OPA 2017 Spring Contest Winners

Poet’s Choice

Screener, Carolyne Wright ; Final Judge, Ellen Bass

First place winner: “Calling the Wolves of Chernobyl”  — Charlotte Abernathy – Ashland, Oregon

Judge’s Comment: This is an ambitious poem. The poet uses scale especially well, showing us the great devastation of Chernobyl, the particular suffering of the wolves, and her/himself in a little den (great use of that word), as we, the readers, are. I admire the detail, the specificity, the restraint of the poem and its final emotional impact.

Second place winner: “My Mother’s Cold War” Kathleen McClung San Francisco, California

Judge’s Comment: I admire the complexity of this poem. The poet understands the way in which personal, domestic events are always in a political, social context, cultural context. The poem is rich in detail and manages the sestina capably.

Third Place winner:  “Reading Donna Haraway in Avery Park” — Athena Lathos – Corvallis, Oregon

Judge’s  Comment:  This poem has a strong sense of mystery and the power of contraries. I especially appreciate the way it surprises me in every stanza and rewards me in its beautiful, final image.

Honorable Mention: “Putting Red Down” — Carol Lantz – Corvallis, Oregon

Judge’s Comment: “This clear-eyed poem is both ode and elegy to a great horse. It invites us to know him and share the poet’s love, admiration, and impending loss. The use of rhyme helps to enact the rhythm of a horse and is satisfying, but not intrusive.”


Literary Ballad

Judge — Barbara Drake

Judge’s General Comments

In judging the literary ballad I looked for traditional elements such as a good story, a fresh treatment of the tradition (such as giving the ballad a modern turn), dramatic themes such as love, jealousy, betrayal, revenge, and skillful use of the ballad form (rhyme, rhythm, stanza development, overall structure).  It was a close call between the three winners but I did my best to rank them according to the fluidity and skill with which each author polished the form, avoiding forced rhymes and awkward spots in the rhythms. Someone else might have given a different ranking but I definitely feel that these three stand out.

1st Prize “Heart of the Matter” by Barbara Blanks – Garland, Texas

Judge’s comment: “Heart of the Matter” demonstrated traditional qualities while also placing the story in the interesting modern context of a hospital surgery, a surprising and darkly comic twist.  The author also did a good job of using rhyme, meter, and overall ballad form.  This is one you won’t forget.

2nd Prize “The Princess of Babylon Beach” — Charles Castle – Eugene, Oregon

Judge’s comment:  ‘The Princess of Babylon Beach” is a fun, freewheeling ballad about a wild young woman and the various phases she goes through in her life, from rebellion and high living to becoming a spiritual teacher on Orcas Island.  The irony as she moves from one recognizable but very different role to another is a strong quality in the poem. For the most part the rhymes and rhythms are handled well, though sometimes a rhyme or rhythm feels forced.”

3rd Prize “Comfort Tree” – Susanne Twight-Alexander – Eugene, Oregon

Judge’s comment: “Comfort Tree” has a sweet traditional sound but also incorporates a modern element with contemporary political references.  I liked that and I liked the poignant repeated line, “and in my heart was mine.” Sometimes a small adjustment would make the rhythm more musical though small adjustments can be a matter of personal judgment of course. Overall the author did a good job.

Honorable mentions: 

First : “Ballad of the Ghost of Lock 39” – Mary Winslow—Lake Oswego, Oregon

 Second: “Ballad of the Wind.” – John McPherson – Portland, Oregon

Judge’s comments on Honorable Mentions:

Honorable Mentions:“Ballad of the Ghost of Lock 39” and “Ballad of the Wind.” Although I think the stories in these two ballads could be sharpened and sometimes the sounds seem a bit forced, both poems capture the mournful music of traditional ballads.

Members Only

Judge — Barbara LaMorticella
1st Prize “loveliest of what I leave behind” by Toni Hanner – Eugene, Oregon

Judge’s comment: This poem boldly claims mythological energies.  I like its variation in scale from the grand releasing of sunlight and clouds to the observation of disappearing dew and a busy spider under a lamp. The moonglow being released from the bones into the sky is magical, and perhaps (I think this because of the time we’re in) carries a suggestion of some kind of radiation.  The stark ending is very effective.
2nd Prize “The Unbinding of Isaac” by Dan Kaufman – Central Point, Oregon

Judge’s comment: This poem steps out of the old testament framework into a new story,  where Isaac the son simply refuses to go along with the demands of Abraham,  the patriarch.  Does Isaac have a premonition of  nuclear war in the Mid-East if he follows his father’s command?  And is the ‘intact indifference of the sky’ terrible or reassuring? This poem comes from and reflects the time we’re in when the old  verities no longer seem veritable.

