Monday, January 18, 2010

Monday Poetry Stretch - Winners and Losers

Everyone in the world of children's literature is thinking about winners this morning. Who will they be? I hesitate to say that there are winners and losers here, as anyone who has walked the long road to publication is surely a winner.

I am thinking now of occasions when I have won and lost things, when others have won grand victories, and yet others have felt the sting of defeat. So, while many winners will be celebrated in the days to come, let's write about winners and/or losers.

Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.


  1. Well, Tricia, I covered winning an award in my last week's poem. Does that mean I don't have to do one this week? ;-)

    By Steven Withrow

    Losing the Williams Junior High School
    spelling bee, on “eleemosynary,”
    was, I now see, an act of charity.
    Knowing the Latin root for “alms”
    (could you use it in a sentence?)
    guarantees no one a varsity letter.

    Although it burned me that I flubbed
    the double e’s, entreating the floor
    for the proper etymology
    before retreating to my seat
    to small applause, conciliatory
    (c-o-n-c-i-l-i-a-t-o-r-y, conciliatory),

    Worse by far would have been
    the booming backlash in homeroom
    next morning, hearing my name
    among the roster of brainiacs,
    “loo-zer” in any language, certain
    I’d perish (part of speech?) a virgin.

  3. I saw my friend Friday, and I'm guessing he has less than two months left. It's raining--seems symbolic.


    There is no winning
    now, no trophy with its rim
    curved like a golden smile,
    no tape to burst through,
    no joy to shout, no hands
    to bear you aloft, no song
    to sing except a lullaby
    as you turn gray
    with pain and shoulder
    your way swordless into
    that dark, silent wood.

    --Kate Coombs, 2010

  4. P.S. Steven, your poem brought me back to 6th grade, when I came in second in the school-wide spelling bee because I couldn't spell "kernel." Funny how those deal-breaking words stick in our heads for life!

  5. Oh, Kate. The power of words...

  6. Kate,

    I have a close friend who has been battling a rare form of cancer for more than three years. In the last couple of months, he's lost a lot of weight. He seems so tired and weak. It breaks my heart to see him like this. He had always had such gusto for life. I'm doubtful he'll live out the year.

    Your poem was touching. It certainly spoke to me. I understand how you must be feeling at this time.

  7. Yes, Laura--in so many ways! And thanks, Elaine. I won't show him this poem, but it was nice to share it with our group when it popped out in response to the prompt. I'm actually going to take a book of Mary Oliver's poems to read to him later this week--very uplifting.

  8. Hmm...I left a comment yesterday with my poem...somewhere! It didn't show up here. Yikes. It's wandering around somewhere it doesn't belong.

    Anyway, as soon as I read the prompt, before I read any poems, my traumatic third-grade spelling test scandal came to mind. So...

    3rd-Grade Drama

    I missed the weekly spelling test—
    I was shelving books in the library.

    Miss Gracey told my friend Susan
    to read me the 30 words.

    The student with the highest grade
    would go to the school spelling bee.

    Only Susan had made a perfect score.
    If I did, too, we would have a spell-off.

    My chest shook.
    Susan smiled her wide smile and began reading.

    “I have known you since kindergarten.”

    “Usually, we get the same grades.”

    “They hid behind the couch and yelled, ‘Soo-prise!’”

    No R?

    I debated wildly for 30 seconds.
    Susan smiled widely.

    No R. No 30/30.
    No spelling bee.

    More than 30 years later,
    Doubts still suRface.

    Do I have a suRplus of suspicion?
    Was I absuRd to think she lied?

    She assuRed everyone it was a mistake.
    Miss Gracey believed her.

    Miss Gracey always believed the best about us.
    But I am not suRe.

    --Laura Purdie Salas

  9. Massachusetts Mourning

    Yes, I voted, and would have voted twice.
    But I am a good girl, moral, clean, and nice.
    I always stop for red lights, I listen to advice.
    But if I could have,
    I really would have
    Voted yesterday

    ©2010 Jane Yolen. All rights reserved.

  10. Historical Fiction

    They aim
    The guns
    Life lost
    War won

    -Liz Korba