Winning Poems for September 2019

Judged by Lois P. Jones

First Place

Houses

by Ken Ashworh
The Writer's Block

The one you were born in
is a gas station now,
pumps in the playroom,
walk-up window for beer.
Daddy always drank too much.

They paved over the spot
where you buried Popeye
the parakeet in a shoebox.

The place your Mama passed away,
neck of a yard, noose-around drive.
She hung on his every word.

Her window boxes still studded
with jonquils that bloom
like madness in the spring .

The one you will die in.
Not much, to be honest,
but it’s home and the cats like it.

They will find you belly up
on the recliner, half empty
bottle of Dewar’s and a sheaf
of unfinished poems.


What is home and how does it define us? Is it the place we spent our earliest years? A beloved city? A country? Home is a part of both our conscious and unconscious thought. In “Houses,” home is not only a physical displacement but an emotional one where mama “hung on every word” and jonquils “bloom like madness.” The underlying metaphor is unsettling and aptly rendered in a few telling phrases which furnish the reader with both the narrator’s history and its present state. Close attention to enjambment and caesura allow the reader to feel the despondent tone a house can hold and its lingering legacy. --Lois P. Jones

Second Place

Algernon Charles Swinburne

by Bob Bradshaw
The Writer's Block

Lean like a flamingo,
he boasted a cataract of red hair—
but was just as famous
for his drunken pratfalls,

his poetry accused
of being just as confused
as he was when sloshing about

a room spilling brandy
or shrieking hysterically
like a peacock.

Yet he did have his fans,
often women who–
not knowing Algernon

preferred flogging
to copulation, pain and drunkenness
his antidotes to boredom–

would sigh and swoon
in faints of adulation
at his readings,

piling together, like coats
which slip with ease
from their hangers

onto the polished floor,
having come undone at a touch
or the thought of such.


This poem is a quick caricature of little-known Swinburne whose controversial poems caused a stir in Victorian England. We imagine women swooning at the likes of Liszt and Paganini in the classical world but we don’t hear much of the literary figures with comparable powers. Perhaps Swinburne had a feral charm which came through despite his slight and sickly figure. Poetry holds that power just as this poem brings us perfection in simile where women pile “like coats/which slip with ease/from their hangers/onto the polished floor.” The hangers mirror the flamingo-like sketch. --Lois P. Jones

Third Place

Arbeit Macht Frei Inc.

by Jim Fowler
Babilu

Parcels of parchment, stacked
solidly. Work lives laminated
in layers for my perusal.

Condensed people, clamoring
in bold indented lines, calling
attention with typographic tricks.

Cattle car choice, choosing
one life, round-filing others.
Fascist dirty work, coldly done.


The chilling concision with which this poem is rendered draws us into its factoried rhythm and asks us to think not only of what the significance of the German phrase has come to mean in the post-Nazi era but the choices imbedded in our society. The “my” in the first strophe alludes to various possibilities. Here the conceit favors printerly allusions alongside Holocaust images with its mention of “bold indented line(s)” and “round-filling” which adds to the poem’s emotional detachment. Part precision, part enigma, this short poem has done its work. --Lois P. Jones


  • November 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      Rapture
      by JJ Wiliamson
      Babilu

      Second Place (tie)

      Red Spider Lilies
      by Bob Bradshaw
      The Writer's Block

      Second Place (tie)

      The Big House At Mambalam
      by Siva Ramanathan
      The Writer's Block

      Third Place (tie)

      What Have I Done to Thee O Muse
      by Peter Halpin
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Third Place (tie)

      World Affairs
      by Kenny A. Chaffin
      Wild Poetry Forum

      Honorable Mention

      Morning
      by Mary MacGowan
      The Waters

      Honorable Mention

      A Can of Grandma Figlioto’s Pasta Sauce
      by Daniel J. Flore III
      Babilu

  • October 2019 Winners

    • First Place

      We Could Use an American
      by Mignon Ariel King
      The Waters

      Second Place

      Dante’s Outer Circles
      by Ken Ashworth
      The Writer's Block

      Third Place

      Time of Move
      by RC James
      Babilu