Winning Poems for August 2010

Judged by Ruth Ellen Kocher

First Place

The Catch

by C.J. Costello
The Poets' Graves

Please don’t stare: I am trying to remember the weight
of water on scales; a current that carries even when
other weights pull the vertebrate from its bed upstream,
downstream, a translucent stream caressing the honesty

of nakedness that can’t hold these failing fins as they glide
for eons through the onrush of air; they will not wither
but they will forget why they are here

this glassy eye, in its opaque mind, isn’t glaring
can’t you see – it’s trying to remember?


The poem here cascades into the power of its last line, a line that opens up the poem to the rest of the world. The expansion we feel here belies its subtle delivery. The poem wastes no language and begins its work in the very first clause of the very first line. The writer demonstrates an adept skill of ushering the reader through the poem, quietly, yet assuredly. The poem is a showcase for the crafted voice of this writer who knows most what a poet should keep, and what a poet should let go. I love most how the fish in the poem becomes the mysterious locus of convergence, the infinite nature of the Aleph in the sense of Borges, a single breath representing what we are, what we've been, and what we might hope to be. --Ruth Ellen Kocher

Second Place

A Quieting

by Michael Harty
Wild Poetry Forum

Every day she spoke of the wind,
always the wind, constant as her presence,
molding every tree to point
a steady northeast, scouring paint
from the south wall, decorating
barbed wire with tumbleweeds,
mesquite with candy wrappers and rags.

Familiar as a bedtime book:
the chinks never sealed,
dustmopping twice a day, still the skids
on powdery linoleum, still the jokes
about grit in the sandwiches.

Every day, until the day
you walked through a house full of silence,
stepped out a screen door, leaned
into a wind that wasn’t there,
staggered, almost fell.


The poem pivots on the notion of suspension and the open ended signification of what is familiar and so yet unknown. We find ourselves as readers settling into the poem, into the poem's language, such that the elusive pronouns, "she" and "you" seem not so much untethered but mysterious and inviting. The poem slips into the fantastic utterance and yet, we do not question being led by each successive image. The marriage of disparate objects and references serves the magical feeling of the poem and allows it to hover between a moment of true recollection and a moment of dream. --Ruth Ellen Kocher

Third Place

Natural Selections

by Michelle Beth Cronk
Poetry Circle

There are things to be earned
by stone, hard reasons, work.
The same are often bruised by
our necessity,

but there are other things soft
and unhurt, existing separate
from our leaning, taken or shed
before our efforts begin.

There is a blueprint, the start of
buildings and rooms, prior to
the breaking of indicated ground.
Those are the scrolls I want

you to reach for before night.
I want you to have both the spoils
of the fight and the ease of what
is certain and elementary.


The poet here has taken a risk by investing in the 'unsaid'. To keep from the reader the articles of inspiration in the beginning of the poem would result in a piece not yet grounded if it were not for the definitive moment that begins mid-poem. While the turn doesn't represent a true volta, the shift represents a moment where the speaker seems to succumb to the sharp pang of specificity and so, the personal. The end of the poem serves as a revelation of the speaker, not for the speaker, and so allows the slowly building and subtle dynamic of the poem to transcend into an resolute, definitive quietude. --Ruth Ellen Kocher


  • August 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      The World Is Moist in the Morning
      by Terry Ofner
      The Waters

      Second Place

      My Epitaph
      by Guy Kettelhack
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      I kissed a tree
      by Alison Armstrong-Webber
      The Waters

  • July 2018 Winners

    • First Place

      The First Time I Drank With My Father
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Waters

      Second Place

      My Bicycle
      by Andrew Dufresne
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place

      J. Alfred Prufrock Searches for Mrs. Right
      by Laurie Byro
      Babilu