Winning Poems for September 2016

Judged by Lee Nash

First Place

Starry Night Over the Rhone

by Bob Bradshaw
The Waters

Theo, yellow stars bloom like fireworks,
and the waters glimmer with russet-gold.

On a mauve ground in the lower corner
a couple strolls, arms linked together.

The red bearded man under the straw hat
could be me, one day,

but for now I remain the stray dog
of my neighborhood.

Gauguin has fled to Paris–
and my neighbors want me committed.

The assholes claim to the police
that I’m a pervert,

but I must not get worked up,
indignant, or I may find myself

locked up again, judged
as a madman.

Already the cowards have signed
a petition that threatens

my freedom. Theo,
don’t get mixed up in this.

I must stay calm, but painting
would help. If you can, please send

along ten meters of canvas
and tubes of paint: zinc white,

ultramarine, cobalt, orange lead
and Veronese green.


I'm always drawn to a poem where the poet takes the voice of a famous individual and by way of the imagination gives us new appreciation for that person and their struggles. Here we have a troubled Vincent van Gogh writing to his art dealer brother, Theo – the tone is conversational and the language colorful in more ways than one, and the result is altogether convincing. --Lee Nash

Second Place

Nighthawks

by Terry Ofner
The Waters

Montréal. Small rain. 4am.
I find the only open cafe.
A homeless man

sleeps upright in a chair,
slumped into himself
like a sack of grain.

The woman at the end—
a soda bottle in both hands
like a joystick. She’s fixed

on something out there
in the dark, could be taxiing
for take-off.

The betterment of humanity
could start. Salvation
comes wrapped in the body

to keep it from floating away.

Salvation comes.
Lifting, lifting. Pulleys
of morning light.

Rain rising, lifting.
Wet wings of sidewalks
and street.


I kept coming back to this sparse poem with its sketch of the all-night café and the sense of hopelessness those first four stanzas evoke. But we don't stay in that place, thankfully, as morning brings salvation and light. The rain that fell in the opening line somehow seems to rise. This new day may be difficult too, but remember, it's how you look at things: "betterment ... could start." --Lee Nash

Third Place

Atlantic Giant

by Jim Fowler
Babilu

You sit stolid on the skid,
Atlantic Giant, the Buddha
of pumpkins. Your lifeline twists
wrist-thick through the grate

to the mountain of compost
and brown earth. The patch
of Sugars nearby, peanut sized,
look up at you in awe.

Your shadow blankets all
as the sunset and your final
day draws near. We’ll cut
the cord and carry you

to your final match,
a weigh-in of sumo gourds,
soon a half ton of pies.


It is comforting to discover, in amongst the pathos and protest poems, a down-to-earth piece that celebrates growth and nourishment. If you've ever had a pumpkin patch, you'll appreciate these lines that marvel at this "Buddha / of pumpkins." The care that's gone into it makes it seem like a baby, to be treated with utmost care – but only until we realize just how many pies it will make! --Lee Nash


  • 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