2019 Spring Contest, Theme–Climate: Honorable Mentions and Judge’s Comments

Honorable mentions:

1st Honorable Mention: “I Promise to Keep These Promises” by Jennifer Dorner, Klamath Falls, OR

2nd Honorable Mention: “Anthem for the Anthropocene” by Alida Rol, Eugene, OR

3rd Honorable Mention: “Ode to the Worst Air Quality in Two Decades” by Hillary Tully, Eugene, OR

Judge’s comments

Congratulations to all of the poets who submitted work to the “Climate” category. Passion for the subject was apparent in the quality of the work presented, and inevitably the competition was keen. I gave all 79 entries a number of reads on various days under varying levels of light.

            Each of the three poems I chose for Honorable Mention grabbed my attention with qualities that made them stand out from their peers, something not easily accomplished in such a well-crafted and diverse submission field. It has been my honor to have been invited to inhabit all 79 of these poems. I, too, am now inhabited by them.

—Nancy Carol Moody

2019 Spring Contest Winner: 1st Place, Traditional Form–Ghazal


by Eleanor Berry

Venus of Urbino, Olympia—each successive version slips
farther indoors from the mythic landscape where Botticelli’s Venus sleeps.

In Hiratsuka’s Breakfast on the Bed, the reclining female is not nude,
though she appears so from a distance. Up close, one sees she’s wearing a slip.

From outside the frame, a maid comes bearing, not a bouquet, but a stack
of pancakes. This sharp-boned model won’t eat all that. After coffee, she’ll slip

into a sheath or pencil skirt, pick up her smartphone.
When, newlyweds, we rented our first flat in Toronto, I was still such a slip

of a girl that the next-door neighbor mistook me for a minor.
Christmases with my husband’s family, he and I would slip

out of the noisy house, walk among the stones in the graveyard down the street.
In my mother-in-law’s bird books, many pages are marked with slips

of paper, neatly penciled with notes on her sightings.
To stabilize the steep bank, we planted slips

of native shrubs—bare sticks that took root and grew.
Each spring they leaf out; each summer they bloom. Season slips

into season, year into year. We were the youngest and looked
younger than our ages. Decades have slipped

by, and now we’re often surprised to find ourselves the oldest.
Over eons, continents drift, crustal plates slip

and grind against each other. Geologists measure their movements.
The lines of a poem are a seismograph of sorts, recording slips

of the tongue against the teeth and the roof of the mouth—not mere
sound and motion, but the pressure behind them of all that seeks to slip

through the cracks in the form. Artists sign their compositions—Tiziano Vecelli,
Edouard Manet, Yuki Hiratsuka—claiming them as their own even as they slip

from their hands, to be transformed in turn by later artists’ visions
as movement succeeds movement, era slips

into era. Poets do likewise, as I, to bring to an end this twenty-first-century
American twist on an ancient Persian form, let slip

my name, Eleanor Berry.

Judge’s comments

I love the wit, complexity and scope of this poem, the way it slides across eras and continents, embracing art history, geology, poetics, and personal history. I applaud the poet’s choice of the lovely and malleable “slip” as the repeating word. A gorgeous ghazal in every way.

—Kathleen McClung

Poet bio

Eleanor Berry moved to western Oregon from Wisconsin in 1994. A former teacher of writing and literature at Willamette University, Marquette University, and other colleges, she is a past president of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies and of the Oregon Poetry Association. She has two books of poetry, Green November (Traprock Books, 2007) and No Constant Hues (Turnstone Books of Oregon, 2015). A chapbook, Only So Far, is forthcoming from Main Street Rag.

2019 Spring Contest Winner: 2nd Place, Traditional Form–Ghazal

For a Distant Friend

by Delia Garigan

While I’m cracking eggs & heaping plates with food

Campers and vans line the roadway, in assembly with you.


A child’s teeth will be opening for the brush

When a fox slides out from the scrub, scenting you.


At the crest of the hill the road runs two ways down: Spring moves in

And Fall goes slow, unwinding again—still, they converge on you.


In that unsigned juncture, a split in the air:

The resolute grasses dip for you.


I return home ahead of nightfall, bent on less regret,

Tied down by a lifetime of yearning for you.


In the season of heavy doors, lacework branches wave

Against the day’s gray glow— Do I wait for you?


Roads gravel down off the island to sunburned ghost towns

Three days to the south. Campfire smoke against the water. But you


Could have mounted that chain of hills that now fade blue, off beyond

The rim of vision. On the shortest day again it’s you


in my dream, nearing meaning. When Sunday pancakes creep into weekday shapes

I hear the bracken snap; the creak of a rusted latch announces you.


You, who bloomed into heart-root tapping down, the reflection of a burning cup,

Who tore free the first burst of words— Who but you?


Judge’s comments

This poem moves me more with each reading. There’s an eloquence in its unpretentious language, and I’m haunted by the mystery at its heart: the speaker is “tied down by a lifetime of yearning for you.” An intriguing poem grounded in fresh, strong images.

—Kathleen McClung

Poet bio

Delia Garigan was raised on a small sheep farm in the Willamette Valley of western Oregon. Within this lifetime, she has manifested as a research scientist, zen monastic, teacher, tutor, parent, and writer. Her poems have appeared in Animal, Phantom Drift, Windfall, Black Mountain, and Willawaw Journal.