2018 Spring Contest Winner: 3rd Place, Members Only

The Steens

by Janna Roselund

 

The spirits of horses are alive in these mountains.

When the moon rises—just there

between the dark notch of hills

you can see them

satin, dappled

slowly moving behind the bare trunks of trees

their smooth necks bowing

among the branches.

 

The spirits of many horses are alive in these mountains.

As the night falls you can hear them

rustling softly in the dry ferns

their shining eyes round as coin

in the hollow of the rocks.

When the wind lifts

you will see their waving manes

in the tall silver grass.

 

Do not try to ride them—

easier to hold the falling rain in your hands

easier to catch the moonlight in your hat.

 

Judge’s comments

Each of the poems that I chose were poems that possess stickiness, haunting me, charming me, challenging me, making me reach back to them. They accomplish this attraction variously through diction, poise, topic, point of view and yes, voice.

The third-place poem entices the lover of open spaces and horses with spare elegance only to withdraw the spell in two final pivots not of closure but rather seasoned disclosure. And release.

—Tim Whitsel

 

Janna Roselund is a native Oregonian. She attended the University of Oregon, where she studied art and creative writing. Her love of nature and interest in folklore and mythology are evident throughout her work. She is currently writing poetry and painting in her studio in Oakland, Oregon.

2018 Spring Contest, Members Only: Honorable Mentions and Judge’s Comments

Honorable mentions:

1st Honorable Mention: “No Bonsai Anymore” by Brigitte Goetze, Philomath, OR

2nd Honorable Mention: “The Fixer” by Toni Hanner, Eugene, OR

3rd Honorable Mention: “Rudy” by Linda Ferguson, Portland, OR

 

Judge’s comments

Each of the poems that I chose were poems that possess stickiness, haunting me, charming me, challenging me, making me reach back to them. They accomplish this attraction variously through diction, poise, topic, point of view and yes, voice.

The winning poem and the runner-up, though quite different in tone and style, both take something old, (form) the ghazal or (artifact) the objectified female, and make it the vehicle for new conspiracy, surprise and fresh re-cognitions. I love the shifting seasonal iterations between the “eel” words and “wind” in the Ghazal. A coy intelligence animates the encounter in the Venus poem, challenging the casual male erotic assumptions in classical western art.

The third-place poem entices the lover of open spaces and horses with spare elegance only to withdraw the spell in two final pivots not of closure but rather seasoned disclosure. And release. Each of the honorable mention poems occasions discovery and/or renewal out of a loss. As we read, the accounts are recalibrated. The speaker commands presence.

This was an honor. Toward the end there were fourteen poems I was in conversation with, trying to settle on which ones most satisfied their unique overtures and ambitions. Which were sticky good?

Tim Whitsel

2018 Spring Contest Winner: 1st Place, Poet’s Choice

Knowledge of Good and Evil

by Penelope Scambly Schott

 

I am a way better biter than Eve

or Adam. I go at apples entirely,

core and seeds, leaving nothing

but stem. I have built my house

out of stems, and between them,

a window. All these ageing years

l have stared out. Eve swallowed

while Adam watched and then bit.

You know the bitter punishment:

I groaned twice during childbirth,

uttered Excuse me. I am a cloud

above my two cottonwood trees,

in greenest love with their heart-

shaped leaves. My sweet babies

grow up and leave, though they

lurk under old bark. A skinny kid

yells Dude across the vacant lot.

He can’t imagine when his feet

in sneakers grew so enormous,

able to smash a fallen apple flat.

Far away in the city, a streetcar

clangs on its tracks like money,

throwing sparks. Before I travel

further into the dark, I’ll swallow

the worm in the apple and let it

replace my human voice. Bless

all the worms who comprehend

how stories can end in violence.

Or is struggle life’s given name?

I admired this planet most when

marmosets were the grown-ups

and no human—sapiens or less

sapiens—yet prowled this earth,

before any man hoisted a spear.

 

Judge’s comments

The poets of Oregon have so much to say to the world. They see a frayed time and write to patch the tears. They see intolerance and write to flip hatred the bird. Or they see the immense scope of the universe and write to zoom out and humble us with a reminder of its grandeur. Still others see the preciousness in the simplest moments and write to freeze those memories in polished amber. The best of this incredible bunch not only respond to the world in which we live, but create their own in the span of 80 lines or less. No small feat. But that’s the miracle of language and that’s why I hope every single one of these poets keep blessing us with their words.

—Armin Tolentino

 

Penelope Scambly Schott‘s most recent book is House of the Cardamom Seed. She lives in Portland and Dufur, Oregon, where she leads an annual poetry workshop.