Read the Winning Poems from OPA’s Poet Choice Category

Fall 2021 Adult Contest Winners in the Poet’s Choice Category

Judge – Paulann Petersen, Oregon Poet Laureate Emerita, has seven full-length books of poetry, most recently One Small Sun, from Salmon Poetry in Ireland. Her poems have appeared in many journals, including Poetry, Prairie Schooner, Willow Springs, Calyx, and the Internet’s Poetry Daily. A Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, she received the 2006 Holbrook Award from Oregon Literary Arts. In 2013 she was Willamette Writers’ Distinguished Northwest Writer. The Latvian composer Eriks Esenvalds chose a poem from her book The Voluptuary as the lyric for a choral composition that’s now part of the repertoire of the Choir at Trinity College Cambridge.

Judge’s Comments: OPA poets submitted 136 poems in the Poet’s Choice category. And from those 136, I had to choose just 6 poems to be honored. Egads! Too many strong poems. Too few prizes I could award. So … instead of a general statement about the entries, here’s my shout-out for a few more of the worthy poems entered. Kudos to each of these poems: “Alfresco,” “Bandon Remembered,” “The Dark Blue of a Steller’s Jay,” “Forecasts,” “From Inside the Heat Dome,” “Martin’s Lot,” “Peonies,” “There’s a poem in this place—in the heavy grace…,” and “Veterans.” These, and many more among the 136 submissions, deserve praise. OPA members are richly talented. May the work of OPA poets continue to thrive! — Paulann Petersen

First Place: “Salt” by Grace Beeler

I have a simple longing, one which
falls well within the realm of women:
a shelf of blue glass,
an open kitchen window,
sunlight, and a fruit tree
cherry or apple,
something that will ruin the lawn
with its bounty in the fall.

And all the salt in the house
in one wide mouthed canning jar on the counter
whiter than bleached bones
to be carefully measured:
a scant ½ teaspoon
for a golden lump of dough.

You remember how it feels,
the breeze on your arms
as you work the rolling
pin across the surface,
each fingerprint
disappearing under the
smooth wood,
reemerging reborn,
pure as fresh butter
and almost as yellow.

Judge’s Comment on the First Place Poem: The rich, resonant imagery in “Salt” is irresistible. This poem’s “simple longing” evokes language so potent that “one wide mouthed canning jar” can contain “all the salt in the house,” just as this brief poem can contain a whole flood of sensation and memory.

Second Place: “Me and My Abracadabra Snapped in Half” * by Linda Ferguson

my whining puppies in a basket
my let’s get this over with
my thrash and gallop
my make it stop
my if only that and this
my whirligig hopes
my burrow and sniff
my frenzied dust and dancing computer screen
my I give up
my I won’t give up
my you can’t make me
my enough is enough
my father who art in heaven
my unmasked mother, Mary
my red state brother
my blue state brother
my sun-scorched state
your sun-scorched state
our withered rivers
our flinching mountains
our oceans
of angst
of sirens and sweating cheese
of a bloody lip and baby teeth
of you asked for it
of you’re not as nice as everyone thinks
of my happiness snuggling in a convenient quarantine
of don’t look back
of remember when
of melting pumpkins on the porch and sequin-and construction-paper stars
swaying from the fir limbs
of ice cream and card games and Carol Burnett mugging on TV
of flannel pajamas and fuzzy slippers shaped like puppies and bear cubs and bunnies
of blankets smelling of kittens and delicate scratches and Sunday’s chicken
of ready or not here I come
and olly olly oxen free
and come out, come out wherever you are
and half-hearted attempts to capture your flag
and we’re all falling down and don’t need any more red rover bullies
or blindfolds bluffing reality or trampling dreams
in shades of red and gold, black and bronze, white and green
all playing for the same team
in the dawn’s early light
on our fruited plains and under our spacious skies and over our shining seas
in our country, our country, our country,
tis of thee.

(*after Chen Chen’s “Me, My Sadness & My Mango Smoothie”)

Judge’s Comment on the Second Place Poem: This long listing poem jumps off the page, exhorting its reader, exhorting its poet to read it aloud. The lines call for chanting, for quick and powerful voicing. This is a performance poem poised for its audience.

