
Heck, no, Mee-maw—
get some!

9, Immigrants So Often Ask – “What Does That Word Mean?” by Liz Korba

I am Lemon.
Not “Sour” as they call me
(If they do not use my name to say –
“Too broken to be fixed”)
I am.
Summer sunshine’s twin.
Soft buttercup’s first cousin.
A golden glow that grows within a single tree
Bright as table’s candlelight
Notwithstanding wind, the night.
Is my name.

10, The Way of All Things, by Jane Heitman Healy

Deals dissolve
Fortunes fail
Success sours
Friendships fade
Marriages mire
Families fracture
People pass
Egos erode
Memory misses

Faith fixes
Hope heightens
Love lasts.

11, Mud, by Don Barrett

6 am the morning is fresh
summertime in the ozarks,
in just a minute or an hour
the temps go from wonderful
to hot and sour.

my morning shower left me feeling refreshed
my morning walk as always a delight
by 10 am i am the one who is a fright
physical labor and a lot of sweat
makes the one who is sour.
I thank the good lord for this wonderful
heat, but ask if we could spread it out
from july to december and make our winters
more fun to remember.

12, A Sour Poem, by Jeanne Poland

Eeenie, meanie, miney moe
Catch a pickle by the toe;
If it hollers let it go
Sweet to sour it did go.

13, SOUR LUCK, by Cory Corrado

blushing-red pearls dangle
from fertile boughs

appraisers of every feather wing to the feast



I’m out of luck!

pits dangle, frustratingly bare
sated birds scatter, never twittering a care
my-once-cherry-mood has turned

14, Sour, by Michele Ellison

Sour is the word to describe
the feeling in my stomach
when my daughter has turned away from me.
Her parting shot
hit me in the gut.
I feel the fluid
reacting to the pain
and filling me up
capsizing my heart
and spilling out of my eyes.
Sour is the expression on her face
as she walks away.

15, tart text, by Heidi Mordhorst

u r screwing up yr mouth
u r squinting yr eye
u r sending me not
sweet ❤ xxx’s
but sour H8
+ silence
sugar i guess
we r thru?


1, Secrets, by Taylor McGowan

Middle School
a haunted place
Your enemies
Found face to face

Sour expressions
And bitter tones
Populars chatting
on jewel-covered phones

Avoid the cliques
and find a cove
Of peace and quiet
a treasure trove

Find your friends
And keep them well
Protect them from ambush
And where enemies dwell

Keep secrets safe
Give them to friends
If your wounds are still painful
They’ll help you mend

Like an overripe lemon
Plucked late from the tree
Middle School has its chains
Now set yourself free

If you simply keep quiet
and don’t fight, only face
You’ll win your school battle
And do best in life’s race.

2, The Sour Ones, by Madi Montford

Gummy worms are my best friend
the sour ones are the best
I suck on them til the end
Til I chew them like the rest

June WOM winners and July WOM word and WRITERS AT WORK: We get letters — and e-mails, too! (Part 4)

Hi everyone,

Today has three parts.
1) Announce our winning poets for June Word of the Month.
2) Present the WOM word for July.
3) Post the 4th segment of June’s WRITERS AT WORK.

1) Remember, we have two categories for winning poets. Hall of Fame Poets are chosen by ballot and Word of the Month Poets are selected by judges.

This month we had no poems posted by young poets in either of our two categories: grades 3-7 and grades 8-12. We had nine poems posted by adults. That may be a record for the fewest poems we’ve seen since starting Word of the Month in October 2009. Also, voting was unusually light. It must be summer!

My thanks to everyone who pitched in a poem for our readers’ pleasure. I love it when one word blown on the wind cames back in so many forms and with such a multitude of messages. I hope you agree that the exercise is a good way to keep your imagination flowing. Many of you now have a collection of fifteen or twenty poems inspired by WOM.

This month our Hall of Fame Poet is Susan Carmichael, from Columbus, Ohio, for her poem, “Such a Good Puppy.” Some comments from our judges: Love the originality of this one
told from the puppy’s point of view.
“Espadrille” does sound like the name of a small, furry animal
instead of a lady’s shoe! 😉
This poet not only has a keen sense of humor,
but also has a well-tuned ear for poetry.
The rhythms and internal/external melodies are brilliant,
(e.g. “…how cunning are my hunting skills…”
“…teasing me to take a taste…”
“…but Sunday’s news sounds savory…”).
“Great metaphors and voice. Love the ending.”

