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by Bernard Henrie
poets.org
Honorable Mention, July 2008
Judged by Tony Barnstone


Sunburned
water lilies,
a dozen birds
fly up
stunned.

The cat moves
room to room,
stops.

Plums
flicker out.

Shiftless
radios turn off.

Afternoons
fall deaf.


I enjoyed the poem's small ambitions---just a little sketch, some atmosphere, some sound pyrotechnics, spare words and no words to spare. The cat and the plums and the ambition evoke William Carlos Williams in his Imagist/Objectivist phase, but the atmospherics I think recall more the small, gorgeous poems of Jean Follain. It's hard to write a good Imagist poem. A Chinese shi hua (poetry talk) says it best:

Plain and Natural: First master elegance, and then strive for the plain style. Nowadays many people write clumsy, facile poems and flatter themselves that they've mastered the plain style. I can't help laughing at this. Poets know that simplicity is difficult. There are poems that illustrate the rigor the plain style demands:

Today as in ancient times
it's hard to write a simple poem.
by Mei Yaochen

The lotus flower rises from clear water,
naturally without ornament.
by Li Bai

Plain and natural lines are best.

from Sunny Autumn Rhymed Language

--Tony Barnstone

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