by JJ Wiliamson
First Place, November 2019
Judged by Laurie Byro

This morning’s April showers taste much sweeter,
now that winter’s storms have flown. A blow
of warmth, at last, and borders look much neater,
and how the dormant seeds are set to grow.

All around the shrubs and plants demand
the gardener’s touch, the thrust of patient hands
to turn the soil and tame the raging grass.
Thirsty skies are no longer overcast.

The trays and cold frames heave with tangled flowers,
and silver koi revive to stir the pond.
Spring’s eager dance reclaims the dawn. Those hours
of anxious eyes, of gales and sighs are done.

I sense the chill of winter scurry past
and listen to the trill of birds, at last.

Who can resist a perfectly executed iambic pentameter sonnet? I cannot, I find them maddingly difficult to write. I know "sonnet" means "little song" and I know it is 14 lines, but only having written a few successful ones, I shall call myself ignorant and have to do some research. Luckily, our Poetry Circle is discussing Shakespearean sonnets, so I am pretty confident that this sonnet is a Shakespearean sonnet.  I will go out on a limb and also say that other than the obvious odd enjambment, there are headless iambs littered here and there and also, feminine line ends. I have a sonnet mentor instructing me on the differences between feminine and masculine stresses. The feminine, I am told, makes for the softer sound befitting nature: Keats, Wordsworth, (always gushing on about flowers, bowers etc) emphasized feminine stresses. If I have an argument with this sonnet, it would be the title, announcing itself with horns: "Rapture" but that is a small quibble, and I am not even sure if it is "wrong" with so much "right" going for it. I shall put aside my only swerving and conclude regardless of title: this is a ravishing poem. The final couplet announces Spring, and as we approach winter and generally snowy ones in New Jersey, this poem reminds me of the delight of looking through bulb catalogs. It a promise that nearly warms us as we bundle up, a winter's occupation.  Silver Koi is another delight stirring the poem. I give this poem high marks for making the most difficult form (I believe) look easy, and while it is old-fashioned, it is the time of year where we need to be reminded of tradition. A good poem, should make us just a little homesick of past pleasures. I am very content in giving this little perfectly 14 pointed star that melts into Spring, a first place. --Laurie Byro