Joy Acey, from Tucson, Arizona, placed second with her poem, “Our New Puppy.” One judge commented, “I like the way the poet begins by offering
images that are believable in a puppy’s
repertoire of chewables, than builds toward
a litany of unbelievable, unchewable items
in this hyperbolic tour-de-force that ends
with the poet begging for someone to give
his puppy a bone! Clever!”

Our Word of the Month Poet is also Susan Carmichael who won in a close race with Cory Corrado from Quebec, Canada, for her poem, “Letting Go.” But a win is a win and I say, “Way to go, Susan!” Technically, Steven Withrow got more votes but he’s a past winner in this cycle so he has to sit this one out. But Steven, your poems are always anticipated and enjoyed. Keep ’em coming!

Congratulations to everyone who plays the game of writing poems each month to post on my blog. I hope you continue to enjoy the experience and to find support and encouragement for your work. I’m pleased that so many have found us over the months and then return to read and/or participate. We welcome poems from the pros and are always glad to see early efforts from writers who want to try their wings as budding poets.

2) The word or July.



Letters, We Get Letters – and Lots of Email, Too
Response 4 – David
June 28, 2011

Sandy, as we conclude June’s four-part chat about the correspondence authors receive, I confess that this topic has brought back more memories than any of our others. And I know why, at least in my case. We’ve both said many times that the first thing an adult reader must do when presented with something written by a child is to celebrate the gift. One of my favorite quotes is by Susan Ferraro who writes, “To a great extent, we are what we say and write. Laugh or sneer at how we express ourselves, and we take personal offense: Our words are all about us.”

It’s easy to forget to appreciate the gift of a beginning writer, whose work is disjointed and filled with errors, when our first impulse is to suggest how to make it better. Teachers know this and remind themselves all the time to look past the mistakes to the vulnerable child who is holding his or her breath, hoping for a kind word of congratulations before the red ink comes out. Professional writers, when confronted with less than professional efforts by emerging writers, have to resist the same temptation to make judgments before seeing that adults have the same vulnerability that children do. We may think we’re tougher, but Ferraro got it right: “Laugh or sneer at how we express ourselves, and we take personal offense.”

So, Sandy, back to me, and why I think those letters from fans of all ages mean so much to an author. It’s because they represent unsolicited affirmation that our words are good. We got them right, at least this time, and so maybe we’ll get them right again on something we do in the future. They are, often, among the few positive remarks an author receives. Most editors are good about complimenting what they like, but during the course of editing a book, getting it ready on time to ship off to the copyeditor or artist, exchanges between writer and editor become mostly about the business at hand. Adults who buy books for children rarely take time to send fan letters of their own and most children are not likely to think about writing a letter to anyone these days, or an e-mail to someone they don’t know.

That’s why those letters, notes, and e-mails that manage to make it to my mailbox or computer screen are meaningful. They got here to my house against some pretty serious odds and are all the more appreciated because of it. Recently a little girl wrote to say, “I like your poems. They are fun. I enjoy reading your poems a lot. Your friend, Camrin.” Camrin took the time to tell me specifically which of my poems she liked best. That made me smile. I got those poems right! She printed her letter on a piece of lined paper, addressed it herself, and (I can imagine) placed it in her mailbox so the postman could pick it up and send it on its way to me.

Sandy, I mentioned last time that people who write asking for information about getting published are another category of an author’s correspondence. Sometimes such letters come from kids but more often they are written by young adults or adults who love the idea of becoming a published author and wonder how to go about it. Such letters can be time consuming to answer, and sometimes the temptation is to rush through them and keep them short. Why can’t these people figure it out on their own? But then I remember how confused I was in the first few years of struggling to get the words right, and how much I appreciated any encouragement and help I could get. And I realize that to be asked how to do it is a form of flattery. The person asking must have decided that I do indeed, at least on occasion, get it right. And so I do my best to see the vulnerable person behind the question who wants very much to become published, and I take a little longer to give a response that might help.

So, Sandy, it’s a wrap for June’s topic about letters and e-mails. I’ve had a good time and know that you have too. We’ve also been blessed with a number of warm comments from readers, which are appreciated!

Folks, Sandy and I are taking off the months of July and August before considering what to do this fall. We are both swamped with work and have travel plans as well.