Thursday, January 28, 2016

January DMC Wrap-Up + Giveaway

Photo: James Walsh

“We can know only that we know nothing. 
And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.”

           ― Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

At the beginning of this month Douglas Florian challenged us to write poems about nothing.  One might presume there isn't a whole lot to say about nothing, but that, my friends, would be wrong. With over forty contributed poems, I only wish I could have featured more of them.

Thank you to everyone who gave Nothing a voice for this month's challenge, and especially to Douglas Florian, for tuning us in and turning up the volume. 

I hope you'll take your time as you read and ponder this collection. If Leo Tolstoy was right, perhaps we'll all walk away a bit wiser for having done so.

All poems are © 2016 (unless otherwise noted) and published with permission of the authors, who control all rights.

One thing I've learned from reading these poems is that Nothing can be found most anywhere... 

In QUIET MOMENTS by ourselves...

                         by Suzy Levinson

                    Deep in the hush and the gloom of the wood,
                    mushrooms are standing like they've always stood.
                                                                                No one knows they're there.

                    The world's in a rush! It keeps zooming around!
                    No one looks down at what lives on the ground...
                                                                                Mushrooms? They don't care.

– cbhanek (click to enlarge)

                                                  by Jessica Bigi

                                             Untraced daffodils
                                             Umbrella rains
                                             Unfold wings
                                             Untangle strings
                                             Unwinding winds
                                             Unwanted bees
                                             Unrolling rivers
                                             Untraced dandelions
                                             Unhitch leaves
                                             Unraked yards
                                             Umbrella moon
                                             Unfolded snowflakes
                                                                                                                           Unmarked pages
                                                                                                                           Unwritten untraced
                                                                                                                           Unseasoned nothing   

                                        FROM NOTHING…

                                        February sun shines
                                        on snow,
                                        fluffy flakes implode
                                        and drip
                                        vanishing into soil
                                        fading into sky, leaving

                                        but gray slush
                                        and brown earth,
                                        rolling clouds,
                                        a warm whiff,
                                        and the promise
                                        of something.

                                        – Buffy Silverman

Margaret Simon found nothing with a borrowed line from Barbara Crooker, “Ordinary Life” in THE WOMAN IN THIS POEM selected by Georgia Heard:

This was a day when nothing happened.

I swept the floor.

Leaves piled with swirly

dust–not many left on trees

this winter day, but the sun

shone through a break in the clouds

making my gathering glisten.

I stopped to switch laundry

pulled long sleeves from the dryer.

Soft warmth brushed my cheek.

The dryer hummed a rhythm.

Time enough for another cup of coffee,

another deep breath of nothing happening.

I promised God to be present.

He said, “It’s all in the way you look at things.”

So I swept

words into a small pile

on a page

where nothing much was happening.

– Margaret Simon


Line after line in invisible ink –
Couplets come clean with invisible think.

Nothing much needed for blank verse this way –
a nay-scheming, day-dreaming

– Robyn Hood Black

       by Lana Wayne Koehler

Like the television show about nothing,
       the day-to-day musings of love and life
       and nothing in particular, make up my days.
A quilt stitched with time and batted with memories
       to keep me warm
       in my winter.

                                                                                    NOTHING IN PARTICULAR
                                                                                         by Sarah Rudd Ragsdale

                                                                                    nothing is not for nothing

                                                                                    it is for the sanity of my brain

                                                                                    it is for too much rain on the plain

                                                                                    it is for all the elephants who love rain

                                                                                    but would rather sit down and do nothing

                  by Kathleen Mazurowski

             Thoughts swirling through the air
             Heavy with guilt and angst.
             Drama escaping into daily life.
             Just breathe,
             No thoughts,
             No expectations,
             No emotions,

– Diane Mayr (click to enlarge)

Or in OUR RELATIONSHIPS with others...

                                                                    by Elizabeth Steinglass

                                                               is smaller
                                                               than anything.
                                                               what’s left
                                                               when something’s
                                                               all gone.
                                                               Other times
                                                               feels bigger
                                                               like when
                                                               I’m thinking
                                                               of someone
                                                               who’s gone.

THE STORY OF NOTHING To Miranda on her 13th Birthday
     by Michelle Heidenrich Barnes

At first there was Nothing—
not an inkling,
not a hint,
not even a whisper of déjà vu.

Then, Nothing grew.
It was hardly noticeable really.
Like a thought
perched on the kitchen counter
swinging her carrot peel legs,
wondering what’s for dinner.

In time, she became
an idea, a notion, a dream….
Such lofty aspirations,
though entirely unremarkable.
Nothing was a good girl.
She never stepped out of line.

                    Until the day she met you.

Born from a glorious wave
          of something,
together, you surged with the grace of a typhoon.