3rd Prize “Season of Rain” – Sherry Wellborn – Eugene, Oregon

Judge’s Comment: This poem nicely evokes a rainy northwest cityscape, the mention of prayers appropriate in the context of the winter we just went through.  I like the details, the cottonwoods pulling close, the puddles that turn into lakes.

First Runner Up “All I Am” by Tricia Knoll – Portland, Oregon

Judge’s comment: A summation by the poet at the time in life when necessary clarity can be painful.  The fourth stanza is stunning, (and maybe should be the last stanza), the last stanza sadly self-deprecating.   But n the middle of the poem,  amidst the rot and breakage,  is one stanza which isn’t a claim about being,  but a claim about action: learning.  And this is the ultimate hopefulness of the poem, because to learn the point of the circle is to learn something about wholeness.

Tied for Second Runner Up “All These Lakes Gone Dry” by Charles Castle – Eugene, Oregon

An elegantly shaped poem.  The poet is looking back to a lost time, a prelapsarian time when a small boy and a dark water trout swam together in knee-deep water.  But there’s an ambiguity about the uncaught dream swimming in that time, for it was big and cruised beneath the surface,  waiting to feed.

Tied for Second Runner Up  “Sharing” by Phil McCorkle – Salem, Oregon

A disarming way to speak some home truths in a childlike rhyme and rhythm.

Third Runner Up “To Dr. Seuss” by Carol Lantz – Corvallis, Oregon

Because sometimes it’s a delight to just have fun in a poem!


Oregon /  Pacific Northwest

Judge– Charles Goodrich

First Place: “Effigy of a Man” — Nancy Christopherson – Baker City, Oregon

Judge‘s comment: “Thoughts like seagulls” is promising; “thoughts chasing fish entrails” is exceptional. (How humbling to acknowledge our thoughts are carrion eaters.) From there, the playful / serious working out of the hypothesis is intriguing. And, given that the poem is supposed to be a “Pacific Northwest” poem, I like how it quickly flings the geography into the larger realm of imagination. (Aside: ornithologists quarrel with the term “seagull” since there are several gull species that frequent the seashores, and many of them are just as happy far inland.)

Second place: “Writing on Rivers” – Steve Jones – Corvallis, Oregon

Judge’s comment: I admire the many ways the writing here mimics the rushing, pool-and-drop of a river. Each clause is a tumbling cascade followed by a full stop/question mark, and a slack water pause.  The author smuggles in a lot of insights about human-river relationships, too. And the neologism “rickling” fits.

Third Place:  Friday Afternoon – Michael Hanner – Eugene, Oregon

Judge’s comment: I like the artful topsy-turvying of both physical and psychical space here, the interweaving of indoor and outdoor landscape, the playful reflections of humans and birds, sky and earth. A lovely derangement of the senses.

Honorable mentions

  1. “What to Love” – Sherry Wellborn — Eugene, Oregon
  2. “We only had fourteen days of summer in 2002” — Charlotte Van Werven – Salem, Oregon
  3. “How to Care for Roses” – Toni Hanner – Eugene, Oregon


Open Form

Judge– Mike Maggio

First Place: “Moose Heaven” Dr. Emory D. Jones – Iuka, Mississippi

Judge comments: This poem is as rich with nature as it is with language.  It is a poem of spring, of birth and rebirth, evoking a scene of harmony in a world that is not otherwise quite harmonious.  Even the speaker of the poem, confronted with the mother bear tending her young, is spared as if all of nature is captivate with life itself.

Second Place: “Windy Night” Charlotte Abernathy – Ashland, Oregon

 Judge  comments: “Windy Night” is an example of open form making use of more formal elements of poetry. This poem is arranged in sestets, each consisting of 3 lines flush against the margin and three slightly indented. The language is free-flowing, yet rhythmic and there is a nice strain of assonance that flows through the poem like a gentle breeze.

Third Place:  “Thank You, Robert”   Madelyn Eastlund – Beverly Hills, Florida

Judge comments: “This is a poem about aging – about what it means to be old – about all of those memories that make up one’s life. And it contrasts with the young child and his gift – a gift of “eau de parfum” – a fragrance that restores the memories of youth for an (old?) grandmother, “a women who is still young.”

