Winning Poems for April 2019

Judged by Melissa Studdard

First Place

Furiously Overcome by Stars

by Guy Kettelhack
Wild Poetry Forum

Explain this to me, would you, dear? –
how you, who breathe the atmosphere
I breathe, and witness day and night
and up and down and left and right
with sight presumably not unlike what
my eyes take in, experience a glut
of swarming, loud, sensate hyperbole
where only silent absence seems to me
to be, and otherwise imply the “real”
is so inordinate you can’t begin to feel
the groaning board of it. I’m in the dusk
in emptiness while you’re the brusque
besieged eternal target of internal war.
Is it simply I see less, and you see more?
Who is yes and who is no? I am my scars.
You’re furiously overcome by stars.

Oh delight! I love what this poem asks and how it’s built. Between the intriguing title and its repetition in the last line, we’re fed a delicious poetry sandwich. If, for some reason I can’t fathom, the title hadn’t already grabbed the reader’s attention, the first line’s question is a certain draw. Explain what? I have to know. What a complex thing, too, this difference in two people’s perceptions. What is it that makes two people share the same experiences, yet internalize and comprehend them so differently? Further, the formal elements of “Furiously Overcome By Stars”—the framing, the rhyming closing couplet, and the quatrains—work to contain this wildness of language and feeling that seems always about to burst deliriously, and fabulously, from the seams of the poem. --Melissa Studdard

Second Place

Ides of March

by Rachel Green
The Write Idea

keep it
only if it brings joy
Mari Kondo’s methods
to reduce clutter
expand living space
becomes an inspiration
the two-suitcase method of living
(as featured on Derry Girls)
but what if you’re an artist?
Boxes of paint don’t bring joy
(though a pot of clean brushes does)
nor does a roll of bare canvas
or the old easel I lost in a house move
(lost joy, there, though my partner hated it)
and what of the poems I wrote
when I was infatuated with Vicky?
They were a bit crap, really,
but it was a good time to be alive

“Ides of March” derives its power from an increasingly irreverent tone that gathers momentum as it moves down the page, culminating in three really terrific closing lines. The examination of what brings joy and what does not is really fantastic. Ultimately, the answers are not obvious—the boxes of paint don’t bring joy to the artist, but the lousy poems do because of the feeling they recall—a joyful stretch of infatuation. --Melissa Studdard

Third Place

Natural History

by Antonia Clark
The Waters

        On a line by Zeina Hashem Beck*

In the museum of memory,
the missing accumulate
dust at first, then disappear,
taking their voices, even
their names with them.
Empty pedestals, empty frames
at every turn. You trace
the letters inscribed
on polished brass nameplates,
their meaning no more
clear than primitive markings
of an ancient tribe.
Moving from room to room
you search for recognition,
the sudden recollection
of a beloved face—
the aunt whose kindness
you promised never
to forget, the sister
who died young, the man
you once believed
would stay with you forever.

*Zeina Hashem Beck, “In the museum of memory, the missing
accumulate.” From “Ghazal: With Prayer” (Poetry, March 2019)

Not only has this poet smartly chosen a wonderful first line to build from; the extended metaphor is well-sustained through the entirety of “Natural History.” We move room to room, item to item, line to line gladly with the poet as we are shown an array of vivid images and emotions. There’s a sadness in all this loss, but through the poet, the sadness takes on a lustrous beauty. --Melissa Studdard