Posted June 3, 2020.

2020 Spring Contest Winners: Poet’s Choice: 1st Place Winner

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

(a Vivianne sonnet variation)

Barbara Blanks

As embryos we each explore the wall

of womb that holds us. It’s the first place joy

is felt—mom’s heartbeat like a lullaby.  

Cocooned in touch, that’s how we interact.

We’re chastised just as soon as we can crawl

or walk. Just look! Hands off! That’s not a toy.

We’re told to view, to listen, smell that, try

a taste of this—but touch … and hands are smacked.

And so begins our isolation. All

those inhibitions finally destroy

instinctive comfort found in touch, deny

the core of who we are. Our lives contract.

We clench our cell phones, stroke the glowing screen,

as we reach out across the distance, glean

what warmth we can from holding a machine.

Poet Bio

Barbara Blanks, a former Ft. Stevens resident, is the author of seven books, co-author of one, and published in a variety of anthologies. Barb is known for her exuberant love of life, the liberties she often takes with her reality, and her pursuit of a sense of direction. She is also admired for her stick-to-it-iveness, although she mostly sticks to her un-mopped kitchen floor.

Judge’s Comments – Lynn Otto

Thank you to all who submitted poems. Reading them while practicing social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, I felt connected to humanity in all corners of Oregon and beyond. I was surprised to see that the three poems that rose to the top of the stack for me all made use of patterns of rhyme and rhythm. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (a Vivianne sonnet variation) feels like a carefully made gift, not some fussy frou-frou thing, but the result of a real craftsperson’s sensitivity to language and high regard for the reader. The poem’s form suits its subject, a consideration of a change. These poems’ images are strong and memorable; and each poem felt consistent in quality from beginning to end.

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