Very early on in the first lockdown of this year, I wrote a poem called ‘Poetry won’t save you.’ Well I’m here to testify that this year, poetry categorically has saved me. Without writing poetry and sharing it with others, without reading other people’s poetry, I probably would have gone mad by now.
Back in July of this year, I started the EIF Poetry Challenge, as a means of exploring different poetic forms and themes, and also as a means of connecting with other poets out there in cyberspace. The response to these challenges has been phenomenal: so many great poems have been inspired by the challenge, and I am thrilled and humbled to have been part of this.
One of the unexpected joys of hosting these challenges has been the opportunity to work with other poets week after week, as the winners of one challenge would help me judge the next. These people gave up their time and offered their skills to make these challenges an ongoing success. So I want to celebrate their achievements and efforts in this Poetry Challenge Hall of Fame. Below you can meet the winners and judges of this year’s challenges, read their winning poems and find out a little more about them. Please join me in raising a toast to the poetry superstars of 2020…
Translation Challenge Winner: Hannah E. Stewart
Hannah Stewart is a twenty-something writer from Boulder, Colorado. She is currently casually obsessing over when and how she will publish her first novel. As such, she is focusing her creative efforts toward her journalism with the Left Hand Valley Courier, her blog A Little Bit of Happiness, and writing her next manuscript. As a lover of romance, she’s been called a hopeless romantic and as a lover of GIFs, she’s been called the GOAT (greatest of all time). Stewart also thinks she is funnier than many probably think she is in reality, saying, “If I had a reality television show, 97% would be fairly boring, but the other 3% would be hilarious.” You can contact her through her blog page or on Twitter/Instagram @h.elisestewart.
Hannah won the Translation Poetry Challenge with her poem, Manos, which she wrote in Spanish and translated into English. It was a pleasure to work with Hannah as our very first EIF Poetry Challenge judge!
Ode Challenge Winner: Mrityunjay Dixit
Mrityunjay is a mechanical engineering undergrad who lives with his family in the beautiful little city of lakes, Bhopal, India. He loves to write and hopes he will do it for a living one day.
His website, September heart-to-hearts showcases his writings on his life and muses. He likes to write various forms of poetry (haibun, haiku, abstract, cascade, etc) often complemented by art & clicked-snapshots, he also likes to write book reviews, personal essays, song lyrics, structured poetry and short stories.
Elegy and Childhood Challenge Winner: Rishika Jain
Rishika is a two-time winner of the EIF poetry challenge, quite an achievement for one of our youngest competitors! Here is Rishika in her own words:
“Hello. I am Rishika, a 13 year old girl, trying to find her way in the world. My mind is a jungle, you’ll find all introverted thoughts shaped like trees. I sow one thought and it blossoms into poetry. One of the many reasons I write is to weave what I can’t say and discover a part of me. I can fly without wings and I can believe in something you think doesn’t exist. Writing helps me get through that jungle. One thing in the universe that I absolutely love and admire most is nature. You can find my poetry book on nature here. “
Rishika won the Elegy Poetry Challenge with her poem ‘Dear Death,’ written in remembrance of her Grandmother. She also captured our hearts at Christmas Time with her poem ‘Christmas is in the air,’ composed for the Childhood Poetry Challenge.
Limerick Challenge Judge and Saviour of the EIF Poetry Challenge: Don Matthews
Don enjoys the creative process: ‘Watching an idea evolve from the mind onto the page. Feels good.’ Having traveled extensively in UK and Europe over the years he now lives in his country of origin, Australia.
Don has been writing for 3 years. His style may be different to what you expect. He works to his own rules – bending grammar, inventing new words. Trying new things. Pushing boundaries. While he occasionally writes prose he is mainly attracted to rhyme.
Don is a regular guest poster at EIF, and he came to my aid to judge the Limerick Challenge, at a time when I was considering giving up the Poetry Challenge altogether. He celebrates Limericks via the LMS Limerick Centre which is just one of the fantastic places in the world of The Flippant, Comic and Serious, where Don writes poetry with his drinking buddy Skip the kangaroo ever by his side.
Limerick Challenge Winner: Louis Faber
Louis Faber is a poet and retired corporate attorney, and college English Literature Adjunct Professor or both of the above simultaneously. He lives in Port St. Lucie, Florida with his wife and cat. His work has previously appeared in The Poet (U.K.), Dreich (Scotland), Atlanta Review, The Alchemy Spoon (U.K.), Arena Magazine (Australia), Rattle, Eureka Literary Magazine, Borderlands: the Texas Poetry Review, Midnight Mind, Pearl, Midstream, European Judaism, Greens Magazine, The Amethyst Review, Afterthoughts, The South Carolina Review, among many others, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Louis won the Limerick Challenge with his limerick about writer’s block, and went on to judge the Quatrain Challenge.
Quatrain Challenge Winner: Valdis Stakle
Valdis is a retired Local Government Officer living in the north of England. Since being relieved of the need to earn a living he has developed a variety of interests and pastimes. Throughout his life he has drawn pictures which now provide inspiration for his paintings the production of which takes up much of his time. In addition, he has always had a love for and keen interest in literature. As well as being an avid reader of novels, poetry, history and anything else that comes to hand he has taken to writing poetry and the occasional short story. Experiments in Fiction has served to further encourage him in these activities and the poem “The Visit” resulted directly from one of the poetry challenges, so thanks to Ingrid for her inspiration and guidance to this aspiring artist.