Third Place: “Big Boats, Backyard Bunkers and the Next Big Bang” by Robert Nordstrom

Perhaps I shouldn’t judge
but when some guy
with more money
and more time
than I
has a bad dream
involving a lot of water
so builds an ark
to prove once and for all
that man and his minions,
(aka women and beasts here)
could have been saved,
and thus, by a curious leap of logic
whereby the conditional becomes factual,
were saved
by way of a 95-foot-wide x 410-foot-long x 75-foot-tall
five-story Yahweh-designed yacht
as specced out in Genesis 6:15,
I do get a bit leery and weary,
though, all things considered,
it might make more eschatological sense
and is considerably more ambitious
than crouching ostrich like
beneath a desk
fingers laced over the back of your head,
or diving into a backyard bunker
to fork down canned peaches
and stewed tomatoes
while waiting for the next big bang
to signal world’s end
so we can begin again,
which sadly we seem to do—
wait, keep waiting
for the end
to begin

Judge’s Comment on the Third Place Poem: In one long sentence, this poem cascades down the page, delivering its eschatological humor and wisdom with ease and satiric grace.

Honorable Mention Poems in the Poet’s Choice Category:

1st Honorable Mention: “Leaving” by Mallory Kellum
2nd Honorable Mention: “Thinning the Seedlings” by Alida Rol
3rd Honorable Mention: “Fryer’s Quality Pie” by David Pickering

Announcing the OPA Fall 2021 Adult Contest Winners

Congratulations to all of the poets with winning poems in our Fall contest!  A total of 386 poems were entered, so the competition was rigorous.  Thank you to each of our judges for their expertise and hard work making these decisions, which are never easy with so many wonderful pieces to consider.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading through the entries as they came in; the participating poets have incredible talent! 

(With sincere gratitude from Oregon Poetry Association for supporting our bi-annual contests—   

 Susan Morse, OPA Contest Chairperson)

Poet’s Choice – Judge:  Paulann Petersen

1st Place:  “Salt” by Grace Beeler

2nd Place:  “Me and My Abracadabra Snapped in Half” by Linda Ferguson

3rd Place:  “Big Boats, Backyard Bunkers and the Next Big Bang” by Robert Nordstrom

1st Honorable Mention:  “Leaving” by Mallory Kellum

2nd Honorable Mention:  “Thinning the Seedlings” by Alida Rol

3rd Honorable Mention:  “Fryer’s Quality Pie” by David Pickering

Members Only – Judge:  Susan Leslie Moore

1st Place:  “We Used to Swim in Willow Lake” by Linda Hoard

2nd Place:  “What Any Gay Man Over 60 Might Tell You About Pandemics” by David Pickering

3rd Place:  “A Gratitude” by Cynthia Jacobi

1st Honorable Mention:  “Perspectives” by Lynn Hughes

2nd Honorable Mention:  “In Kiev, in winter” by M. Ann Reed

3rd Honorable Mention:  “Ginsberg” by Emmett Wheatfall

Theme “the Sea” – Judge:  Christopher Luna

1st Place:  “The Diver” by Paula Stenberg

2nd Place:  “Songs of Salt Water and Celestial Bodies” by Nancy Knowles

3rd Place:  “The Chronic Tempest” by Wendy Thompson

1st Honorable Mention:  “A Small Treasure” by Ryan Scariano

2nd Honorable Mention:  “As It Never Did Play Out” by Nancy Christopherson

3rd Honorable Mention:  “Sand Dollar Pairing” by Carol Barrett

New Poets – Judge:  David Hedges

1st Place:  “Black Hole” by Paula Stenberg

2nd Place:  “In the Back of the Closet” by Laura King

3rd Place:  “How to submit a poem to a magazine (12th Draft)” by Paul Herman

1st Honorable Mention:  “Candlelight Boy” by Mckayla Gallup

2nd Honorable Mention:  “What Alzheimer’s Forgot to Steal” by Sarah Talvi-Duncan

3rd Honorable Mention:  “Penny’s Song” by Marianne Bickett

Traditional Form/Sestina – Judge:  Marilyn Johnston

1st Place:  “At the Old School” by Brad Maxfield

2nd Place:  “Far From the Tree” by Linda Ferguson

3rd Place:  “White-crown Sparrow/Sestina (Zonotríchia leucóphyrys)” by Amelia Diaz-Ettinger

