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

2017 Fall Contest Winner: 3rd Place, Traditional Form–Villanelle

Imagining Mrs. R who died at 114, according to her obituary       

 

My husband died in 1963.

He sold insurance (auto, fire, life).

Before we met I taught geometry,

 

nursed ginger ales in Newark speakeasies.

Bent-elbowed friends recruited me to drive.

My husband died in 1963,

 

his second heart attack, and Kennedy

was shot. The black convertible, as if a knife,

bisected Dallas sky. I’d taught geometry,

 

chalked arcs and angles, spheres and symmetry,

but axioms dissolved when I became a wife.

My husband’s death in 1963

 

did little to resuscitate the free-

thinker I’d been. Arthritis would arrive

before too long. I’d loved geometry,

 

and Chaplin’s silent films, Rudy Vallee.

I knew each verse by heart: “As Time Goes By.”

My husband died in 1963.

Before we met I loved geometry.

 

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.

 

“Imagining Mrs. R who died at 114, according to her obituary,” a 10-syllable-line villanelle, dares to rhyme a date (“1963”) with “geometry.” It subtly traces an imagined life in which the conceit of geometry tracks personal and political life/loss, including the loss of the narrator’s call to mathematics as a consequence of marriage. The restrained tone echoes the apparent impersonality of an obituary.

 

Kathleen McClung is the author of Almost the Rowboat (Finishing Line Press, 2013) and her poems appear in Mezzo Cammin, Unsplendid, Atlanta Review, Ekphrasis, West Trestle Review, A Bird Black as the Sun: California Poets on Crows and Ravens, Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace, and elsewhere. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, she was the winner of the Rita Dove Poetry Prize and finalist for the Morton Marr, Elinor Benedict, Margaret Reid, and 49th Parallel poetry prizes. She lives in San Francisco. www.kathleenmcclung.com