Valdis won the Quatrain Challenge with his poem ‘The Visit.’ He has guest posted on this site with the short story ‘Adrian the Unloved,’ and you can find examples of his artwork on Instagram @valdisstakle.
Ballad Challenge Winner: Hobbo
“Hi, my name is Dauphy. I’m a twelve year old labrador from France. Me and Hobbo are the joint authors of Hobbo’s Poems. I give Hobbo all my witty, inspirational ideas and he just does the easy bit of putting it into words. Most of the poems are funny or comic. He does quite well for a human.”
Hobbo won the EIF Ballad Challenge with his ‘Ballad of Adolf and Winnie:’ a historically humorous re-imagining of a penpalship gone wrong. Hobbo kindly agreed to judge the Halloween Challenge.
Halloween Challenge Winner: Jaya Avendel
Jaya Avendel is a word witch from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, writing family into fantasy through poetry and prose. Her writing has been published at Visual Verse, Free Verse Revolution, and Spillwords Press, among others, and is published in “As The World Burns” Anthology from Indie Blu(e) Publishing. She writes at ninchronicles.com
Jaya won the Halloween Poetry Challenge with her fiendishly good Haiku, ‘Fear.’ The next challenge would be to write a Haiku, in honour of Jaya’s beautifully concise poetic style.
Haiku Challenge and Free Verse Challenge Winner: Nick Reeves
“I rent an attic in the upper east corner of England and, if I squint, the north sea rattles the window. I hum a vague melody. I pocket paper scraps and treasure found in the street. I count every magpie that I see; last tally, 10. Which is not to be missed.”
Nick has won this challenge not once, but twice. First he had the postman delivering ‘an enveloped kiss,’ for the Haiku Poetry Challenge; next he was making ‘A Loose Tally‘ of the tea bags for the Free Verse Challenge. Nick’s writing is always original, succinct and adept at delivering a poetic shot straight to the heart.
Pantoum Challenge Winner: Liyona
Liyona is an “average joe” kind of writer who likes to think about ordinary things and then write them down. Ever since she can remember, she has been rhyming words and creating lyric poems. During her college years, she took a more serious bent toward writing and started to post on her blog (The Life and Times of a Quirky Character.) Currently, she resides on the East Coast of the United States just north of the country’s capital.
Liyona won the Pantoum Challenge with her poem ‘Music Lifts My Spirits.’ She went on to judge the Free Verse Challenge.
Childhood Challenge Winner: Elizabeth Gauffreau
Elizabeth Gauffreau holds a BA in English/Writing from Old Dominion University and an MA in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. Her fiction publications include short stories in Adelaide Literary Magazine, The Long Story, Soundings East, Ad Hoc Monadnock, Rio Grande Review, Blueline, Slow Trains, Hospital Drive, and Serving House Journal, among others. Her poetry has appeared in The Writing On The Wall, The Larcom Review, and Natural Bridge.
Liz grew up a child of the 1960s in northern New England before spending twenty years in the South as a Navy wife. After working for Granite State College in Concord, New Hampshire for eighteen years, she recently accepted a faculty position as Assistant Dean of Curriculum and Assessment at Champlain College Online in Burlington, Vermont. In addition to academic advising, teaching, and higher education administration, her professional background includes assessment of prior experiential learning for college credit.
Much of Liz’s fiction is inspired by her family history, and lately she has developed an interest in writing about her family’s genealogy. Learn about her attempts to stick to the facts of her family history at http://genealogylizgauffreau.com. Liz lives in Nottingham, New Hampshire with her husband; their daughter has flown the nest to live in sunny California.
The Childhood Poetry Challenge had two Categories, under 18s and adults, and Elizabeth’s poem ‘A Christmas Eve Poem: Children Singing in Latin‘ won in the latter category. She has kindly agreed to judge the first challenge of 2021, to be announced on 6th January.
Childhood Challenge Winner: Mason
Mason is an 8-year-old writer, poet and footballer! He lives in the North of England with his family, and took part in his first ever Poetry Challenge this December, winning joint first place with Rishika and Benji. His poem, ‘Sprinkle and Twinkle‘ evoked the excitement that every child should feel on Christmas Eve, and was a wonderful addition to this festive challenge.
Well done, Mason! Keep writing and following your dreams!
Childhood Challenge Winner: Benji
You may already be aware that Benji is my son, with his very own blog, which is quite an achievement at the age of 8! Benji takes part in all of the poetry challenges, hoping to be judge one day (look out for him on the judging panel very soon…)
He received recognition for his entry ‘Rollercoasters‘ in the Childhood Poetry Challenge. Benji enjoys all things train-related, and dreams of owning his own train company one day, which will design and build the trains of the future: watch this space…
Once again, to all of our Poetry Challenge stars, not only those featured in this Hall of Fame, but everyone who took part in this year’s challenges. I hope you will join us for more Poetry Challenges in 2021!