1st Honorable Mention:  “En Plein Air” by John McPherson

2nd Honorable Mention:  “Summers with My Grandparents” by Lucinda Huffine

3rd Honorable Mention:  “Creek” by Alex Moon

30 and Under – Judge:  Penelope Scambly Schott

1st Place:  “CR 3210” by Mckayla Gallup

2nd Place:  “On Considering Lilies” by Katie Findlay Tucker

3rd Place:  “look who’s inside again” by Mo Rose App-Singer

Spanish Language – Judge:  Nicolás Alonso Mendoza Mahncke

1st Place:  “Adicción, Viejo Amigo” by Grace Beeler

2nd Place:  “La Geografía de la Nostalgia” by Efrain Diaz-Horna

3rd Place:  “grillos cuando quiero dormir” by Broderick Eaton

Spring, 2021, Adult Contest-Winning Poems, Spanish-Language Category

Spring 2021 Adult Contest Winning Poems for the Spanish Language Category
Judge: Efraín Díaz-Horna

“Recuerdo haber escuchado que un buen poema tiene la gracia de invitarnos a bailar, a pensar o a luchar con la ambiguedad de las palabras. El poema nos invita a destilar la esencia, el mensaje, de la ofrenda que nos hace el poeta. Los poemas que he tenido el placer de leer y evaluar – los leí varias veces, en silencio y en voz alta – que resonaron en lo más hondo de mi ser produjeron en mi las ganas de bailar, reflexionar y pugnar con la incertidumbre de las palabras.

“Escoger los tres poemas que más me gustaron fue un duro dilema para mí.” Efraín Díaz-Horna

“I remember hearing that a good poem has the grace to invite us to dance, to think or to fight with the ambiguity of words. The poem invites us to distill the essence, the message, of the offering that the poet makes to us. The poems that I have had the pleasure of reading and evaluating – I have read them several times, silently and aloud – that resonated in the depths of my being, produced in me the desire to dance, reflect and struggle with the uncertainty of words.

“Choosing the three poems that I liked the most was a tough dilemma for me.” Efraín Díaz-Horna

First Place Spanish Language: “Entre paréntesis” by Nitza Hernández

Se ha colocado entre nosotros un signo de paréntesis
con su curva de entrada y la de cierre
(una para ti y otra para mí) en tiempos de espera en silencio
para expresar lo que (a veces) no podemos decir con nuestras voces
dar sentido a lo inconcebible.

Un paréntesis para repetir el recuerdo
de un aguacero cadencioso en el Caribe (en temporada de sequía)
anhelando derramar su agua cristalina refrescante en nuestros cuerpos.

Un paréntesis inesperado nos ha llegado en tiempos de pandemia.
¿Querrá recalcar la incertidumbre del mañana?
¿Querrá advertirnos que nada es permanente?
Un paréntesis en medio de nosotros pide (a gritos) palabras de ternura
para revelar (sin miedo) cualquier dolor oculto.

Un signo de paréntesis abierto con los suspiros nuestros
en noche de luna nueva,
y cerrado en plena madrugada después de haber tocado las estrellas
(como otras veces hemos hecho)
tras ver girar la tierra desde muy lejos
imaginando alcanzar el infinito.

Un paréntesis de fórmula algebraica
nos invita a insertar cifras de suma, resta y multiplica
experiencias compartidas en la raíz cuadrada
una ecuación de certeza anticipada
(aunque no lo hayamos calculado todavía)
pues el resultado será un número completo
no una fracción de un solo instante.

Un paréntesis que nos permita
sostener el corazón de cada uno entre ese signo paciente y arbitrario
dispuesto a (simplemente) destacar
lo indescifrable del amor y del tiempo en su conjunto.

