April Poetry Contest: Villanelle

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April is my birthday month! And the villanelle is my favorite form. So this month, the contest prompt is to write a villanelle incorporating at least one of the following:

  • Glitter
  • Peonies
  • Oolong tea
  • The beach
  • A word in a language other than English
  • Spaghetti carbonara
  • Craftsman furniture
  • Cedar Point

Email your poem to allyson@allysonwhipple.com by 11:59 pm on April 20th. The winner will receive a gift certificate to the independent bookstore of their choice, or I will make a donation in their honor to a nonprofit.

View complete contest rules and past winners here.

Let’s Spend a Year Studying Form

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While I mostly write in free verse, most of my poet friends know that I love form. In fact, even in my free verse, I usually incorporate some formal aspect… Something that my MFA thesis advisor and I butted heads about on a regular basis! Even though I don’t regularly write with rhyme and meter, I do enjoy incorporating some formal structure into my work. Sometimes that means only writing in tercets, or repeating a specific word, or making the poem fit a predetermined shape. I find the challenge a major source of inspiration.

Starting this April, I’m launching A Year of Forms. Whether it be meditation, writing, or some other endeavor, I’ve found long periods of practice and study to be invaluable. I’ve decided I want to spend the next year of my life studying form, and I want to study it with you!

While I’ve created a yearlong program, I know that might not work for everyone. To that end, I’ve divided the workshop into four themed series. That way, you can still get the benefit of some longer structured study. Single workshop sessions are also available. Finally, if you’re looking for one-on-one critiques, I’m offering optional private sessions to supplement the program.

Check out the program page for details. I look studying form with you this year!

March Poetry Contest Winner

I received a record number of entries this month! I think that the theme of equanimity resonated with a number of readers. This month, I am excited to announce that we have our first international winner!

Photograph of Ojo Taiye by Downtown Studios

Ojo Taiye is a Nigerian poet whose work appears in the Rumpus, Glass Poetry Journal, and a number of other places. His poem, “Hereditary Blues,” has a subtle connection to the theme. I appreciated the way his work made me pause and think.

Due to challenges related to international transactions, this month, I made an exception and gave the prize directly to Ojo himself. I definitely didn’t anticipate having international poets enter this contest, so I didn’t anticipate this issue. But I think it’s a good problem to have!

Hereditary Blues

for some years now, you lay out your blue-coated pills & thank them
for their taste buds: the dilating seas that neatly occupy your bed
with a living dream. the sky today is made of your lover’s breath. you
realize your love for him is like a city on fire: mother of all balm &
each growing desire is a wing shaped by time. you dream of homeland
only in your poems. this is always what you wanted: to hold your
breath when no one else will. all day you watch for the mail—lost in
the reverie for some news from a distant place. you are an un-happy
thing—a grey country quietly waiting for the catastrophe of its own
beauty. haven’t you travelled enough—to end the chore. to be lost in a
suspension of time. it maybe the coldest month of the year— & you are
an odd spot of calm misled by want. how your imprecise side stayed up
to watch the sun eat the moon. this morning you woke up to snows &
skies of laughter not enough—

March Poetry Contest: Equanimity

Equal parts cookie and cream

March is the month of the spring equinox. My favorite equinox memory is when my 9th grade geography teacher brought Double-Stuff Oreos for all of her students, because they had equal parts light and dark. (Apparently the true balance of this particular cookie has been debunked, but it remains a wonderful memory nonetheless.)

For the March contest, create a poem that incorporates the theme of equanimity. You can do this any number of ways:

  • Write a poem in which the content is concerned with equanimity;
  • Write a concrete poem representing equanimity;
  • Use, bend, or break the rules of a poetic form to create a sense of equanimity.

I am so excited to see what you come up with!

Email your poem to allyson@allysonwhipple.com by 11:59 pm on March 20th. The winner will receive a gift certificate to the independent bookstore of their choice, or I will make a donation in their honor to a nonprofit.

View past contest winners here.

The Best of It: I Survived the Texas Snowpocalypse Edition

A contemporary reenactment of Lady and the Tramp
  1. That you can (usually) light gas stoves even when the power is out.
  2. That we had emergency bags filled with water and other supplies.
  3. The way the neighborhood came together to help each other out.
  4. Being able to charge my phone off of my portable car jump starter.
  5. Being able to flush the toilet again.

February Poetry Contest Winner

Another month, another delayed contest result. This time it was the fault of the Texas Snowpocalypse! I’m glad to be on the other side of that and getting things back on track.

Արման Բարսեղյան, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This month’s winner is Peter H. Schmidt. His golden shovel, “Rise Up,” draws from John Gillespie Magee’s “High Flight,” as well as “My Shot (Rise Up Part)” from the musical Hamilton. Peter asked me to make a donation to an organization helping homeless people in Austin; I selected Caritas of Austin, an organization dear to my heart, to receive a $25 donation in his honor.

Rise Up
What does it mean to rise up
Is it enough not to give up
Is hope caged the rage the
Phrase of the heart too long
Denied a fair start, delirious
Furious infamous self-injurious burning
Away as respect is due, blue
Notes all through, I’ve
Never stopped, won’t be topped
Won’t take my eyes off the
Sky, gonna do, not die, wind-swept
I will climb clouds to heights
Flights of eagles at my feet with
Stars so close I’ll make it easy
For all eyes to see: my amazing grace

The Best of It: More Good Things About Moving Edition

  1. Having a dishwasher for the first time in seven years.
  2. For the first time in my life, having a space where I don’t have to take into account anyone else’s needs.
  3. My neighborhood Buy Nothing group.
  4. Much better lighting in the new place.
  5. Being in walking distance of Monkey Nest Coffee