2019 Fall Contest Winner: Theme—Our Common Life, 3rd Place


by Stephanie Striffler

you and I pick our way through tsunami

debris    claws of bare tree up-ended    tires   Harley

Davidson  soccer ball

        the task has fallen to us

an ocean away   to fill

bags with ragged styrofoam remnants   forever

undegradable   oyster farm buoys stamped

with undecipherable characters   carried

from a disaster more than a year


you can’t say one word

face blank as sand expanse scrubbed

raw by high tide

         just as once you burrowed

into the couch in pajamas

a tiny sand crab   almost safe

from waves of father rage   ashtray

teapot   phonebook   flung over

head through decades of North

Dakota snows   generations of silent Scottish

chill   crashed against the wall

    how is it

the task has fallen to me

to reach for your hand as you hoist

your weight over this Shinto

shrine beam heaved by an earthquake

the other side of the world

but after all

isn’t it all one ocean?

Judge’s comments:

This poet captured a “real” moment in time between a grandmother and her grandchild. Who among us hasn’t noticed how hands change as we age? And how do you explain these changes to a child without provoking confusion or dread? The answer is contained in their exchange which, above all, is sweet and could be universal.

—Toni Lumbrazo Luna

2019 Fall Contest, Theme—Our Common Life: Honorable Mentions and Judge’s Comments

1st Honorable Mention: “The Neighbor Brings a Boat Home” by Colette Jonopulos, Denver, CO

2nd Honorable Mention: “Facing the Light” by Jana Carp, Salem, OR

3rd Honorable Mention: “Earth: An Abecedarian Ode” by Alida Rol, Eugene, OR

Judge’s comments 

Judging poetry is always weighty. We are tasked with selecting one poem over another and ranking them. While I am inclined to find the nugget in each poem, I understand that they all can’t be the best. So I began by reading each poem twice (once silently and once out loud). From there I looked for clear, interesting word choices, tight construction, unique and well-developed images, and careful use of punctuation. Lastly, I looked for its message: Does it capture and hold my attention, does it have a purpose, and does it inspire me to read it again, and again?

—Toni Lumbrazo Luna

2019 Spring Contest Winner: 1st Place, Theme–Climate

Judge’s comments

I ultimately awarded first place to “Loaded trunk falling down a flight of stairs like choir birds” for its unrelenting imagery and the author’s broad perspective on the theme.

—Nancy Carol Moody

Poet bio

Shari Crane Fox comes from Cherokee, Lakota, Blackfoot and Irish roots. She holds advanced degrees from the University of Arizona, UCSD, and Stanford. She has received finalist and honorable mentions, most recently in the Oregon Poetry Association and Patricia Dobler contests. She believes raising three children solo to be her most significant achievement. She recently moved to Portland with a Pomeranian-Chihuahua rescue named Bernie, and to prove fairytales come true, married her high school sweetheart.