2019 Fall Contest, Poet’s Choice: Honorable Mentions and Judge’s Comments

1st Honorable Mention: “Barbizon Nightgowns” by Sandra Rokoff-Lizut, McMinnville, OR

2nd Honorable Mention: “Do Not Be Afraid” by Michael Hanner, Eugene, OR

3rd Honorable Mention: “Death’s Usher” by Jessica Mehta, Hillsboro, OR

Judge’s comments

There were so many great poems in the selection for Poet’s Choice that it made deciding difficult. When reading I was looking for original imagery, things I hadn’t seen or read before. I was also looking for strong personal narratives that were honest and open about a fully lived life, unique voices with unique insights. I believe the poems I chose have those qualities, poems that are candid, lush and real. As only one reader and only one judge for the category, I’d like to apologize for being fickle and prone to liking what I like and gravitating toward poems I ineffably find beautiful. I wish I could have picked them all!

—Carl Adamshick

2019 Fall Contest Winner: 1st Place, Members Only

You Never Can Replace a Dog You Love

—for Dougal

by David Hedges

You never can replace a dog you love,

It doesn’t matter, purebred, mongrel, stray,

Who fits your disposition hand-in-glove.

You find your mind is part and parcel of

The one who teaches you to skip and play.

You never can replace a dog you love

Whose love is unconditional, above

The fray, the one the photographs portray

Who fits your disposition hand-in-glove.

Grief is a rock, a spear, a hawk, a dove,

Drops of vermillion, indigo, and gray.

You never can replace a dog you love.

You try to keep yourself from thinking of

The mind behind those eyes, the quirks, the way

They fit your disposition hand-in-glove.

You let time pass; push comes to shove.

Though you may love another dog one day,

You never can replace the dog you love

Who fit your disposition hand-in-glove.

Judge’s comments

So many fine poems were submitted in the Members Only category that I was hard-pressed to rank the winners and honorable mentions. Ultimately, I awarded First Place to “You Never Can Replace a Dog You Love.” The poem expresses a heartfelt universal sentiment about people’s love of dogs in a seamless, fluidly rhymed villanelle (and I’m not a dog person). Anyone who has tried to execute this challenging form will appreciate the poet’s mastery.

Leah Stenson

Poet bio

David Hedges has placed poems in Poetry, Measure, Poet Lore, Light Quarterly, and, closer to home, Calapooya Collage, Left Bank, and Windfall. His latest book, Prospects of Life After Birth, appeared in April, 2019. He served on the Oregon Poetry Association board for 24 years, six as president, and on the Oregon Cultural Heritage Commission board. In 2003, he received the Stewart H. Holbrook Literary Legacy Award for his contributions to Oregon’s literary life.

2019 Fall Contest Winner: 2nd Place, Members Only

To the Moon after the Blood Red Moon

by Amy Baskin

        “You are a body of blood made beautiful.” —Anne Sexton

Still, I see you, cold and barren, tucked behind a cloud that even now

is leaving you alone. The fickle skies move quickly.

We jerk our heads, crane our necks at the next flushed body.

We ask, “Have you seen? Have you seen?” and then we gape

at something else fecund that gains the weight of our flighty attention.

Pursed and thinned, cratered and pocked, crust wrinkled,

your powdered surface blemished by footprints impressed upon you,

mounted and dismounted time and time again.

I feel your endless surge. From me, you pull your fast flood

of affection. Last month, you were a ripe, luminous, sexed cherry,

petals engorged, staining the earth with enthusiasm.

Tonight, drained thin and still, I see you, alone, sister—

mouth agape, silent scream in a vacuum, sullen

from the wiles of love the heat and cool of it.

Judge’s comments

As difficult as it is to write a successful villanelle, it’s equally difficult to write a poem about the moon that doesn’t seem trite or dated. “To the Moon after the Blood Red Moon” succeeds with compelling imagery and allusion to waning adoration and love gone cold, “From me, you pull your fast flood/ of affection…I see you, alone, sister—/…sullen/ from the wiles of love the heat and cool of it.” This powerful, evocative poem is my choice for second place.

Leah Stenson

Poet bio

Amy Baskin’s work is currently featured in Cirque, Bear Review, and VoiceCatcher. She is a 2019 Oregon Literary Arts Fellow and a 2018 and 2016 Kay Snow Poetry award recipient. When not writing, she matches international students at Lewis & Clark College with local residents to help them feel welcome and at home during their time in Oregon.