Poem of the Year:
May 2019-Apr 2020

Judged by William Doreski

First Place

I think of the colour purple

by Alison Armstrong-Webber
The Waters
May 2019

There is no cloud inside a cloud
There is no tree inside a tree.
there is no man inside a man.: Sri Moojiji

I found the second spigot, on the side
walkway where the tree slices are
erupting, from gravel. Javier says this
is natural, the several earthquakes. and now
I can water the garden of my sister,
with separate, and shorter hoses for back and front.

I eat a crosshatched, flayed mango
skewered on a stick, salted with chili. Elizabeth tells me
about her mother slowly taking off a glove, and gently
drawing it onto Elizabeth’s hand, and then taking her hand
and placing it on the cadaver’s chest.
“The hand that would not move.” How wonderful,
we marvel, that she did that!

I think of my sister who wanted to read
her goodbye letter to our father…and how I
learned later about false tools, so
I forgive him when she said in her letter

I sat in your lap— and he laughed and
quipped, I was your first lover.
And then he said only, I forget.
I am crushed when I think of that
woman I was, when he was dying,

and he told me, “i’m not like you”
and called me “my other princess”
goodnight, and wanted me
to wheel him to the fifth floor to have a smoke,
and before that, help him take a piss.

And leave the snow on. The soaps, all night.
And massage his weeping legs,
because they damnably itched.

I think of how he appeared after he said, If I find out
there’s anything out there, I’ll come back
and let you know, and how I said Stop,
when the phone rang and hung up, and the lights
flickered, and bulbs burst out.
And he appeared one night, soon after,
while I was alone in the bathroom, dreaming,

and I picked him up by the scruff of the neck,
without any emotion and dashed him
against the wall. And saw, with wonder,
how he emptied his body in a little heap
of cinders, and I nearly shrugged, something
in my body said—Okay.

The generosity of this poem’s imagery and language sticks in my mind. Details like “shorter hoses for back and front” and “a crosshatched, flayed mango” lend the poem texture and authenticity. But the verbal energy and overall thrust of the poem is what finally makes it memorable. The decline of the father through death and reappearance as something other than what he was, something the speaker can dash against the wall without a twinge of conscience. A marvelous ending. --William Doreski

Second Place

In the next life we were married

by Ken Brownlow
The Waters
April 2020

Caitland is back from Charcoal station
she went mustering on the black soil plains
a year or more ago then did a season
packing apples near her mother’s farm
and mentioned something in a Christmas card
about feral goats out on the western downs.

Always in a country of the never mind
she rolls in like high tide across my balcony
with a six pack and a pizza box
and can’t imagine how it was possible
for me to go on blowing zeds
through all her thumping on my walls
and windows and the neighbour’s barking dog
when she knocked a trash can over.

Wants to know why the spare key
wasn’t in its usual hidey spot
and continues in a drunken lilt
how she thought for sure by now
some ritzy girl with painted nails
would be living here with me.

I shake a sleepy head then nod
and take the warm beer offered
but decline a slice of suspect looking pizza
draped across her fillet knife.
She strikes a look of wounded pride
and says ‘it’s vegetarian; I remembered
what an oddball kind of bloke you are’.

The stately movement of this poem contrasts effectively with the almost mundane subject matter. While the situation may be an ordinary domestic one, the rich language lifts it into a world of its own. Excellent use of detail and colloquial language sprinkled here and there. “A slice of suspect looking pizza / draped across her fillet knife” is an especially nice touch. “Mustering on the black soil plains” is worthy of the great early Auden. “Blowing zeds / through all her thumping on my walls” is an example of phrasing acutely sensitive long vowel sounds. The lines have an individual integrity that justifies each of them as poetry. --William Doreski

Third Place


by Ken Ashworth
The Waters
January 2020

Lightning struck the quarry
set off the pre-charges.

All day they worked with hammer
drills packing the Dyno Nobel,

By the same folks who give
out the Peace Prize.

They quit when it started
to thunder and couldn’t finish

before dark. ATF called it
spontaneous electric initiation.

Lonnie at Penrose Grocery
came in at 5 next morning,

swept glass into a pile and gravel
for the pot holes into another.

The good folks of Turkey Creek
Missionary Baptist said

it was a Miracle it happened
at night else they all could have

been raptured by spontaneous
initiation, Hellish smell of ozone

and blasting powder, pieces
of the steeple in trees.

This poem’s short lines are nicely turned and propel the reader to a closure that isn’t quite inevitable—the steeple mysterious blasted by either the “spontaneous electric initiation” (a great phrase) or by the lightning. It’s the sense of inevitable disaster and the shrug that greets it, laid out in sharply defined yet freely enjambed verse, that give this poem its force. The use of “rapture” as a verb, the swept debris, the smell of ozone and blasting powder, and other useful details and phrasing fuel the poem nicely. --William Doreski