1st Honorable Mention: “Memorial Day” by Joanna Rose, Portland, OR
2nd Honorable Mention: “Fostering a Better World” by Jennifer Rood, Grants Pass, OR
3rd Honorable Mention: “After Midnight” by Stephanie Striffler, Portland, OR
I thought a lot about meaning as I read these poems. I thought about how language creates meaning, how humans create language, and how, despite how frail the letters words are made of, how inadequate the sounds of words are to represent the wide world, still meaning is made by one person who makes marks on a paper and understood by another person who looks at those marks with her eyes. It was a pleasure to read every poem entered and respond to the images, sounds and intent of each one.
We understand the world by naming the things in it. We make meaning of those names by arranging them on the page in beautiful patterns—thank you to all who did that work and entered it into this contest.
It is a daunting task to make a choice of the top six. If you entered this contest, you may be interested in how I managed the choice: I read through all the poems three times. The fourth time through, I made myself separate out the weakest half. Those poems were generally less ambitious or had multiple errors or flat language. I then read through the top favorites again and again, taking out the poems with logic problems or with too many linking verbs or overrun with adjectives, until I had eight remaining. Then I spent quite some time reading the remaining eight and making the impossible task of rating them—it’s an imperfect system, judging poems, and I worry my own taste influenced the final decisions. I do love inventiveness and imagination! If your poem is not a winner this time, please keep writing poems! Writing poems is a way of making meaning in the world, and as the world gets more complicated, we need more and more of us taking notes and making beauty out of disorder!
—Lisa Allen Ortiz