2017 Fall Contest Winner: 2nd Place, Theme–Current Events

Off Old Hwy. 99

Old men fill the donut shop this morning,
every morning, talking politics in


matched pairs; they agree about the state of
things, which is much worse than it used to be


when they were as young as the girl at the
glass case deciding on which donut she


will choose, and fearing the choice will be wrong—
not completely satisfactory.


But the sopapillas look like they might
have been touched with magic, and the pink ones


with sprinkles remind her of the sky at
sunset.  The old woman with the penciled


eyebrows smiles absently, knowing no choice
is ever the right one because there is


always regret when one thinks back, even
when all the choices lead to a kind of


happiness. Choosing means carrying the
heavy emptiness of what was not but


could have been. She turns her thoughts toward tonight,
when the men who look like her own children,


who love her like they loved their mother’s tongue,
will stop in and tell a story or two


while she pours tequila and drinks their words.
They will lift their glasses to ¡Arriba!


and brag and tease and laugh until they are
themselves again. Then it will be time to


shoo them home. There is work still for her to
finish, and she must rise early in the


morning tomorrow to create the world
again, and to welcome the old men in


to talk of what was but won’t be again.


Judge’s comments

We live in tumultuous times, and the poems entered in the Current Events category certainly reflect that. There were so many fine poems that judging was a delight.

“Off Old Hwy. 99” walks the knife edge between small, everyday joys and the political unrest shadowing the lives of many.

Jennifer Rood lives and teaches English in Grants Pass, Oregon. Her gift to her students each day is a poem, and she has been hard at work building a poetry culture in her little corner of the universe. She is thankful for the support and encouragement of her husband Robert and her friends in the Pagan Warriors poetry group.

2017 Fall Contest Winner: 1st Place, Theme–Current Events

Another Perspective on the Nuclear Codes


Imagine looking down

from the space station

as the blue-green earth turns beneath

and the mushrooms bloom silently

along the Florida panhandle,

the ox head shape of France,

the teardrop of Africa;

bloom like gray mums along the Nev,

follow the Rhine (obliterate the Rhine),

rise silently from China’s belly;

spread like a dread fungus

and you watch through the portal

and you breathe the air bubble

that is all that’s left you.


Judge’s comments

We live in tumultuous times, and the poems entered in the Current Events category certainly reflect that. There were so many fine poems that judging was a delight. “Another Perspective on the Nuclear Codes” is a haunting imagining of the world’s end told in breathtaking language. I can’t imagine a more beautiful poem. Reading each line was like opening a gift.


Catherine McGuire is a writer and artist with a deep concern for our planet’s future. She has three decades of published poetry, four poetry chapbooks, and a full-length poetry book, Elegy for the 21st Century (FutureCycle Press). A deindustrial science fiction novel, Lifeline, was just released by Founders House Publishing. Find her at www.cathymcguire.com.

2017 Fall Contest Traditional Form, Villanelle: Honorable Mentions and Judges’ Comments

Honorable mentions:

1st Honorable Mention: “Creation Story” by Toni Hanner, Eugene, OR

2nd Honorable Mention: “Salt-and-Pepper Villanelle” by Danny Earl Simmons, Lebanon, OR

3rd Honorable Mention: “Detective Chief Inspectors” by Dan Kaufman, Central Point, OR




Judge’s comments

To prepare, I read villanelles by Bishop, Dunn, Kees, and Levertov. Then I looked in the 34 poems in this category for the traditional (19 lines, consistent syllable count, rhyme scheme) elements, plus intriguing choice of subject, image, diction, enjambment, and other characteristics of outstanding poems. A challenge; a pleasure.

The honorable mention poems included “Creation Story,” a poem of much longer/more variable lines that addresses major issues of nature, religion, race, and nation; “Salt-and-Pepper Villanelle,” a wry villanelle-cum-soliloquy in perfect form that matches inevitable aging with the searing of meat; and the effervescently punning “Detective Chief Inspectors” that both skewers and admires the Brits’ mystery series heroes.


Judith H. Montgomery