Judge’s Comment primer lugar: “Entre paréntesis” es el poema que más me emocionó. El poema me habló de la importancia de reflexionar, de encontrar un paréntesis en nuestras vidas, para adentrarnos en el maravilloso paisaje de nuestra existencia. El paréntesis nos da la oportunidad de saborear lo hermoso de la vida, llena de ambiguedades, bajo la sombra del amor.

“In Parenthesis” by Nitza Hernández (English Translation)

A parenthesis sign has been placed between us
with its entry bracket and its closing one
(one for you and the other one for me) in waiting times of silence
to express what (sometimes) we cannot say with our voices
to make sense of the inconceivable.

A parenthesis to repeat the memory
of a lilting downpour in the Caribbean (at drought time)
yearning to pour its crystal clear refreshing water into our bodies.

An unexpected parenthesis has come to us in times of the pandemic.
Does it want to emphasize the uncertainty of tomorrow?
Does it want to warn us that nothing is permanent?
A parenthesis between us asks (crying out) for words of tenderness
to (fearlessly) reveal any hidden pain.

A sign of parenthesis opened with our sighs
on a night of a new moon
and closed in full dawn after having touched the stars
(like other times we have done)
after viewing the earth spinning from far away
imagining to reach infinity.

An algebraic formula parenthesis
invites us to insert addition, subtraction, and multiplication figures
shared experiences in a square root
an anticipated certainty equation
(even though we have not yet calculated it)
for the result will be a whole number
not a fraction of a single instant.

A parenthesis that allows us
to hold the heart of each one between that patient and arbitrary sign
willing to (simply) stand out
the indecipherable of love and time as a whole.

Judge’s Comment: “In Parentheses” is the poem that moved me the most. The poem spoke to me of the importance of reflecting, of finding a parenthesis in our lives, to delve into the wonderful landscape of our existence. The parenthesis, the space, gives us the opportunity to savor the beauty of life, full of ambiguities, under the shadow of love.

Poet’s Bio: Nitza Hernández lives in Salem, Oregon, since 2012, after retiring as a professor from the University of Puerto Rico. She considers herself a bilingual poet. Various of her poems are published in: Antología de Poesía Oregoniana (2017, 2019), Terra Incognita, Oregon Poets Write for Ecological, Social, Political, and Economic Justice (Bob Hill Publishing, 2019), and /pãn| dé| mïk/ 2020: An Anthology of Pandemic Poems by OPA Members. She is also a visual artist.

Second Place Spanish Language: “comesol” by Broderick Eaton

dentro de una mora carmín
dos semillas de café dormidas
espalda a espalda como
manecillas en oración
firmes y esperando

Judge’s Comment segundo lugar: “comesol” es un corto poema lleno de encantadoras imágenes que nos cuchichean aromas de vida muy prontas a despertar.

“suneater” by Broderick Eaton (English Translation)

inside a crimson berry
two coffee seeds asleep
back to back like
small hands in prayer
hard and waiting

Judge’s Comment: “suneater” is a short poem full of charming images that whisper aromas of life very soon to be awakened.

Poet’s Bio: Broderick Eaton’s work appears in numerous publications, including Crosswinds Poetry Journal, Smartish Pace, Writer’s Digest, Flying South, and Verseweavers. She won Sixfold’s Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the Erskine J. Poetry Prize, the 49th Parallel Award, and the Tucson Festival of Books. Her education included studies with Mary Oliver at Sweet Briar College and she recently completed an MFA through Lindenwood University. She lives with her family in the high desert of Oregon.

Third Place Spanish Language: “Invernal” by Concepción Sámano

Tiempo de estancamientos
de agua que se paraliza, se oscurece
niebla demorada
un pantano invadiendo el horizonte
y las estrellas congeladas
en un cielo que se atasca sin fin
sobre el eco del ladrido de perros
y la belleza alba de los pinos nevados.

Del otro lado el río es agua
que corre tras sí misma
navega en sus remansos
para verterse en sus tormentas
que pule rocas
con la paciencia del artista
con la fuerza del cincel.

