Winning Poems for February 2016

Judged by Lee Slonimsky

Dove Cottage

by J.J. Williamson
PenShells

When I first climbed the slopes of Loughrigg Fell
to trace the spring of old Romantic blood,
I knew I’d fallen under Wordsworth’s spell,
enslaved to nameless becks and blue bell woods.

I watched a cloud drift over Silver How
and listened to the wind through copper beech,
remembered why I’d walked to Grasmere brow,
then paused for thought outside St Oswald’s church.

Wild flowers thrive and bloom near lakeland’s bard,
they weave a coloured path to where he lies
and there I stood, alone, beside the crowd,
with daffodils and graves before my eyes.

Now every time I pass his garden gate,
I think of silent tombs and streams in spate.


This wistful and musical sonnet adroitly conveys both the geography and spirit of Wordsworth’s extraordinary poetry. The perfect iambic rhythm and deft originality of rhymes both straight (“How/brow”) and slant (“bard/crowd”), combine with simple but evocative images (“…the wind through copper beech…”) to take the reader straight back into the Romantic period. No magical tricks or intense ambiguity here: just colorful and creative language in a tradition that has survived for centuries. --Lee Slonimsky

Second Place

Snowdrops Growing Wild Near the Barn

by Lisa Megraw
Wild Poetry Forum

Our faces turn to glass
where the wind rushes
between our crowd of bodies.
l can no longer hear any music

where the wind rushes
inside the crow’s raincoat of feathers.
I can no longer hear any music
amongst the quiver of cobwebs

inside the crow’s raincoat of feathers.
Long ago a boy went missing
amongst the quiver of cobwebs
so we search, our white petals burning.

Long ago a boy went missing
so we push at the edges of the darkness,
so we search, our white petals burning,
our bodies knotted with their light.

So we push at the edges of the darkness
carrying our white fires aloft,
our bodies knotted with their light.
Taking turns to rise and sink like breath

carrying our white fires aloft,
we gather inside a river of wind.
Taking turns to rise and sink like breath:
a swarm of stars.

We gather inside a river of wind
like a beating heart:
a swarm of stars.
Our faces turning to glass.


“Snowdrops Growing Wild Near the Barn” is a beautifully mysterious poem, filled with brilliant images, adroit use of repetition, and also a suggestive, shadowy obliqueness. From “the crow’s raincoat of feathers” to “we gather inside a river of wind,” the poem is filled with exciting, unexpected, even jolting moments of language that are what excellent poetry is about. Truly original syntactical moments like “our bodies knotted with their light” prove that, as much as may have been said in poetry to date, at least as much remains to be explored. --Lee Slonimsky

Third Place

Zipline

by Greta Bolger
The Waters

The unthinkingness of it is obvious in retrospect, a Just Do It born of cocktail camaraderie and the next morning, we were handing over multicolored currency for the chance to die one way or another. Those green forms that look like certificates of achievement? Waivers, pal. Our guides – Pedro, Jorge, Andres, Miguel – lead and followed us up the mountain, over swinging narrow bridges strung above hearse-sized boulders. Only Amy, a plump young asthmatic, struggled more than I, got off the trail sooner, took the lower lines. As in the eighteenth hour of labor, the ninth day of travel with a couple that bickers ceaselessly, the third year of marriage when viscous silence makes it impossible to breathe, the question how in the hell did I end up in this terrible mess echoes inside each urgent gasp for more air, more air. And then we’re there, above the trees, Lake Atitlan and Panajachel far below, all of us grinning, harnessed, carabinered to a cable, heavy-gloved hands overhead, the extra-leathered right palm to brake when the yellow flag flaps. A half mile in 90 seconds. Hang over the ledge and let go, flying at life speed: beauty and amazement, terror and surrender.


This intense reminiscence brims over with moody commentary and startling phrases like “cocktail camaraderie,” “carabinered to a cable,” and “flying at life speed,” the latter an apt description of the poem itself! “Hearse-sized boulders” is another memorable phrase where the metaphor is as compact and hard as what is being described. The contrast between the desperate traveler’s regret expressed mid-poem and the intense narrative that follows immediately exemplifies the wild twists and turns the trip must have taken. A poem as visceral as its subject matter is always an achievement. --Lee Slonimsky

Honorable Mention

Spring Came Early

by Billy Howell-Sinnard
The Writer's Block

While plum blossoms
weep in the wind
you walk over the mountain.

It accepts you fully.
Its heart is yours.
The snow at its peak

is the letter you left behind.
I look for you
through the clouds

a shadow
rising higher and higher.
I haven’t eaten for two days.


In the center of this poem’s vitality is a wonderfully straightforward personification of the mountain—a mountain spilling over with acceptance—and quite the lover! And then, what a graceful touch with snow and a letter. “Spring Came Early” expresses the insight that in poetry less can often be more, enhanced by a cast of characters that includes wind, clouds, and an all important shadow. --Lee Slonimsky


  • March 2017 Winners

    • First Place

      Mountain Church Larrau
      by Laurie Byro
      Desert Moon Review

      Second Place

      It’s a Wonderful Life Brandon
      by Sergio Ortiz
      The Waters

      Third Place

      The Quiet Work
      by Andrew Dufresne
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Honorable Mention

      This is How Death Comes
      by Laura Ring
      Wild Poetry Forum

  • February 2017 Winners

    • First Place

      To Lisa
      by Fred Longworth
      PenShells

      Second Place

      The Vestal Lady of Venice
      by Laurie Byro
      Desert Moon Review

      Third Place

      Tibet
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Waters

      Honorable Mention

      Elegy for Michael
      by John J. Williamson
      PenShells

      Honorable Mention

      Aja Monet Reads at the Washington Women’s March
      by RC James
      Babilu