Poem of the Year:
May 2018-Apr 2019

Judged by Lenny DellaRocca 

1st Place

Poetry in the Cultural Revolution

by Bob Bradshaw
The Waters
December 2018

Soldiers stormed in, ripping doors
and cabinets open like wounds.
I clung to mother’s leg

as they pried up planks
for signs of treachery: books.
Hadn’t neighbors seen shelves of poetry

stacked from floor to ceiling?
Where were they?
Father was dragged away

as neighbors watched,
covering their ears, hurrying off
when Mother tried to speak to them.

There were rumors that Father
played piano in his youth, booming out
anti-revolutionary songs.

His list of treacheries grew: the name
of Li Po rolling like a grenade
into our house one morning.

Mother disappeared. Hadn’t she led
children in singing poems? Wasn’t poetry
as dangerous as temples?

I joined a stage group, where I drew
my biggest applause denouncing
my parents as counter revolutionaries,

citing how my father wrote poems
the way a traitor makes bombs—
at night, alone.

There are many adjectives to describe this piece: Brilliant. Astonishing, Captivating. Heart-wrenching. But there are two other adjectives that serve better: Important and Necessary. How far away are we in America from what takes place in this poem in China? This is a poem of its time. The opening stanza is tragic. Spare language fuels a sense of unrelenting fear. Images are exceptionally powerful and brutal. And best of all the turn- the turn at the end -staggers me! Not only am I there in the house with the speaker, who “clung to mother’s leg”, not only do I witness neighbors turning away, (Are they cowards? Would I stand against these soldiers and risk my life?) but the ending stabs me when I realize that the speaker- a child- betrays the parents! Over-the-top, jaw-dropping finality. The last line- “at night, alone” goes off like a bomb. The fact that the poet has chosen to tell this horror story in tercets-mother, father and child- is not lost on me. --Lenny DellaRocca

2nd Place (tie)


by Brenda Levy Tate
September 2018

Dusk deepens, and brings stars. I wait for them; pray to see them.
They cancel my need for sleep. When they appear, rivets in a curve, I wander 
under their patterns, count myself blessed. Avoid the crammed shelves
above my bed where photos glare, those downlooking ones who knew me
before I ever met a midnight sky. Beneath my heels, the dark lawn springs 
eternal, like resurrection. No matter how often I cut it down, grass returns 

with a clover scarf gently laid, and bees with emerald sparkles on their heads. 
I think of how they borrow themselves from space. Their starfield, I can map 
and travel by day. Their wings, I greet fearless. But they are torpid now – 

the only part of remembered noon that sings above the noise of ordinary light. 
The galaxies excuse me. My camera grants absolution. Its lens gleams,
a fisheye in murk where I swim forever, suspended between sea and heaven. 

Out here, no dreams ripple the surface. I consider nothing of myself, neither sin 
nor sorrow. I hum to the quiet dead as I map their universe. A husband carousing 
with Jupiter. A lover stung by Scorpio. A brother raising his arrow to my throat. 

No power in consciousness. Only with slumber do they punish me. I am perfect 
this night, barely human. The void which bore me from ash, the roiling bubble 
of failed promises, spans every hour until I go. This is the universe I have inherited. 

Mars hovers above the lake; earth swings toward morning. No more frames 
are possible, but enough have been captured: holy fire – burning in the prison 
of my glass. I scuff a trail through wet blades, drip on the kitchen floor. 

Collapse tripod, remove memory card, connect reader. In my bedroom, 
faces wait, but they are patient. I stir a creamy nebula – instant coffee 
to hold off sleep just a little longer.   

I initially shuffled these two poems in and out of First Place, they’re that good. “Astrophotographer” is magnificent. I kept coming back to its music, images and tone. It’s religious phrases- “pray to see them,” “count myself blessed,” “like resurrection,” “grants absolution,” etc, are sublime. - and “A brother raising his arrow to my throat” is superbly Biblical, mythological. I hear Whitman in “The galaxies excuse me.” And- “I consider nothing of myself,.” I love how the poet circles back to the opening at the end of the poem with the use of “sleep.” I absolutely love the lines “ a clover scarf gently laid, and bees with emerald sparkles on their heads.” And- “the only part of remembered noon that sings above the noise of ordinary light.” Wow. --Lenny DellaRocca

2nd Place (tie)

The Woman Who Grew up in My House Finds Me on Facebook and Comes to Take a Look Around

by Antonia Clark
The Waters
January 2019

It seemed I’d always known her, deep in the bone,
a long-lost cousin, sister, friend of my youth—
though we had never met, and never spoken.
Yet there she was at the door, apologetic, tearful,

a vase of peach roses, a scarf like mine. Like me,
Like me, the thought unbidden, my arms around her.
For her, time suddenly collapsing to the morning
she left here 50 years ago on her wedding day.

She moved tentatively from room to room, as if
testing her footing, like a child in the dark. How small
these rooms now, how memory had expanded them
to hold all of childhood’s wonder, drama, dreams.

