Winning Poems for November 2014

Judged by Philip Belcher

First Place


by Shawn Nacona Stroud
Desert Moon Review

I love to hear your breath
whispers like the voice
of shipwrecked sailors
carries across the Atlantic’s
surface, seeks out ears
of some lone beach stroller
under a midnight moon—too soon
it will fade amid the wave
crashes that lap through time, filch it
until I wonder
if you’ve ever exhaled at all.

Several aspects of this poem deserve attention and admiration. First, the poet pays close attention to the musical elements of the poem. The sibilant “s” pervades lines 2-6, and then assonance and rhyme become the dominant craft elements. The poet takes a calculated risk in line 7 with the “moon”-“soon” rhyme. It’s hard to bring off an effective use of moon imagery these days, but I think the poet succeeds here. Second, the imagery is focused and controlled. Third, and most challenging, is the poet’s decision to enjamb the lines severely. While enjambment often speeds up the pace of reading, here it actually slows the reader down. Whether the poet intended this, I cannot say, but the line endings cause the reader to pause and consider the different possibilities in verb tense in the first words following the enjambed lines. Although this might irritate a reader in some instances, I think it works here by allowing the reader to explore sound and meaning variants. --Philip Belcher

Second Place

Beyond Repair

by Gerry Callaghan
The Write Idea

It could be fixed if it were just a crack,
but there’s a crack in the crack.
It’s through to the laths,
into the brickwork, I’d venture.
Have you had any bees?

It’s quite dire; maybe a year
before it’s into the framing.
And look at the oriel; that’s a sign,
a hairline in the corbel.
Given time it’ll be gaping.

I’d do my best; I’m a dab hand
at papier-mâché, though
I’ve seen how these things go.
You pay and you pay and the whole place
comes down the next thing you know.

If it were me, I’d set to packing,
try life in a tree,
though prone to cracks cracking,
or a pond–fishes in packs,
no fissures in cracks.

The most obvious and fun element of this poem is the word play. Rhyme and repetition and other musical elements combine to add humor to what should be a sad architectural diagnosis. The element I want to focus on, however, is the use of the specific architectural terms “oriel” and “corbel.” The fact that I had to use a dictionary to understand the words did not diminish my enjoyment of their use in the second stanza. Using technical terms or “terms of art” in a poem, when done unobtrusively, adds a sense of confidence in the speaker’s voice, and that is what this poet has done. --Philip Belcher

Third Place

disrobing the ghost

by Michael Virga
The Writer's Block

his robe on
yet as uninhabited as hers

resting twice upon a time

on the shoulders

of the reclining lift chair

unwhirling from cloth
beyond some wear in time
raising the shades

the rush of the full moon fills him . . .
his heel brushing by her comb
left — in our bedroom — still

on the worn rug
the soles warm
following in the glow of her footsteps

to free from the weave of fabric

reunited in the one his & her robe of light

Besides the delight a reader takes in this poem’s attention to diction, e.g. “twice upon a time,” “some wear in time,” and “raising the shades,” I want to mention the poem’s ambition. Ambition is sometimes discussed in terms of a poem’s scope, or lack thereof—the depth of what is being attempted. Here, I think the ambition is inherent in the poet’s effort to describe in a fresh way what could be a clichéd scene—lover separated by death finally reunited. The element of craft that makes this work is the specificity of the description, particularly “his heel brushing by her comb . . . left on the worn rug . . . .” In addition, the irregular line breaks work nicely with the subject and the tone of the poem. It is always a good thing when form and content work together, and the poet has done a nice job of that in this poem. --Philip Belcher

  • February 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      Not a Poem of Crows
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Resolution to Laugh More
      by F.H. Lee
      The Write Idea

      Third Place

      The Nowhere
      by Erwin Fernandez
      Wild Poetry Forum

  • January 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      How the Wind Works
      by Alison Armstrong-Webber
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Sleep Walker
      by Brenda Levy Tate

      Third Place

      The Woman Who Grew up in My House Finds Me on Facebook and Comes to Take a Look Around
      by Antonia Clark
      The Waters