Fall Contest Results for Theme: Community

2020 Fall Adult Contest Results for Theme/Community
Judge: Emmett Wheatfall

First Place Winner for Theme: “Friday Night after COVID” by Christen Pagett

We’ll walk to Fitzgerald’s at the corner,
and I’ll order the darkest beer
with the deepest froth
and tip him more than 20%,
even though he’s never smiled at us before.

We’ll meld into the
crush of bodies,
like a tributary,
finding the mouth of its river,
swaying towards the
open mic stage,
like children of a common mother.

And we won’t mind
the warmth radiating off
everyone’s skin,
won’t mind the strange
intimacy of a stranger’s
shoulder brushing ours,
and will grin back when
they smile an apology,
both struck by the tenderness.

Judge’s Note: Metaphorically speaking, the title for every poem should be the match that ignites curiosity. It serves as the window suggesting there is something to behold and invites potential readers to a personal encounter. Friday Night After COVID does just that—invites potential readers to a personal encounter. Contextualized as a 3-stanza poem which is simply perfect for its content. Scansion in a broader sense of the term reveals the fact the poem does not use end-rhymes which better serves the poetic message regarding community. Notice the stanza lengths of 5, 7, and 9. One might wonder if the variable of increasing stanzas by 2 lines is by poetic design. If not, it stands eye catching in a positive manner. Interlaced throughout the poem is the impact of pandemic, a public meeting place, a libation common for encouraging communal gathering, the warmth of human interaction and spirit, and an infraction that does warrant apology during pandemic. This fabulous poem inspires the best of humanity in these the worst of times. It should make readers yearn for Friday nights after COVID.

Poet’s Bio: Christen Pagett is most at home in the Willamette Valley of Oregon where she has been a longtime educator, hoping to inspire teens with the love of language and all the worlds it can open. Most recently, she spends her days pursuing an MFA in poetry at Eastern Oregon University, practicing piano, and trying new recipes on her expanding, beautiful family.

Second Place Winner for Theme: “The Grandmothers Stand” by Linda Appel

Behind their daughters’ yellow wall
the grandmothers are standing
in Portland streets, as once they stood
in Argentina, as they will stand again,
forever in the sadness of the wind.
You may not see the grandmothers,
but we stand behind the protesters,
as witnesses of truth.
You may not hear us shout, but
we lend our presence to the litany
of righteous anger.
We can no longer run and fight,
withstand the fog of tear gas;
but what we lack in youth and strength
we make up for in certitude,
the knowledge of what’s right and wrong,
and what it takes to save the world
Outside the Justice Center
beneath gunmetal clouds,
before a phalanx dark we stand.
Some in spirit, some in body
we are present at this midnight rite
of pretense and provocation.
One by one, sad silent grandmothers gather
to stand, now and forever, in solidarity.
Our time is past and yet we continue
to stand and call, with urgent clarity,
Know justice; know peace
Amen

Judge’s Note: The Grandmothers Stand is a gem worthy of wider distribution and publication. It is timely given the major social justice movement in America called Black Lives Matters. It is safe to assume that when grandma gets upset about something, everybody better pay attention, straighten up and act right. This poem reveals community in an abstract way. The community is that of grandmothers who have come together in common resolve. Other than infants and children, they are the most vulnerable in society. These grandmothers, as characterized in this poem, are willing to place their principles and social convictions about equality and inclusion on the line in a public and demonstrative way. One wonders if they had wooden ladle in hand, with every intent to bring about justice in a way only grandmothers can, equality and inclusion would be a settled issue. Society should pay close attention to when grandmothers speak.

Poet’s Bio: When she moved to Oregon 40 years ago, Linda Knowlton Appel felt she had come home. Now a retired sci-tech librarian, she spends her free time in constant wonder, contemplating the river, the mountain, and the world in which we live. Her poems have appeared in Willawaw Journal, Voicecatcher, and elsewhere; and she has published two chapbooks.

Third Place Winner for Theme: “don’t call us punk because we hate that” by Adam Oyster-Sands

don’t call us punk because we hate that
once we played a show
in a record store
with a band named after
a porn star.
their singer repeatedly declared
he was more punk
than the rest of us
fuckers.
at the end of their set
he proved it
by macing himself
in the face,
collapsing on the floor
in a ball of mucus and tears and screams.
his band stepped over
his writhing body
to join the rest of us
outside smoking cigarettes
in the crisp december air.

Judge’s Note: The poem “don’t call us punk because we hate that” is the kind of poem that gets to the heart of what’s truly poetic. It is in your face kind of poetry, tackling metaphors some would consider sensitive. Historically, the word punk has held the connotation for being derogatory, denoting—other; while over times it has become a cultural term of endearment and identification about a lifestyle that is positive and inclusive. Here, the poet is quite clever weaving together a poetic narrative that makes what some might perceive as negative, a positive. It is masterful how the poet takes a negative and turns it into a positive. The insensitivity of one culminated the formation of a larger sense of community. And expanded form of immediate community was born due to something negative. Despite calamity, people can still find common bond. If only society would look beyond its differences, its indifference, its biases, come together in expanded community, it would make for a better world.