Honorable Mention: “The Party Guest Considers the Sky”     Kathleen McClung – San Francisco, California

Judge comments: “This subtitle of the poem indicates that it is a Cento. While the individual lines do not point to any particular poems as far as I could tell,  the open line evokes T.S. Elliot  and the poem is rich in imagery and curious phrases such as “the bones of the language.”


Themed Narrative

Judge: Robert Hill Long

Judge’s Rationale:

That the narrative concepts of poets occasionally coincide with the concepts of a narrative poem judge is worth a small hallelujah. Many poets—saturated to eyes and ears in the rhapsodical mannerisms of the first-person lyric—conceive narrative as something other than what, in its most radical sense, it has always been: story in the beginning, the middle, and the end. It’s easier to say what it is not: it isn’t a lyric with anecdotal drapery; it does not require a narrator’s self-portrayal (it usually works best with an invisible narrator); it isn’t a snapshot from a grocery-store encounter inflated to allegory or symbolism; it does not want to win the prize for MSI (metaphors per square inch); it doesn’t fetishize word-music or elliptic associations; it isn’t a plain white bowl for word salad, and so on.  Nothing wrong with lyric poems—they’re meant to be brief outbursts of song, prayer, mockery, or the elliptical ooze of dreams and reverie. What they aren’t is story first, last, and in between.

To be fair, contests that limit the number of a lines a narrative may have would disqualify the greatest practitioners; too bad for us, though this doesn’t lessen the achievements of Mark Jarman in Iris or Brooks Haxton in Dead Reckoning, to name a couple of  book-length American poems. The 40-line limit tends to invite the overblown anecdote (which Donald Hall in another context skewered as The McPoem). In narrative poetry, story is bone, muscle, nerve, organ, very nearly the whole being: differences between narrative poets are superficial, like gender, skin color, body shape, vocal range.

This underlies my choices as a judge and my principles as a sometime narrative poet. It isn’t meant to discourage anyone from writing narrative; on the contrary, I hope it helps lyric poets stick to their strengths, poetry organizations grow realistic about limiting line-counts  (what about a 200-line minimum, for instance, and no maximum?) and above all strengthen the resolve of poets who may have been self-limiting for no good reason to abandon themselves, for once, to the stricter discipline and wider freedom of a story not about them.

Thanks for the opportunity to read and think about these entries.

First Place – “The Beachcomber” —  David Pickering – The Dalles,  Oregon

Judge’s comment: The unapologetic, unsparing portrayal of a life in bar-work culture, acknowledging its elder survivors and its dead-endingness. Most of the poem is like describing the claustrophobia of a chrysalis being formed; the end hints at a next stage of life that may or may not come.

Second Place – “”Race as a Secret—Kate Marsh – Burns, Oregon

Judge’s comment: Later-life testimony by a grown (child) that personalizes a shameful period in American history, describing means of evasion, hiding, disappearing, being found out. A quiet family story/children’s story of fear, of life in the xenophobia of wartime and, more fundamentally, in the ordinary xenophobia of neighbors and in-laws that can make it hard for different sorts of immigrants to live together in peace or marriage.

Third Place – “The Mist Cove Leaves Juneau’s Harbor to Steam Through Stephen’s Passage to Endicott Arms” – Tricia Knoll – Portland, Oregon

Judge’s comment: A poem that has the good sense to use the title for exposition (like “History of Art…” {mentioned} below), so it can plunge into in the middle of a friendship that mortality is ending just as the narrator commences a different sort of sea journey with her husband, incommunicado from her dying friend. The extended image of silver is well-managed, but the opening of the poem far more subtly suggests the situation all sojourners will find themselves facing at last.

Honorable mentions:

Sấu Riêng – John McPherson – Portland, Oregon

History of Art – Amanda Powell – Eugene, Oregon

Wall Bed – Steve Jones – Corvallis, Oregon


New Poets

Judge – Sheila Black

1st Prize “Defining Moments” by Lynn Robertson – Pendleton, Oregon

Judge’s comment:  I found this poem memorable because of the specific sensations and images it traces around the notion of crisp, and then how the poem opens out wonderfully in the third stanza, and we understand that the meditation on crisp is being placed at the service of tracing a long-term relationship—that map gone soft, and how this changes the whole meditation on the word into something quite other.  A subtle and moving poem.

“2nd Prize “Pale Touch-Me-Not” by Mary Winslow – Lake Oswego, Oregon

Judge’s Comment:  The language in this poem is so well-handled—the descriptions are precise but surprising at every turn.  I love how the poem gains energy with the line “The green pod dives off when you stand so close,” and how the plant becomes so real to us without ever being quite personified or at least not in any predictable way. This poem is very well shaped, and shows the power of what Gerard Manley Hopkins called the “inscape” in which by close observation the poet seeks to uncover the essential nature or being of a person or thing.