                                CHANGE minds!

                                Make a DIFFERENCE!

                                SAVE the EARTH!

            one crayon,
                  one smiley,
                         one heart at a time.

And nothing about Nothing
stayed the same.

                                                                             A LITTLE NOTHING
                                                                                  by Katie Gast

                                                                             “I’d like a little nothing,” my father said to me.
                                                                             The nothing that he wanted was impossible to see.
                                                                             Not animal, nor mineral, nor vegetable, but this:
                                                                             The nothing that I gave him was just a little kiss.

                                    CONVERSATIONS WITH MY TEENAGE BOY

                                          by Tricia Stohr-Hunt

                                    What did you do in school today?


                                    What’s wrong son?


                                    How was the play?

                                    Nothing to write home about.

                                    Complaint on the second day of summer vacation—
There’s nothing to do!

                                    While folding his underwear in the living room—

                                     Is nothing sacred?!

                                    Good luck with your audition.

                                    Here goes nothing.

                                    How did you rip another pair of jeans?

                                    You’re making a lot of fuss about nothing.

                                    How mad are you mom?

                                    I have nothing to say.

     by Christine Rodenbour

First, it was nothing.



But then, it wasn’t.

I just didn’t know it yet. My head didn’t know it. My heart didn’t know it.
My love didn’t know it (and he knows everything).


Someone knew. Someone knew it wasn’t nothing. But someone wasn’t telling.

Anyhow, time passed.

            And nothing? Poof! A little girl. She’s three and she’s definitely something.

Well, I’ll be! What else in this world is nothing?

via Unsplash

                                      Because temperatures were in the single digits,
                                      I threw on the old red barn coat
                                      I used to wear for winter dog walks.

                                      I saw you looking at the frayed cuffs,
                                      the faded canvas,
                                      the corduroy collar.

                                      I've owned this coat longer than you've been alive.
                                      What do you own now that will last that long?
                                      Probably nothing.

                                      – Mary Lee Hahn

                                                                                                 by Mindy Gars Dolandis

                                                                                            Now we sit here, face to face
                                                                                            On opposite sides of the table
                                                                                            Together, yet a million miles away
                                                                                            Hapless, hopeless hearts clothed in apathy 
                                                                                            Indifference begins when the romance ends
                                                                                            Negating all that once was blended
                                                                                            Ground zero replaces lovers and friends

Nothing answers to MANY...

               by Mindy Gars Dolandis

          diddly squat, zero, zilch
          bupkis, zippo, goose egg, nil
          niekas, niente, niets, niks,
          intet, semmi, res, gar nichts
          mitte midagi, kitu, wala
          boten, kahore, lutho, nada
          ekkert, rien, ohunkohun
          kanthu, hech, pa gen anyen
          tidak ada, apa-apa
          na inona na inona
          rud ar bith, neneo, waxba
          bugger all, nihil, nima
          African or Austronesian
          urban slang or European
          Though it has a different name
          the meaning still remains the same

And to NO ONE...

                                SUMMER VACATION!?
                                     by Brenda Davis Harsham

                                I won’t write what you tell me!
                                I have my own plans,
                                my own thoughts and dreams,
                                why should I write what you tell me?
                                Who cares about summer?
                                Tyler island-hopped in Hawai’i,
                                Aaron played violin in Jerusalem,
                                and Nick picked mangoes in India.
                                Big deal!
                                Where did I go?
                                I’m not telling,
                                I’ll take my secret to the grave!
                                I’ve seen people fall down,
                                my stepbrother’s red face up in mine,
                                dishes break, haters gunna hate,
                                that’s my summer,
                                you can’t make me say anything!
                                Okay, I went nowhere!
                                I can’t tell you about Vermont or
                                Antarctica or Australia or Katmandu.
                                I can tell you about nowhere and nothing!
                                That’s what I did. I went nowhere,
                                and I did nothing.
                                I hid. I ran. I got through every day.
                                But I won’t write what you say!
                                Nothing doing!

     by Kathryn Apel

I’ve nothing to write

and nothing to say

because nothing has happened

tonight or today.

Nothing is planned

and nothing is new,

so nothing is what

I am going to do.

So take nothing from me;

I’ve nothing to give.

Nothing is wrong –

nothing’s left to forgive.

                                                                                                  THE CONQUERING
                                                                                                       by Janie Lazo

                                                                                                  Branches call- Up! Up!
                                                                                                  I accept their dare- I climb.
                                                                                                  My fear is nothing.

So it's best to keep a SENSE OF HUMOR...


– Lee Bennett Hopkins

     by Michelle Kogan

Sir Blah moved to County Nothing.
He rose each day to do something
But folks there all feared
He’d grow to revered,
And begged Blah, please don’t do a thing!

