Winning Poems for March 2016

Judged by Lee Slonimsky

First Place

Echoes

by Hugh Anderson
Desert Moon Review

A shell to the ear echoes the pulse of blood;
the roll and crash and constant wind of surf
crack on rocks, hiss like a nest of snakes
on pebbles. Metaphor is a lie. Story,
we build on sand. This foundation
of myth, of self, of gods and demons
is a moon snail’s labyrinthine coil; its
vacant mouth is poetry. Eyes open
and the sand has shifted, eyes open and
the snail crawls its blanket foot over prey
and drills, extends its tongue. Eyes open
and the shell is filled with ocean, pulse
pounds against rocks, myth collapses,
echoes ripple across the empty sand.


“Echoes” is a poem about the primordial, one in which the poet’s great ear for sound conveys the relationship between the ocean and our blood, the roll of surf on rocks and the hiss of snakes. And it relates the voice of poetry to all the ancient history conveyed by a snail. The fine and precise description of the second half of the poem reminds a reader of William Carlos Williams’ famed contention “No ideas but in things”. “Echoes” indeed manages to find the history of the ocean and of poetry in a snail crawling at the shore! --Lee Slonimsky

Second Place

In Limbo

by Paul A. Freeman
The Write Idea

i find her rucksack
in the ice fall
half buried protruding from a snowdrift

inside are cleats
and crampons
coils of rope
a photograph
of smiling children
and a proud husband

i spot her below
lost in a deep crevasse
a solo climber
culled by the mountains

cocooned in a light-blue anorak
she’s statue-solid
rimed with frost
wearing a mask of mild surprise

the river of ice will embrace her
absorb her carcass
carry her beyond these time-lapse rapids

she’ll go with the flow
for decades
emerge at the glacier’s snout
as pristine as the day she fell
younger than her time-wrinkled children
more enduring than a long-dead husband


The terrible frozen image of a woman at the core of this poem is transformed by a philosophy of time (inspired by a glacier) to a near state of immortality. The fallen victim is preserved in a way that suggests permanent immunity to aging and death, unlike that experienced by her husband and children. Elegant lines like “culled by the mountains/cocooned in a light-blue anorak” and “the river of ice will embrace her” give the poem a sense of elegant tribute that suggests a very cold immortality bequeathed by ice. --Lee Slonimsky

Third Place

California

by Dale McLain
Wild Poetry Forum

Today I thought
of souvenirs, carved doors swung wide
enough to invite the dark, a river of eels
and smoke. I thought of you, well versed
in dusk. Would you spare me a lantern
to press against the sky, a spear to coax
the stars? Would you think of me at all
when the sea surged and the pines bent?

I joke. I am here in La Jolla. The cliffs
are stacks of honey cake. The air is all sea lions
and champagne. The night is a marvel,
a revel of constellations and silvery mirth.
I might stay here, might stay to paint
everything that blooms and flickers.
Shadows cannot be bought here,
but grace is in the sand and sedge,
laid upon it like manna. I did not think
of you.


“California” is filled with extraordinary, inventive moments in language like “well versed in dusk,” “a spear to coax the stars,” “The air is all sea lions and champagne.” A narrative of recovery from romance, the poem uses California, a presence so vast in contemporary America that its nuances are almost endless, as a place of beauty and mystery to escape to. The relationship between the poet and the person to whom the poem is addressed is receding even as the poem itself is being written! --Lee Slonimsky

Honorable Mention

For When You Wake

by Siva Ramanathan
The Writer's Block

Old man-asleep on the charpoy
you’ve heard of the wiry snake
that tunnels from ear to ear
making a ‘u’ curve in your jaw,
letting the venom froth at your open mouth.

Not for you the rubber like mud snakes;
or the pencil thin ones with a conical head on a tendril,
tender as a green shoot dangling above your head.

Only the ear tunneling snake is fit for you:
you who split a whole village,
leaving your family’s aruval blood-stained.


This startling and dagger-like poem, with its underlying emotion of justice, or revenge, or both, is not one to read alone in bed on a stormy night, especially in the tropics. Every one of its eleven powerful lines has a point it drives home with a purposeful and/or vivid image. It is an exceptional poem for both its economy, and how ominous it is. --Lee Slonimsky


  • 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

  • January 2017 Winners

    • First Place

      Analemma
      by Brenda Levy Tate
      PenShells

      Second Place

      Sparrow
      by Laurie Byro
      Desert Moon Review

      Third Place

      ALS
      by Billy Howell-Sinnard
      The Waters

      Honorable Mention

      The Outside of Enough
      by Ray
      Wild Poetry Forum