 3rd Prize “Sutton” by Tim Raphael – Portland, Oregon

Judge’s Comment:This poem conveys so much life in its simple economical lines—and who could not love a poem with the line “have you yet learned the world will dent you like a can of string beans.”  I like how this poet controls the tone and language so well—playing off the ordinary against the faintly miraculous–”I woke a hundred blades of grass,”–what a line! And I like how the poem finally comes around to being an argument for continuing even in face of loneliness or heartbreak.

1st Honorable Mention: “Will It Delight”– Nancy Christopherson

 Judge’s comment:  I wished I could give this poem more than honorable mention—was tempted to give it a tie for third place if this were possible.  What I like here is how well controlled the sounds and images are—the sounds allow us to traverse a great deal of space and “see” a wide range of scenes with great clarity and movement. For instance, notice the skill with which the poet describes children waving wands—touching down here and there, and how this, in turn, becomes another way of evoking the movement of light. A very skilled and deeply lyric poem—at times dense, but the last lines really bring it home.

 2nd Honorable Mention “Mum” —  Phil McCorkle – Salem, Oregon

Judge’s comment:  This poem has a lovely economy and a great use of angular tone—a slight tartness that gives it charm and interest.  This poet is a child of Dickenson, with something of her antic wit and sense of the darker deeper things in the world.  It was a real pleasure reading this one!

 3rd Honorable Mention “This Old Trusting Soul” – Mike Klein – Klamath Falls, Oregon

Judge’s comment: What I really admire in this poem is the verve and inventiveness of the conceit, the old house and what it needs,  A charming notion that is well handled here.

OPA 2016 Fall Contest Winners



Categories & Judges

  1. Poet’s Choice — Scot Siegel
  2. Members Only — Kelly Eastlund
  3. Traditional Form, Pantoum — Cecelia Hagen
  4. Themed Narrative — Laura LeHew
  5. Open Form — Austin Gray
  6. Oregon/Pacific Northwest — Rodger Moody
  7. New Poets — Quinton Hallett







FIRST PLACE:  “Things You Know But Cannot Explain”Doug Stone  (Albany)


SECOND PLACE:  “August” — Michael Wynn  (Corvallis)


THIRD PLACE:  “Missive” — Stacey Vallas  (Portland)




1ST: “Hey Jude, Hey You” — Linda Ferguson (Portland)


2ND: “Nobody Cares if You Write a Poem” — Jay Schroder (Medford)


3RD: “To the people we date in our twenties”  —  Krissy Mulpeter  (Eugene)


Judge’s Comments:


Gregory Orr writes that poetry can save us. I sat with these poems, nearly a hundred in all, for several weeks with this ambition. At the time, the US general election descended like a black cape, or a plague, and the standoff over the $3.7 billion Dakota Access Pipeline came to a head. Dreamer that I am, I was looking for poems that might offer some solace, words both timely and timeless that speak to the soul.


The First Place poem, “Things You Know But Cannot Explain,” lives up to the challenge articulated by the title in celebrating the life of the late Oregon artist and Wiyot Tribal member, Rick Bartow, whose bold and evocative paintings draw on transformation mythology. This poem, with its conversational tone, is a joy to read; and in the storytelling tradition it succeeds at transfiguration, perhaps the highest honor that an artist can bestow on another artist.


In Second Place, “August” is a modern fable of redemption, as told by a wise beekeeper who’s lived a tough life. The poem invokes Beethoven and botany in equal measure.  “Missive”, the Third Place poem, is addressed to the beloved. Here sailing is a metaphor for a long marriage that has run aground. It reminds us that love persists, even when its vessel is broken.


The three honorable mentions are all strong. Each applies humor or aphorism to deliver a unique and memorable message.


Scot Siegel

December 5, 2016









FIRST PLACE: “Wasp”  —  Pepper Trail  (Ashland)


SECOND PLACE: “Dia De Los Muertos” — Linda Ferguson (Portland)


THIRD PLACE: “#EmilyDickinsonSaveMeNow” — Nancy Flynn (Portland)




1ST:  “What Sets It Apart” — Nancy Christopherson (Baker City)


2ND:  “Late Autumn at the Finley Bird Refuge” — Doug Stone (Albany)


Judge’s Comments:


Compression is a key element in all good poetry; however, it is especially important and challenging in short poems. Every word and line must do serious heavy lifting. Within such a small frame, it is understandable that many of the poems submitted to this category focused on a brief personal memory. While many succeeded in creating vivid portraits, the three I chose as winners went beyond portraiture, transmuting the personal into universal.