Pero, más que sólo agua
el río es tiempo, tempestad
palabras ahogadas
desiertos desplazándose
mares viajeros sobre la tierra
es todas las ideas que transcurren en silencio
palabras residuales del subconsciente
escapando de sí mismas.

Yo no sé si la lluvia viene del cielo
para bañar el valle que se extiende por todo el orbe
inexorable y sin prisa por terminar de caer
o es una humedad que brota de las ventanas mismas
empañando su transparencia
no sé si la soledad mana debajo de la nieve
o del silencio marcial de los abetos sobre las colinas
es quizá un ave terrible que sobrevuela a pleno día
esparciendo la sombra entre los bosques silentes
una capa que no arropa
una nostalgia de largos vuelos
de lejanas procedencias en el tiempo
pese a la hierba que puja por brotar con sus flores
de entre la tumba general de todo lo que se ha ahogado
en la geología de éste paisaje.

Judge’s Comment tercer lugar: “Invernal” es un poema que plantea dilemas existenciales. Me habló del mundo en que vivimos, un mundo lleno de dudas, interogantes y certezas que asemejan la fluidez de las aguas de un río.

“Wintry” by Concepción Sámano (English translation)

Time of stagnation
of water that is paralyzed, that darkens
delayed fog
a swamp invading the horizon
and the frozen stars
in a sky that stalls without end
over the echo of the barking of dogs
and the pale beauty of the snowy pines.

On the other side the river is water
that runs after itself
sail in its backwaters
to pour into their storms
that polishes rocks
with the patience of the artist
with the force of the chisel.

But, more than just water
the river is time, storm
drowned words
scrolling deserts
traveling seas over land
is all the ideas that pass in silence
residual words from the subconscious
escaping from themselves.

I don’t know if the rain comes from the sky
to blanket the valley that stretches across the globe
inexorable and in no hurry to finish falling
or is it moisture that comes from the windows themselves
tarnishing its transparency
I don’t know if loneliness flows under the snow
or the martial silence of the pines on the hills
it is perhaps a terrible bird that flies over in broad daylight
spreading the shadow among the silent forests
a cape that does not cover
a nostalgia for long flights
from distant origins in time
despite the grass that tries to sprout with its flowers
from the general grave of all that has died
in the geology of this landscape

Judge’s Comment: “Wintry” is a poem that elicits existential dilemmas. It spoke to me about the world in which we live, a world full of doubts, questions and certainties that resemble the fluidity of the waters of a river.

Poet’s Bio: Concepción Sámano, born in Jaral del Progreso, Gto, México, en 1971. She studied philosophy, has published several collections of poems, and poems and articles in magazines and anthologies. Programmer at Radio Poder. She currently lives in Falls City, Oregon, and participates in various activities aimed at the dissemination of poetry.

Judge’s Bio: Efraín Díaz-Horna was born in Peru. He was educated in Lima, Peru, Oregon and Wisconsin. He holds two graduate degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Efraín worked for the State of Oregon and Multnomah County and retired in 2001. He was described as “a legend in our midst: Philosopher, teacher, artist, poet, director—a true Renaissance Man.” Efraín has been drawing, painting, and writing since he was a child. He has exhibited his art in Oregon, Mexico, Russia, and Peru. His poetry has been published in several newspapers and newsletters and he has authored several books of poetry.

Efraín Díaz-Horna nació en Perú. Recibió su educación en Lima, Perú, Oregón y Wisconsin. Tiene dos títulos de posgrado de la Universidad de Wisconsin-Madison. Efraín trabajó para el estado de Oregón y el condado de Multnomah y se jubiló en 2001. Fue descrito como “una leyenda entre nosotros: filósofo, maestro, artista, poeta, director, un verdadero hombre del Renacimiento”. Efraín dibuja, pinta y escribe desde niño. Ha exhibido su arte en Oregón, México, Rusia y Perú. Su poesía ha sido publicada en varios periódicos y boletines y es autor de varios libros de poesía.