2020 Annual Poetry Contest Winners

We are thrilled to announce the results of our 2020 Poetry Contest, chosen by Lori Desrosiers. Here’s her statement and the list of winners:

LORI DESROSIERS: First, I want to say that I had a terrible time deciding on which of the three top poems to rank for which prize. To me all three poems were extremely strong, and all deserved a first place win. Congratulations to everyone and thank you for entrusting Common Ground and me with your work!

1st Prize ($500) “Table of Contents”: Cassandra Rockwood-Rice

“Table of Contents” is a poem about survival and bearing witness. It is also about what it means to write about abuse and struggle. The voice in the poem speaks to the rebuilding of a life through writing about trauma, and also about how in the life of a survivor there are frequent replays of that trauma through micro-aggressions perpetrated by those who have not had the same experience. It raises some great questions through the use of anaphora/ the repetition of words down the lines, in this case “how.” The lines are crafted to cascade down the page and bring the reader both a visceral and metacognitive experience, coming back around in a circle to the table: the table of childhood, the table of memory. The table of contents questions itself, how to make this book make sense, and brings the reader back around through rejection to the final table of reckoning in “the light of day.”

2nd Prize ($200) “When I Say I Have Known Black Boys”: Darius Simpson

Darius Simpson’s “When I Say I Have Known Black Boys Like You” is a poem from a powerful voice that needs to be heeded today, especially in the light of the last how many years of struggle to stop white people in authority from dehumanizing Black youth. It is also superbly crafted, using slashes to take the place of white space and this is both effective and symbolic. The use of space in the line “then he got / / and came back a whole letter grade shorter” is surprising and deeply important. The word that came to my mind was “disappeared” although it could mean “suspended” in the sense of taken out of life and time. This is a visual poem, where the reader sees the friendships of the young men and the violence surrounding them, as well as the concern expressed by the voice in the poem, who is older now and looking back, and the last stanza seems to be speaking to a young man of today, trying to show him the danger he is in. Finally, I want to thank Darius for this poem and end with another line from it that stays with me… “boy loud / cuz he need a hug / or a meal / or an open hand / on his shoulder / not a muzzle / not another brick / layered dismissal”

3rd Prize ($100) “Wedding Dress”: Adrienne Christian

“Wedding Dress” is an extraordinary poem about a dysfunctional family, yet despite recounting the terrible behavior of these people (including the narrator!), the poet maintains a sense of humor throughout. This kindles in the reader a sense of pathos along with perhaps a bit of a morbid fascination. The language is surprising and very believable. It sustained the story, and held this reader to the page in anticipation of what might come next.

HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no particular order)

“Stay” : Arien Reed

“Yardsale” : Karen Mandell

“the easier way to deconstruct a monroe (by waveform? or otherwise?)”:

Tobi-Hope Jieun Park

“Working the Child At Risk Hotline” : Pamela Gemme

“Octavia” : Michael Baldwin

“Mi Casa Es Tu Casa” : Alfredo Antonio Arevalo

Thank you to all who entered our contest. We loved reading your work, and we wish you the best of luck!