“Wasp,” the first place poem, is a heartbreaking and compassionate look at abuse. While it’s unclear to me whether the fugitive in the poem is a child or animal, it doesn’t really matter; this is where the poem shifts into the universal: touching on archetypes of abuser and victim, and uncovering the emotional warping that results from violence. On second reading I appreciated the wasp and grape metaphors, and how deftly they foreshadowed the painful discovery at the heart of the poem. And all of this was accomplished in nine intense lines!


The second place poem, “Dia De los Muertos,” works on multiple levels – a snapshot of a season and an ancient ritual juxtaposed to modern-day routine. Through carefully chosen words and sharp images, the reader is lead from melancholy to a playful, defiant joy. The result is life-affirming.


Historical and present-day worlds collide inventively in the third place winner as well. #EmilyDickinsonSaveMeNow, pays homage to the famous American poet in style and tone, while revealing a quiet, modern desperation. The narrator’s sense of guilt and ennui is palpable in the final lines “age spots / of privilege, flecked.


Each of the poems selected for honorable mention succeeded in conveying a passionate response to the world with sharply focused language. It was a pleasure and honor to read all of the entries.








FIRST PLACE: “The Glenn Gould Variations”Dan Kaufman (Central Point)


SECOND PLACE: “The Darling Buds of Barbara Bush” — David Hedges (West Lynn)


THIRD PLACE:  “Pantoum for Franklin’s Bumble Bee” — Pepper Trail (Ashland)




1ST: “Stripped” — Kelly Osborn (Eugene)


2ND: “The Neighborhood” — Michael Hanner (Eugene)


3RD: “Mother with a Rabbit, a Memory” — Cathy Cain (Lake Oswego)


Judge’s Comments:


It was a real treat to delve into the world of pantoums—not only to familiarize myself more fully with the 15th-century Malaysian form with its repetitions and lapping lines, but to read the variety of submissions the OPA received.  Picking winners and runners-up was less of a treat: how to rank poetic efforts?


Still, when I knuckled under to the task I could justify my choices, at least to myself; the ones I selected struck me because of their deft handling of the pantoum’s demands and its implicit invitation to bend the rules, to repeat with variation, to find multiple meanings in the same word. And they affected me the way good poems do—I felt opened up, surprised, changed by reading them.


“The Glenn Gould Variations,” the first-place poem, tells a story about seeing the famous pianist at what would turn out to be his last performance. The performer’s quirks and eccentricities are reflected in the poem’s own fugue-like repetitions.


The second-place poem, “The Darling Buds of Barbara Bush,” describes four rose bushes named after well-known women. All the plants “thrived on Alaskan salmon oil,” though only the one named in the title survived the winds of a “howling gale.” This poem’s humor and well-tuned meter won me over.


The third-place winner, “Pantoum for Franklin’s Bumble Bee,” relates how this particular animal became extinct “through no one’s fault but the system’s” – a chilling line that stings our complacent acceptance of the wide-ranging effects of agri-business. This poem uses the complex and limiting form of the pantoum to educate, inform, and mourn.


In the Honorable Mentions, “Stripped” is a breathtaking revelation of loneliness and determination. “The Neighborhood” has a wonderful chumminess in its voice, which we follow into bizarre situations and winking self-commentary. And “Mother with a Rabbit, a Memory” is a tender poem about making about painting, about light, and about the persistence of memory.


So many of these poems moved me, and the number of submissions was a testament to how strong and viable poetry is in Oregon. It took some of the bite out of winter’s long nights for me to spend time with these many wonderful poems.









FIRST PLACE: “Lost In Trout Creek Mountains” — David Hedges (West Lynn)


SECOND PLACE: “Circle of Twenty Apes” —  Stephen Jones (Corvallis)



THIRD PLACE: “I am Icarus” —  Don Kunz (Bend)





1ST: “The Story of Lopsided Bob” —  Barbara Blanks (Garland, Texas)


2ND: “Hard Way Home”  — Charlotte Abernathy (Ashland)


Judge’s Comments:


Narrative poems tell a story. Like a novel or other longer works of fiction there is an arc to the narrative with a beginning, middle (typically with a turn) and an end. Narrative poems have characters, plots and settings. Their goal is to entertain.


