Previous Contest Winners, 2019

First Prize, $500: Roy Bentley

“Luis Sarria, Muhammed Ali’s Longtime Cut Man, Prepares the Boxer’s Face for a Workout in Deer Lake in 1978”

This poem, ekphrastic from a photo, exceeds the mere description typical of ekphrastic poems by seeing the photo from the inside out. The poet uses a capacious Whitmanesque line to focus tightly on an intimate relationship of healer and warrior. These men do not speak, but the cut-man’s fingers feel their way into the hard history of Ali and all black Americans. This tight shot then brings the two out on the road into a country fighting for and against civil rights. The poet has researched the physical things in the photo and through concrete specificity has used them precisely to meld history and human particularity. I was moved by the poem, and thought of Ali with warmth. I was in Vietnam the year Ali refused to serve, and saw the effect of this on the black marines I was deployed with. By a few images the poet has not only sharply depicted the two men, but opened up the world around them and its history.

Second Prize, $200: Richard Cummins, “Carpe Diem”

I like very much this father’s observation of his daughter as the family trio drives through a landscape. The father’s language of memory and time are counterpoint to the child’s joyful naming of things. The father knows the snow is coming; the daughter’s acquisition of language is immediate. The child’s grasping for language recapitulates the poet’s incessant choosing of the best words. The poet says, “Love tells me that we three close our eyes/and create the world each time we open them again, that there is nothing but now, nowhere but here.” This line is a demonstration of Coleridge’s argument that the poet creates the world as if for the first time.

Third Prize, $100: Terry Bodine, “Hitting the Bottle”

This poem is in one sense a struggle with alcohol but in another, just getting through life with its “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” The bruises are not only the broken blood vessels beneath the skin but life’s heartaches. Childhood is woven with the present. “We’re as likely to remember a story we’re told/as we are the story we lived.” Memory revises, innocence is bruised with experience. There is a need for a mother to wipe away tears but there is also a sense the speaker will survive and recover. “When I lie down in beds of guttered leaves/I’m still able to stand back up.”

Honorable Mentions (alphabetical order by poem title)

“After Slaying the Dragons”—Jonathan Greenhause

“Annunciation on Rue Saint-Urbain”—James Crews

“Between A Mother and a Son”—Candice Kelsey

“Mythomania”—Howie Faerstein

“Over”—Tom Paine

“Post Impressionism”—Kathleen Holliday

“They Watched”—LQ McDonald III

“Thirteen Truths”—Michele Randall

“To the Brink”—Linda Haltmaier

“Transition Period”—Bill Glose

We’d like to thank the judge, Doug Anderson, and everyone who entered. We read many wonderful poems, and we’re hoping to find room for some of them in the Spring/Summer issue, so if your name is not on the list above, you may still be getting an acceptance from us after July 4th. And Happy July 4th!