Common Ground Review would like to thank everyone who entered the contest this year. We are thrilled to announce the winners of our 2021 Annual Poetry Contest, chosen by our judge, Simeon Berry.
“Alone Another Vacation” is an anti-pastoral that lights up the countryside in an apocalyptic negative while the speaker wrestles necromantically with entropy and exegesis. Acknowledging both the gyre of Robinson Jeffers’ savage inhumanism and the bleak susurrus of cosmic indifference, Connor Drexler searches unflinchingly for the antidote inside the traumatic cloud of unknowing that is masculinity. This is a poem that is both surgical and gracefully suggestive as the capillary action of ink in a charcoal wash.
“Plumbing” is skillfully held aloft with elegant syncopation on the zephyr of a single sentence, borrowing from the harmony of a sonnet’s interlaced lines without importing any of its claustrophobia. Ruescher manages the difficult trick of stirring up the dark sediment of Blake’s Satanic mills and the depredations of catastrophic economies while maintaining the placid surface of his rhetorical argument, demonstrating all the contradictory ways that privilege is encoded in our circumstances and our art.
“As Close as Anyone Gets” is a slant memento mori, a snapshot of a wilderness of grief superimposed on the crystalline cordial of a dinner party. In just three deceptively simple stanzas, Gillispie advances his aural argument using the hinge of punctuation—first ellipses, then dash, then question mark—to maintain the tension between comfort and anxiety. This deft doubling reminds us that grief makes the world both uncertain and simultaneous, a confusion of chronology and essence that keeps us painfully alert, even when we would prefer the consolation of the anesthetic.