I read through all my poems on a road trip down to the San Francisco Bay area. I read them in rest areas, restaurants and hotel lobbies. The weather was fine as were these 60 poems. The poems themselves offer up a diverse group of styles and subjects. My second read through was on my trip back when I stopped for the night in Mt. Shasta. Initially, I reread them outdoors at a lovely coffee shop moving indoors as the weather cooled. Then I put them down and let them percolate. I brought them back for a third reading over Thanksgiving weekend. Narrowing and narrowing until I came up with my final selection. It was hard. There were so many fantastic poems.


FIRST PLACE: “Lost In Trout Creek Mountains” — David Hedges


Initially, I am drawn to the poems form. Orderly unrhymed tercets with medium-long lines of approximately the same length. Clear and crisp I anticipate a well thought out linear poem. It does not disappoint. With the use of imagery and figurative language this poem leads me in gently with an interesting description of driving through Harney County. Soon I am methodically shown the characters—narrator and son. The plot—the narrator’s divorce, a time away with a child. The turn in the poem, getting lost. The pivot into laughter and the reconnection of a relationship. From roots withered in drought to weathered basalt we, like the characters, are fulfilled.


SECOND PLACE: “Circle of Twenty Apes” —  Stephen Jones


“While traveling with the Pickle Brothers Circus, my dad was shot from a canon and …” and the reader is immediately pulled into the poem. In fine oral tradition, the narrator recalls the story of the narrator’s life as set out by the narrator’s mother. How the baby, the narrator, is accepted by the family of primates and ultimately is accepted into the circus as family through a time-honored ritual. It is intriguing that only name we learn in this story is that of the eldest primate, Bruni. It adds weight to the telling and is an excellent plot device. I very much enjoyed the author’s use of repetition and rhythm. A prose poem has no line breaks so it must cultivate a keen poetic quality. It is hard to pull off but I found myself reading and re-reading this inventive narrative poem.


THIRD PLACE: “I am Icarus” —  Don Kunz

A meticulously crafted epic tale with an amazing last line. Theatrical.




1st Honorable Mention:  “The Story of Lopsided Bob” —  Barbara Blanks

A ballad of hilarious proportions and possibly the funniest thing I have read in some time.


2nd Honorable Mention: “Hard Way Home”  — Charlotte Abernathy

Like a leaf in the wind this didactic poem is filled with exquisite details intertwined with a sense of longing. A very fine poem.









FIRST PLACE: “Labor Day—  Michael Hanner (Eugene)


SECOND PLACE:  “Between Heaven and Earth” — Carol Brockfield (Medford)


THIRD PLACE:  “The Forager “—  Stella Jeng Guillory (Vancouver, Washington)





1ST: “Foreclosed” — John McPherson (Portland)


2ND: “Waxing”  — Rosemary Douglas Lombard (Hillsboro)


3RD: “Eggshells”  — Dargan Ware (Moody, Alabama)


Judge’s Comments:


Without given forms, these poets haven’t relied on Frost’s tennis net to move from structured game to danger. Instead, they’ve sought, and generously shared with us, forms found within, not applied over, deeply personal material which, to paraphrase Robert Lowell, “…freelances out along the razor’s edge.” I felt honored to read and assess their work.


  • Death, resignation, and a “making ready” acceptance thread through “Labor Day.” As I read it, I thought of Hugo’s “Degrees of Gray in Phillipsburg,” and Ammons’s “In View of the Fact.”


  • “Between Heaven and Earth” turns from frail mortal specifics to imagination, which may be relief and solace after hospital visits, but more likely preludes loss in the “darkening night.”


  • “The Forager” voice transforms collected specifics to resonant symbols, become mysterious sustenance: food for thought and feeling, yet perhaps dangerous in these changes—disappearing and lost as the ghost crab.


  • Humor, fear, and pathos coalesce in the thrown egg, dead grass rug, and “front door” confusions of “Foreclosed,” but the manners and caring mores of the giver might as easily elicit attack by the homeless persons housed briefly in this poem. As implied, delusion in tirade often perceives threat which isn’t. Cornered, the terrified may attack, not just move on.


  • The stymied despair and rage this reader lives in “Eggshells” depict a stasis which cannot hold. One hopes for, but doesn’t expect, a happy ending.


  • The sudden poetic turn from play and game in “Waxing” spins us to inexplicable loss. One should have known, the voice implies, yet how could one know, except post hoc, that playful choices and carnival fears may prefigure tragedy?