                                                                     NOTHING LEFT!
                                                                          by Janie Lazo

                                                                     The holidays came- oh the treats that they brought.
                                                                     Well I simply can't diet- I should - but I'm not!
                                                                     So I munched on the cookies and bright candy canes
                                                                     And I ate and I ate till just crumbs now remain.
                                                                     I loved every minute- I enjoyed every bit!
                                                                     But I need a new wardrobe as NOTHING will fit!

Sometimes Nothing PLAYS HARD TO GET...

     by Madeleine Kuderick, ©2011

What does nothing look like?
Is it clear like a stream?
Would it drip right through my fingertips?
Should it feel like a dream?

What does nothing look like?
Is it light as thin air?
Could I catch it in a jelly jar?
Would it float like clouds in there?

What does nothing look like?
Is it just empty space?
If I touch it like a missing tooth
would nothing be in place?

What does nothing look like?
Is it brighter than light?
Could I make it show itself to me
like breath on winter’s night?

What does nothing look like?
Is it deep in my heart?
Is nothing really just the place
where all the best things start?

                              SO WHAT ARE YOU DOING THIS WEEKEND? NOTHING, BUT...
                                   by Linda Baie

                              My weekend can be filled with nothing,
                              or capture empty hours with something.
                              While winter windowpanes show snow,
                              here is how the day will flow:
                              cartwheel through the minutes writing,
                              listen to Mozart as I’m rhyming,
                              snuggle into books inspiring,
                              crunch the deepening snow when hiking,
                              photograph the birds out flying,
                              follow tracks of rabbits hopping.
                              Upon return, the fire waits,
                              with tea and toast upon my plate.

                              Nothing’s all a state of mind;
                              something’s what I mean to find.

                                                                                                      by Kate O'Neil

                                                                                                 I could think of nothing when
                                                                                                 I read this writing task.
                                                                                                 It was nothing short of stupid -
                                                                                                 a crazy thing to ask.
                                                                                                 But now I've nothing personal
                                                                                                 against this Florian chap -
                                                                                                 a poem that's good for nothing
                                                                                                 doesn't mind a gap
                                                                                                 but leaps across forever like
                                                                                                 a unicorn in flight.
                                                                                                 You might think nothing of it but
                                                                                                 it's nothing if not right.
                                                                                                 Once when offered 'all or nothing'
                                                                                                 it was 'all' or I complained
                                                                                                 but now I've ventured nothing
                                                                                                 and nothing's what I've gained,
                                                                                                 I know there 's nothing to it
                                                                                                 so you'd better not forget
                                                                                                 if you won't stop at nothing,
                                                                                                 you ain't seen nothing yet.

     by Kristi Dee Veitenheimer

Thirty minutes to write about anything I want...
I glance down
and see a big,
staring back at me.
As soon as my teacher
turns the dial
on the timer,
my mind goes as
as the paper.
No thoughts.
No words.
No sentences.
A desert,
dry and parched.
Searching for something,
Thirty minutes later,
still nothing.
except for

                                                     CAPTURING NOTHING
                                                          by LeeAnn Blankenship

                                                     This assignment’s impossible – clearly I see
                                                     That a poem on nothingness really can’t be.
                                                     I believe that by giving this challenge some thought,
                                                     My concept of "nothing" has surely been caught;
                                                     It’s been chased and then lassoed and, strangely, somehow    
                                                     It’s been changed into “something” you’re reading right now.

     by Donna JT Smith

I’m taking a trip
Into nothingness;
I’m not sure the distance
But nonetheless,

Yes, Nothing is what
I am aiming for;
I want Nothing less
And Nothing more.

Nothing can stop me,
Nothing will do;
Yes, I’ll stop at Nothing
On earth, it’s true!

Nothing is left
Yet it's also right;
A couple more feet -
Till Nothing’s in sight!

Oh, Nothing was found -
And it’s clear to see
That Nothing is what
It’s cracked up to be.

Yes, Nothing’s the matter
I’m headed for
And Nothing is finer
On any shore.

Oh, I’ll stop at Nothing
Of the kind -
Where Nothing on earth
Is the bestest find.

I’ve found the way to
This Nothing place,
Where Nothing's perfect -
Note smiling face!

While other times, it SNEAKS UP ON US...

                    MY POEM ABOUT NOTHING
                         by Linda Mitchell

                    When I sit with a book
                    nothing matters at all.
                    I hear nothing --
                    specially Mom’s call
                    to pick up my clothes
                    I don’t see on the floor.
                    Or, put on my shoes
                    to run out the door
                    for someplace she’s told
                    me we’re going
                    ten times before….
                    I’m deep in a nothing
                    else matters page--
                   A glorious plot twisting
                   what-happens-next stage.
                   A villain to catch
                   A plan to hatch
                   Will lovers unite?
                   Clocks strike midnight!
                   If I read too fast
                   The story won’t last
                   long enough for
                   this nothing to
                   not matter

labeled for reuse — pixabay
I began my day
with thoughts about
racial and economic

and I read the news
of the Afghan woman
whose nose was cut off
by her husband.

