2018 Spring Contest Winner: 3rd Place, Traditional Form–Sonnet

We Can Always Talk about the Weather

by Alida Rol


Bleached coral moans in rising seas, while parched

Lake Chad sighs memories of millet, maize,

and bottle gourds, of homes on unscorched

earth. Daily, somewhere, raging floods rephrase

the mud, emend topography, splinter

lean-tos, drown the hapless, inspire throngs

of refugees. Tainted air, imprinted

with exhaust, dusts our lungs, as metals wrong

the drinking water. On my stoop I trip

over a homeless man who takes the rain,

the cold and heat in stride, breathes the breaths

he’s given and softens what he knows with

a needle’s bootleg dreams. We all need pain

relief, he drawls, to laugh while spooning death.




Judge’s comments

I think every judge speaks to how difficult it is to select poems for a contest. I can only say it again… this was DIFFICULT. The quality of the sonnet submissions was extremely high. Getting down to ten was rough. Going for the final six made me a little nutty. I had to read the final poems at least 20 times to make the final call. I was extremely impressed by the language choice, imagery, and slant rhymes. Many of these poems were an “expansion” of the sonnet while holding true to the form. It was a pleasure to read everything submitted in this contest. All of the finalists pushed the formality and expression. The winning poems showed a daring in theme. Wildly varying, these sonnets were an expression of longing, nature, modern life, and frustration. The sonnet (even when taken to a contemporary level) is a tight form with very little room to maneuver. Fourteen little lines packed a ferocious punch in this contest. I was lost in each of these poems, and the most successful sonnets almost hid themselves. The language concealed the form, and I adored that.

—Amy MacLennan



Alida Rol traded a career in medicine for a calmer life making poems. She holds an MFA in writing from Pacific University. Her poems have won several awards and have appeared in Rhino, Passager, The Examined Life and Nasty Women Poets Anthology, among others. She lives in Eugene, Oregon.

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