FIRST PLACE: “Highway 95” — Michael Hanner (Eugene)


SECOND PLACE: “Motorcycle Ride” — Jay Schroder (Medford)


THIRD PLACE: “It’s a Beautiful Bridge” — Cynthia Jacobi (Newport)




1ST:  “Beach Run”  — Sue Lick (South Beach)


2ND: “Lost but Found” — Michelle Williams (Portland)


3RD: “First Flight Out of Redmond” Kathryn Bold (Powell Butte)


Judge’s Comments:


Poems that arise from a certain place, or a region, can be challenging to cobble together.  As I read aloud the poems I had to review, I looked for work that had a strong seminal first line. With this thought in mind I looked for work that fulfilled the expectations established in the poem’s opening statement. I looked at how the poet organized the disparate elements and for how risks, if any, were handled, or fulfilled by the structure and nuanced flow of the poem’s parts and emotional undercurrent. I read with playfulness and an economy of language in mind. At the same time, it was critical to simply experience the poems on their own terms.


“Highway 95” is a quiet poem that slowly hints at the idea of loss and longing. The poet does a skillful job of using indirection to set up a surprise. The poem has my attention from the first line and continues to build tension in a nuanced way as its list of outwardly unrelated details unravel to reveal the surprise in the last three lines, “Only another hundred miles,/ not too far to go to see/ if she still feels the same about you.”


“Motorcycle Ride” seems to recount a day in which something “big” has taken place.  The opening stanza suggests the speaker in the poem has awoken to find himself or herself in a hospital bed, “Sometimes dark things arrive/ to mug you of your health,/ leave you weeping in a hospital gown.”  The following three stanzas detail events that may, or may not, have happened prior to the accident. There are memorable lines such as the first three from the third stanza, “As if God has scrubbed my eyes,/ I can see an extra twenty miles./ The Willamette River shivers as if struck.” which draw me into the deep waters of the poem. The subtext in many of these lines brings to mind a saying I first heard while an undergraduate, “Experience precedes essence.”


“It’s a beautiful bridge” is almost deceptively quiet as the speaker in the poem recounts the seemingly flat facts that come before an unthinkable act. The poem’s title is intentionally misleading. Each stanza has rich lines that build suspense and steadily hint at the darkness to come. Apart from two commas and a hyphen, the otherwise absence of punctuation lends believability to the playful yet dark final stanza. The understated energy in this poem resonates and tugs me back into its unspoken secrets.


I enjoyed spending time with each of these fine poems. Selecting the honorable mentions from a group of seven or eight skillfully constructed poems was a difficult but worthwhile task. I read all the submissions with interest and found something to appreciate and admire in many of them.








FIRST PLACE: “Hunger”  —  Michelle Delaine Williams (Portland)


SECOND PLACE: “can’t ” —  Leonie Mikele Fogle (Seattle, Washington)


THIRD PLACE:  “Pennies from Heaven”  —  Dennis Gerl (Eugene)




1ST —  “Vanishing Point” — Sherry Wellborn (Eugene)


2ND  — “Loose Fever”— Shasta Meehan (Eugene)


3RD  — “At Lewis River Horse Camp” —  Bruce Parker (Portland)


Judge’s comments:


First Place “Hunger” satisfies on several levels. In 12 lines, the poet sets a vivid “backyard,” scene with a “slide under the mimosa/all frondy and pink,” and unique characterization of family members such as “. . .  om/smoking on the porch lost in gray thought,/ . . .torn between giving/up and her new motorcycle insurance man.” There is a wistfulness embedded here which is never overdone. The last line lifts the poem and speaker with assured counterpoint to the title. I admire the layering of complexity and the poem’s consistent tone. There’s an opportunity to choose other words for at least one of the “blossoms” in the poem, but overall, I find the work concise and evocative, with good sounds.


Second Place “can’t” held my attention through multiple readings for the poet’s going beyond rant or litany of the implacable. The poem’s unusual images and phrasing: “finger-printed dawn” “curtains/coming down in spite.” or “flapping to a pall, their pallid moonlight” and this, “Let my children curl in the grotto of my spine”.  Who wouldn’t want to steal that last line?  The repetition of “curtains” in this poem is successfully ghazal-like because each surrounding phrase offers nuance beyond the literal.  The speaker’s call for clarity in the last line sends this reader to a wish for the ability to navigate with thoughtfulness this ever-complicated world.


Third Place “Pennies from Heaven” stood out for the surprise of its fresh, provocative subject after I’d admittedly made too quick an assumption based on the title. I admired the cut and slice of the narrative, choice of 5-line stanzas, the poet’s take on class, government, and political (in)correctness (especially in the divisive climate of the 2016 elections!).  The final stanza worked both as coda and chilling advisory. There are some great sounds here, too, amid the stingings.