Poet’s Bio: Adam Oyster-Sands is a high school English teacher in Portland, Oregon with an MA in Humanities from the University of Dallas. He is an aging punk rocker who still enjoys trying to land a kickflip, the occasional circle pit, and fucking shit up before 10pm. Adam can also be found hiking up mountains and running through forests with his partner Morgan and their puppies.

Judge’s Bio: Emmett Wheatfall is a poet living in Portland, Oregon where he reads, writes, publishes, and performs poetry. Emmett has published 7 books of poetry, released 1 non-musical poetry CD and 4 musical poetry CDs. His latest published work is Our Scarlet Blue Wounds. For comprehensive biographical and contact information, please visit http://emmettwheatfall.com.

Winning Poems in the Pantoum Category

Fall 2020 Winning Poems in the Traditional/Pantoum Category

Judge:  Erica Goss

First Place: “Say Their Names” by Dan Kaufman

As we step toward justice, we must say their names.
Mr. Arbery, Ms. Taylor, Mr. Floyd, discarded while Black.

Knee-necked, bulleted, erased by cold aims.
The roll call continues, each a bitter flashback.

Mr. Floyd, Mr. Arbery, Ms. Taylor, disposed of while Black.
From presumption, abrupt execution.

The roll call unending, each bitter flashback
reveals a toxic, law-shrugging solution.

From presumption, of course, execution.
Their aspect is other. They could be fictitious.

Law-shrugging seems just the solution.
Due process? That’s not expeditious.

Another. Another. Another. Their names aren’t fictitious.
These people aren’t players in Porgy and Bess.
Due process is not expeditious,
yet compared to injustice, it doesn’t oppress.

These people aren’t extras from Porgy and Bess,
but our brothers and sisters, callously slain.
Scaled against fiction, injustice oppresses,
while lynchings stretch out in an unbroken chain.

The lives of our brothers and sisters lie shattered,
knee-necked, bulleted, quashed by quick aims.
Ms. Taylor, Mr. Floyd, Mr. Arbery. Their Black lives matter.
As we step toward justice, keep saying their names.

Judge’s Note:  I chose this poem as the winner of the Pantoum category because of its skill with the form, its timeliness, and its clear call to action. “Their names aren’t fictitious,” the writer reminds us, nor “extras from Porgy and Bess.” These are real people whose lives ended tragically and must not be forgotten. The poem appeals to our sense of fairness and decency.

Poet’s Bio:  Dan Kaufman’s poetry has appeared in Sudden Meteors, Light Rising, Jefferson Journal, Verseweavers, Sky Island Journal, Windfall, and has been recognized by the Jessamyn West Poetry Award, the Southern Oregon Poetry Prize, the National Federation of State Poetry Societies and the Oregon Poetry Association. Dan has been a local and regional judge for Poetry Out Loud and a featured reader at the annual William Stafford celebration at Southern Oregon University.

Second Place:  Prime the Big Bang to Reset the Clocks” by Barbara Blanks

So it begins—an end of clocks,
for time itself is slowing down.
No sound of ticking, no more tocks
and what was green is turning brown

for time itself is slowing down.
The sun beats on, the rain is gone,
and what was green is turning brown.
This silence—like a breath, undrawn.

The sun beats on, the rain is gone.
No steady cadence marks the hours.
This silence, like a breath undrawn,
deletes our lives, erases, scours.

No steady cadence marks the hours.
The past and future fabric frays,
deletes our lives, erases, scours.
The cradle of mankind decays.

The past and future fabric frays—
no sound of ticking, no more tocks.
The cradle of mankind decays,
so it begins—an end of clocks.

Judge’s Note: This poem makes use of the pantoum’s ability to weave a spell from words. The poem’s environmental message compares the slowing down of time to the loss of “past and future fabric.” As the lines repeat and vanish, so do the hours that mark our lives.

Poet’s 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 unmopped kitchen floor. Website: www.barbara-blanks.com

Third Place:  “Visiting Hours During the Pandemic” by Ann Farley

What am I doing here? What am I doing here?
He asks, but meaning is mumbled behind his mask.
We sit in the sun on folding chairs by the parking lot.
Cars, delivery trucks, people — our words can’t compete.

He asks, but meaning is mumbled behind his mask.
By here, does he mean alive? The facility is understaffed.
Cars, delivery trucks, people — our words can’t compete.
His mask slips to the end his nose as he reaches for me.

By here, does he mean alive? The facility is understaffed.
His neck is white stubble. Has he forgotten how to shave?
His mask slips to the end of his nose as he reaches for me.
He doesn’t understand why I don’t reach back.

