Winning Poems for February 2010

Judged by Dorianne Laux and Joseph Millar

First Place


by Jude Goodwin
The Waters

if each of the world’s 6 billion people
wrote one poem today
on a single folded sheet
and stapled it each to the other’s,
end to end. The paper chain would reach
around the world twenty-one
thousand times. Earth, the tenement,
with six billion poems flapping
like bedsheets in the air
above our streets, some blood
marked, some greyed
by the smoke from our frankfurter
stands, most white
like belly feathers and we all
have to look up. Is it time
to cut the poetry loose?
The news
papers cry and the people
pull out their scissors.
The poems launch themselves
upward, it takes only half of them
to link humanity to the moon, the rest
carry on past,. We watch
with our telescopes
and iPhones until they are gone.
Well that’s that then isn’t it ?
the poets of the world
might say. They’ve known all along,
about the numbers -

We hear this kind of calculation used everywhere today: If you lined up all the polystyrene foam cups made in just one day, they would circle the earth. If all the glass bottles and jars collected through recycling in the U.S. in 1994 were laid end to end, they'd reach the moon and half way back to earth. Every day, Americans use enough steel and tin cans to make a steel pipe running from Los Angeles to New York and back again. (Not a bad idea, if you put a bullet train in that pipe.) This poem uses the same conceit, but for poetic purposes, making a paper chain of poems strung like a clothesline above the tenement of the earth. It's a poem about poetry, but also about humanity and art, struck through with humor, and ending with a nod to reality. --Joseph Millar and Dorianne Laux

Second Place

A Question of Nakedness

by Melanie Firth
Wild Poetry Forum

fragment by fragment, on a small scale,
by successive developments, cellularly,
like a laborious mosaic. – Anais Nin

Nips, lips and a chasm of whiteness.
A mark they call ‘birth’. Imperfection
that wants to love itself. All that stand-alone.
The great crowding physicality. How flesh
recalls action, but scars over the cost.
The questions flesh fold on, give rise to.
Do I turn you on? Turn on you? Hurt
when I press here. Here? The thigh’s mole,
will it answer to melanoma, to Melanie?

How SP30+ became a process of affection,
cotton sucking on a figurative field
of follicles and sweat. The occasional
horror of a deep metaphorical wound
or otherwise and the smug nature
of paper cuts. Beauty versus scars.
Natural regeneration v.s. stocking-up
on anti-aging products.

All the recesses I fear and my inability
to say ‘hole’ around your arousal.
Pinkness and rawness (that relationship).
The take-it-in-your-stride concept
of disposal, birth and of f—ing.
The body’s gumption. How it breaks
on time, indulgence and self-harm.
The egging-on of the virile seed.

Regret for the wounded animal
who leaves me bloodless, but fools me
into power. The lack of cushioning
on shoulder blade, knee and elbow
fixtures. The exasperation of a slow
scab and the fruitless study of palms.
The distrustfulness of wrists.

How I cannot really slander
or comprehend my nakedness at all.

We liked this poem for its generosity to the aging body in all its guises, its scars and scabs and folds, its furrows and deadly moles. We also like the innovative use of language and syntax: "The body's gumption. How it breaks/ on time, indulgence and self-harm./The egging-on of the virile seed." --Joseph Millar and Dorianne Laux

Third Place

Absence of Detail

by Debbie Calverley

Today there is nothing to write
serious or otherwise, the wind blows.
Ridiculous to sublime the snow falls
scoops of vanilla ice without the cream.
Around the room’s throat, dark hands
of night close, while candles wax
their poetics onto tabletops, the cat’s
silhouette looms in the hallway
her tail a taper, the colour of flame.

The round of moon reminds me of a shape
his head cradled against a black cushion –
Tonight there is nothing to write.

This poem moves from image to image, from scoops of ice cream to the dark hands of night, from the flame of a cat's tail to a surprising use of that old standby, the moon. Also a poem about poetry, it becomes a poem in spite of the poet's most common complaint. --Joseph Millar and Dorianne Laux

Honorable Mention

Ars Poetica #7

by Tim Blighton
Desert Moon Review

The unraveling is slow: under red cellophane, black
birds weave around themselves; punctuation
strung together without words; the patterns

dissolve into street lamps and bug zappers,
stuttering and angry ghosts
trapped in their own vaults. Dusk,

a deep sealing breath, brings a bouquet
of bubbles, stars and debris to the surface. Because,
poetry is any quiet night

translated by those who have only hammers and bells:
every firefly strung through the dandelion seed
like fallen Christmas lights; every sparrow dissolved

into a bat, like a bicycler signaling; every cicada
returning from the industry of mating to lay
its labor inside thinly-cut wood: over

and over, the batches will nestle in the ink of sleep, until
years later—after each creator is consumed,
perhaps, by a bird made flesh from the night—small

tunnels will burst open, nymphs rise
out, crawl into undergrowth whose roots
they’ve fed upon for years, and molt into song.

Honorable Mention

O be Joyful

by Judy Swann
The Waters

That July, rectangular, he crept backwards.
He loved the mats of purslane on August
earth, where he lay his face,

and Nikka, the German Shepard,
not mutual, and by December with tin
ear, burbled to the gamelon.

At three, suddenly verbal, he claimed
to love me 92 olds and 47 pounds.
I love you he said, 32 – 14 – 7 hours.

He loved my eye and my other eye,
loved his father’s lymphoma’s nodes,
kissed them and said, Now we’re set.

I taught him to say Je t’adore,
which he pronounced “Such a Joe.”
Don’t go, he told me, Such a Joe, Mother.

Honorable Mention

Triolet on a Line by Billy Collins

by Antonia Clark
The Waters

How feeble our vocabulary in the face of death.
— from “The First Night”

How feeble our vocabulary in the face of death.
How wordlessly we tremble or embrace
the thought of it, knowing we will give up breath,
language, selfhood in the face of death.
And, even then, I won’t pretend that faith
will save us. This life is all we know of grace.
How feeble our vocabulary in the face of death
How wordlessly we tremble or embrace.

  • May 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      I think of the colour purple
      by Alison Armstrong-Webber
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Swimming in Twilight
      by Peter Halpin
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      In another country with strangers
      by Greta Bolger
      The Waters

  • April 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      Furiously Overcome by Stars
      by Guy Kettelhack
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Second Place

      Ides of March
      by Rachel Green
      The Write Idea

      Third Place

      Natural History
      by Antonia Clark
      The Waters