Then I spent
twenty minutes
drawing the opening
amaryllis buds

and the only thing
in my mind was this
everyday miracle.
Nothing else.

–Mary Lee Hahn

                                            FULL OF NOTHING
                                                 by Catherine Flynn

                                            An empty pot is full of nothing
                                            but space for chicken soup,
                                            bubbling and warm.

                                            An empty box is full of nothing
                                            but the opportunity for a gift,
                                            adored and cherished.

                                            An empty page is full of nothing
                                            but possibilities for your poem,
                                            honest and true.

                                            An empty hand is full of nothing
                                            but room to hold yours,
                                            calm and reassuring.

                                            An empty heart is full of nothing
                                            but potential for love,
                                            a treasure beyond measure.

                                                                                                               by Martha O'Quinn

                                                                                                          In order to become nothing
                                                                                                          there must have been something;
                                                                                                          my logic don't you see?
                                                                                                          I was nothing
                                                                                                          until nature made me something,
                                                                                                          and that nothing now is me!

     by Leane Gill

Nothing sat quietly as he always did
The shortest explanation-he's a great kid.
Another boy in pre-school of the angry sort-
never left nothing alone and let out a mean retort,
"I'm sitting next to no-one!" He exclaimed rather loud,
the other kids gathered round til there was quite a crowd.
Nothing just smiled-how silly these name callers be!
"Nothing is my name-so I am somebody, you see?
You can't be somebody & nobody all at the same time,
unless "Nothing" is your name in a case just like mine!"

                                                          NOTHING, HEHEHE...
                                                               by Michelle Kogan

                                                          Nothing is never nothing 
there is always something there...
                                                          Something lingering, itching and begging–
                                                          Come and think of me, digress, disengage
                                                          hehehe, I’m the nothing that’s something.

                                                          I’m there unknown cautiously,
gingerly, connivingly,
                                                          waiting for you, for that special moment,
                                                          you know, when you’re about ready to blow
                                                          hehehe, ready to envelope you.

                                                          That’s when you show what you’ve got!
                                                          Whoa, oh no, you dig deeper,
                                                          I’m starting to faaade... Something is changing,
                                                          your thinking of that one thought and leaving
                                                          me behiiiind... But hehe I’ll be waaaaiting...

                          THE NOTHING
                               by Maria Marshall

                          Noises, echoing and creaking.
                          Old bones? Or just
                          The house settling?
                          Howling from the attic.
                          I know it's THE
                          NOTHING, or maybe it's .....

And waits for CREATIVITY to ignite...

     by Violet Nesdoly

Before there ever was anything
Creator had the thought
of replacing nothing with something
to make things where there now were not.

The home for his creation could be
land or sky, ice or sea.

He could fill it with creatures feathered or scaled
furry or smooth, hided or hard.

They could move on feet, hoofs or wings
hop on claws or swim with fins.

Call to each other with honk or bray
laugh, nicker, warble or say.

And there could be things that would only stand
spreading green across the land

with hats of red, yellow or blue
and luscious fruit of every hue…

His mind was so full of these wonderful thoughts
he was getting nothing done.
But how to choose among so many
nothing to something begun?

So he decided to make them all
use all these ideas and more.
And that was the end of nothing.
Now there’s something forevermore.

– Carol Varsalona

– Keri Collins Lewis (click to enlarge)

Finally, don't miss this collection of student poems, thanks to Mrs. Simon's classroom in New Iberia, Louisiana.

Inspired to write your own poem about nothing?

             Seriously, what have you got to lose? (I think you know the answer to that.)

You have until Sunday, January 31st to send your poem to TodaysLittleDitty (at) gmail (dot) com, or use the contact form in the sidebar to the right.

Participants in this month's challenge will be automatically entered to win a signed copy of THE WONDERFUL HABITS OF RABBITS, by Douglas Florian and illustrated by Sonia Sánchez (little bee books, 2016). One entry per participant, not per poem.

Alternatively, you may enter the giveaway by commenting below.  If you contribute a poem and comment below you will earn two entries in total. Comments must be received by Tuesday, February 2nd.

The winner will be determined by and announced next Friday, February 5th, when we reveal our new Spotlight ON interview and ditty challenge.

Best of luck!

Catherine Flynn has a special treat waiting for you at this week's Poetry Friday roundup. You'll find her at Reading to the Core.