Her father had built this square and sturdy house,
then married and raised seven children, counting
the oldest who drowned in the lake. We marveled
at what had changed, what stayed the same.

At every doorway, every corner, she could see
backward in time, the past shimmering with clarity—
Here the wood stove (see how the floor’s patched in?),
there the ice box, the winter boot-bin, father’s chair.

In this corner, a sewing machine, against that wall
an iron cookstove. The old ceiling’s been covered
with molded tin, floors with ceramic tile, the bathroom
once shared by ten tripled in size to accommodate two.

Her bedroom, with its attic door that once held
monsters at bay, now my small library. She stood
stunned or maybe stalling for time, reading the titles
of my books, neither of us wanting the hour to end.

Then she was taking a last look, everything both
old and new to each of us. And then we were parting.
A wind had come up. Leaves swirled at the open
door, where we hesitated, shivering, eyes smarting.

This piece is deliciously evocative. Its crystal clear imagery and control of meter are outstanding. Great craftsmanship. But it’s the narrative that makes it stand out most. The beginning stanza is captivating, moving me along to each consecutive quatrain. I am inside this home with these two people. I see what they see, feel what they feel. This is a breathtaking piece of art, fully realized, leaving nothing behind. No questions, no doubts. “At every doorway, every corner, she could see/backward in time,” A line truly written by a masterful poet. And that’s just one among many in this piece. This is the kind of poem poets sigh and say “I wish I’d written it.” It’s superb. --Lenny DellaRocca

3rd Place

Sleep Walker

by Brenda Levy Tate
January 2019

The Milky Way runs dry and fades behind
a wool of overcast – close-hung for nights
and noons and nights again. I wouldn’t mind
if on this trek, I had no need of lights
but such is not the case right now. The sky
brings everything – a solace and a shield
against this bitter earth, against the cry
that rises thin and crystal from my field
where snow has frozen hope. I follow deer
because they travel crooked trails – like mine –
just paths through spruces. Should the stars appear,
I’d navigate by looking up – their shine
my guide. But no stars mark the map ahead.
Perhaps I’ve dreamed them all. Perhaps they’re dead.

Sonnets are easily written, but not easily executed. This is brilliantly executed. The night-sky imagery is tastefully done- “Their shine my guide” -so understated, so compact. It’s a cold night, and the stars are crystal clear. I can see the poets breath escaping. My breath escapes, too. There is a lot of Robert Frost in this piece, especially “I wouldn’t mind if on this trek, I had no need of lights” and the ending- “But no stars mark the map ahead. Perhaps I’ve dreamed them all. Perhaps they’re dead.” Gorgeously solitary. A dazzling poem. In another contest this would be First Place material. --Lenny DellaRocca

Honorable Mention

Radium Girls

by Ken Ashworth
The Writer's Block
November 2018

Once was a question
We never asked.
It was a job needed doing.
There was a war on.

We worked at night
to better see the dials
and watch face, tipped
camel hair to our lips
to make a fine point.

Painted luminescent
hands and Roman
numerals on altimeters
tipped iron gunsights,
color of old moonlight.

For the boys in France
plugged in some ditch
or bunker behind the
Hindenburg Line.
A hundred years their
ghosts have ranged
Flanders Field and
Belleau Wood on the Marne.

We are the beacon
the light of home,
and beckon mildly
them to come mingle

with our bones. Our lips are warm,
the radium girls
still glowing in our graves.

Honorable Mention

My Bicycle

by Andrew Dufresne
Wild Poetry Forum
July 2018

My bicycle was black and silver, had laser
cannons, anti-gravity supersonic switches,
a two way radio that could reach secret
locations. Its wing span was forever changing.

Much like now, actually. My bicycle took
me to Mars, Jupiter, Pluto, Saturn, Mercury
(because of its special cooling system)
the Moon, and Uranus. Uranus. Get it?

Much like now, actually. My bicycle did
ten gerzillion thousand miles an hour on Friday
nights when no one knew where I was or
what I was doing. That was cool. It was.

Much like now, actually. My bicycle is
enshrined in the My-sonian Institute next
to my younger imagination, my first kiss,
my wildest dream. My bicycle rocked.

My bicycle spoke to me last night in a
dream. It said, Bicycle to Boy, urgent, urgent,
many things need rescuing, please contact
me ASAP. Like now, now, now, actually.

Honorable Mention

A Brief History of Rain

by Antonia Clark
The Waters
May 2018

Me standing in the rain and you
leaning close for our shoulders to touch,
the band screaming above the the storm.

Me standing in the rain and you
on your knees, slipping a paper ring
onto my wet and trembling finger.

Me standing in the rain and you
kicking the flat tire, regretting everything,
my feet held fast in the sucking mud.

Me standing in the rain and you
telling me how much we need it—
maybe the rain, maybe a break from it.

Me standing in the rain and you
expounding on cold fronts and pressure,
as if we were concerned with weather.

Me standing in the rain and you
watching from inside, a shadow
in the window, shaking your head.

Me standing in the rain and you
just a cipher, a name in the records.
You the absence that inhabits the rain.