The New Poets category welcomed 29 poems with such subjects as nature, body image, birth, dying elders or the stillborn, politics, mental illness, childhood, and cats. Overall, the poems had energy, distinctive voice and

tone. Most successful were poems that were dynamic in their word choices, in their attention to sound and line breaks, and offered something new even if working with an “old” subject.  A warm welcome to all the poets in this category.




With many thanks to contest judges for all your care and devotion to this project.


Joan Dobbie

Fall 2016 OPA contest chair

Oregon Poetry Association – 2016 Spring Contest Winners

Poet’s Choice judged by Vince Wixon

Poet’s Choice 1st Place
Ruth F. Harrison
“On the Possibility of Action”

Poet’s Choice 2nd Place
Leah Stenson

Poet’s Choice 3rd Place
Jennifer Dorner
“Leaving India”

Poet’s Choice 1st Honorable Mention
David Pickering

Poet’s Choice 2nd Honorable Mention
Nancy Flynn
“Watts Towering”

Poet’s Choice 3rd Honorable Mention
Mary Winslow
“Reading John Haislip in Lincoln City”

Themed judged by Elizabeth Woody

Themed 1st Place
Stephen Jones
“Disheveled Mexico”

Themed 2nd Place
Jay Schroder
“The Long Walk”

Themed 3rd Place
Pattie PalmerBaker

Themed 1st Honorable Mention
Cathy Cain
“Navigating the Wind”

Themed 2nd Honorable Mention
David Pickering
“Bayside Gardens”

Themed 3rd Honorable Mention
Charles Dallmann
“Barbara, A Remembrance”

Traditional: Haiku judged by Margaret Chula

Traditional Verse 1st Place
Barbara Blanks
“fat clouds drift”

Traditional Verse 2nd Place
Ruth F. Harrison
“in my April kitchen”

Dueling Judges; Judge A: Jeff Whitney, Judge B: Bette Husted

Dueling Judges (A) 1st Place
Nicole Chvatal
“Here, Love”

Dueling Judges (A) 2nd Place
Cathy Cain

Dueling Judges (A) 3rd Place
Jay Schroder
“May You Get Lucky”

Dueling Judges (A) 1st Honorable Mention
Donna Prinzmetal

Dueling Judges (A) 2nd Honorable Mention
Michael Hanner
“Adriatic Fragment”

Dueling Judges (B) 1st Place
Ann Sinclair

Dueling Judges (B) 2nd Place
Amanda Powell

Dueling Judges (B) 3rd Place
Alan Contreras
“Fairy Wings”

Dueling Judges (B) 1st Honorable Mention
Michael Hanner
“Adriatic Fragment”

Dueling Judges (B) 2nd Honorable Mention
David Pickering
“The Family Goes for a Ride”

Dueling Judges (B) 3rd Honorable Mention
Nicole Chvatal
“Here, Love”

Members Only judged by Don Colburn

Members Only 1st Place
Marjorie Power

Members Only 2nd Place
Shirley A. Plummer
“in love, a double cinquain”

Members Only 3rd Place
Michael Coolen
“When the Buildings Wept”

Members Only 1st Honorable Mention
Rosemary Lombard
“A Beastiary: The Turtle”

Members Only 2nd Honorable Mention
Keli Osborn
“Feedback from a Friend”

Members Only 3rd Honorable Mention
Carol Brockfield
“Not Quite a Haiku”

Members Only 4th Honorable Mention
Doug Stone
“Spring Aubad”

New Poets judged by Emily Pittman Newberry

New Poets 1st Place
Kelly Eastlund
“Soft Targets”

New Poets 2nd Place
Patricia Lundy
“My Little Darling”

New Poets 3rd Place
Meg Holden
“The Alchemy of Huckleberry Pie”

New Poets 1st Honorable Mention
Stephanie Nead

New Poets 2nd Honorable Mention
Steve Dreben
“The Dancer”

New Poets 3rd Honorable Mention
Kathy Beckwith
“Standing on the Shore”

Experimental judged by Lisa Ciccarello

Experimental 1st Place
Michael Hanner
“The History of France in Four Metro Trips”

Experimental 2nd Place
Irene Cooper
“My purse is a tapestry bag”

Experimental 3rd Place
Brad Garber
“Trains of Thought”

Experimental 1st Honorable Mention
Amanda Powell

Experimental 2nd Honorable Mention
Gina Williams
“Cried the Fox”

Experimental 3rd Honorable Mention
Vargus Pike
“Alice Cakes Will Give You Diabetes”