His neck is white stubble. Has he forgotten how to shave?
We sit in the sun on folding chairs by the parking lot.
He doesn’t understand why I don’t reach back.
What am I doing here? What am I doing, here?

Judge’s Note: This short poem packs a punch in its poignant details: the speaker visits a loved one during the pandemic, someone who can’t understand what’s happening to him. As traffic noises drown out conversation, he wonders why his visitor can’t show him affection.

Poet’s Bio: Ann Farley, caregiver and poet, is happiest outside, and preferably at the beach. When travel isn’t an option, she relies on her vivid imagination, which takes her far away from her home in Beaverton, OR.

Judge’s Bio:  Erica Goss won the 2019 Zocalo Poetry Prize. Her collection, Night Court, won the 2017 Lyrebird Award from Glass Lyre Press. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. Recent and upcoming publications include Spillway, A-Minor, Redactions, Consequence, Slant, The Sunlight Press, The Pedestal, San Pedro River Review, and Critical Read. She is the founder of Girls’ Voices Matter, a filmmaking workshop for teen girls. Erica served as Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, CA, from 2013-2016. She lives in Eugene, Oregon, where she teaches, writes and edits the newsletter Sticks & Stones.

Fall 2020 Winning Poems for the New Poets Category

Fall 2020 Winning Poems for the New Poets Category
Judge: Eleanor Berry

First Place: “The Outcrop” by Vicki Pedone

Here I am again, on the dry shoreline of this dying lake,
gazing at your immutable hardness
with frustration and not a little anger.
How many years must I come while you haughtily guard your secrets?
You are so young, less than 30 millennia.
You can barely call yourself a rock.
I have done battle with real rocks, those that have
weathered hundreds of millions of years of Earth history.
You know nothing of the titanic battles of plate tectonics,
the sweeping changes of climate and sea level,
the evolution and extinction of millions of species.
And yet, you are still a worthy adversary, a geological enigma.
Will this be the year that you relent and reward my devotion,
let slip the answer to the mystery of how you formed
on the remote shore of this desolate lake?
I hear only the wind. There is no eureka moment.
I will return next year,
still seeking answers,
to find you as always
smug in the superiority of the inanimate object.

Judge’s Note: This poem is artfully and wittily constructed such that the perspective—that the speaker is addressing an inanimate object (the outcrop named in the title)—emerges only after several lines, and the relationship between speaker and addressee is then only gradually revealed.

Second Place: “Her Eyes” by Robin Havenick

...something weak strengthens
	until they are more and more it
	like letting in heaven”  Kay Ryan’s “Age”

It wasn’t like that old barn
the way it fell into itself till
what was holding it up was less 
than what had given in

this old crooked man strolling
his wife in a wheelchair across
the foot bridge, runners 
and bikers dodging the
out-of-time pair 

--  when he turned her out of the traffic
to face the river and beyond 
smiling only when he caught her eyes 
only her eyes,

something weak
strengthened.

Judge’s Note: This poem prepares beautifully for the lyric moment on which it focuses, so when it arrives in the final lines, it has maximum impact.

Third Place: “English Composition, 1962” by Daniel Hobbs

I've forgotten why it came up in Composition class
and not in English Lit where it properly belonged, 
with all those passionate, doomed Romantics. 

Almost unheard of in that respectable community,
when it did occur, adults lowered their heads,
spoke in hushed tones, avoided certain phrases.

That day, two or three students ventured opinions, 
then someone said the words we all had heard,
somewhere: 
				"coward's way out." 

Without warning a girl in the front row—star student,
neatly dressed, in all the right clubs—burst from her desk
and spun toward us, her face twisted: 
				"No, it's not! It's not!!"
and ran, sobbing, from the room.

				Mrs. Ross excused herself 
and for minutes and minutes, like struck bells we hung 
over an abyss ringing with questions not spoken,

while deep within us, so deep it hardly registered,
something shifted uneasily in its dark sleep.

Mrs. Ross returned, spoke softly—
				"She'll be all right."—
then eased us back to the solid ground of English grammar
with questions of relative pronouns, dependent clauses.

In the still ringing air, each answer lurched into the room
like a guilty thing, shouldering its uncertain way 
around the empty desk in the front row.

Judge’s Note: The pacing and order of revelation in this narrative poem is expertly managed, and the situation subtly but clearly evoked.

Judge’s biography: A past president of OPA and of NFSPS, Eleanor Berry has taught literature and writing at Willamette University, Marquette University, and other colleges and universities. Her poetry and essays on free-verse prosody have appeared widely in journals, and her poems have been collected in two books, Green November (Traprock Books, 2007) and No Constant Hues (Turnstone Books, 2015), and a chapbook, Only So Far (Main Street Rag, 2019).