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).

Fall 2020 Winning Poems for the Members Only Category

Fall 2020 Winning Poems for the Members Only Category
Judge: Amy Miller

First Place in Members Only:
“At the Frenchglen Hotel” by Scottie Sterrett

We gather with other guests,
mesmerized as butterflies,
opulent in cellophane envelopes,
emerge from two shoeboxes.

The LA lawyer, resplendent
in Oakleys and Lauren
has spent himself on Steens Mountain
collecting uncommon lepidoptera.

He needs six of each species
because, he cheerfully explains,
one of these rare birds
can get you two from Bolivia.

The child among us stands perplexed,
hands clasped behind her back.
In seven-year-old wonder, she says,
You killed all those butterflies?

Poet’s Bio: Scottie published her first poem in high school. Since then, occasional poems, like cream or swamp gas, have bubbled to the surface of the great pond in which she is a very small fish. She served in several capacities on the OSPA board and as president of Portland Poetry Festival. Currently, she is writing her autobiography. Scottie lives in the rolling Rosemont hills of West Linn with squirrels and birds and a pack of Deerhounds.

Judge’s Notes: While judging this category of short poems, I was amazed at what poets could do in 20 lines or fewer. The first-place poem, “At the Frenchglen Hotel,” epitomizes that economy and power—16 lines packed with information, but done so subtly that the almost nausea-inducing subject matter slips into the reader’s consciousness without a lot of fanfare. But there it stays, a poem that got under my skin and wouldn’t leave. It made me uncomfortable; it made me think. And those amazing lines—“one of these rare birds / can get you two from Bolivia”—so deftly illustrate an offhand, careless cruelty that resonates with a lot of our world in this time, right now. This poem nails the balance between message and tone; its restraint is what makes it so disturbing.

Second Place in Members Only Category:
“Stealing Flowers From the Neighbors” by Sherri Levine

No dark sunglasses, no hood over my head,
no scissors, shopping bag slung over my shoulder,

I slide behind bushes, pricked by brambles,
yank and snap, rip and tear.

No worry or rush,
or hush from the birds.

Squirrels, too busy collecting nuts
don’t stop on the lawn to judge.

Dandelion spores fill the air like dust.
A silent sneeze, a cough caught in my throat,

I crawl under towering weeds
and hedges, wedge myself

between rocks and prickly thorns.
I do not feel the scraping of my knees

or the bee sting, burn of the sun
on my cheeks, heat on my hatless head.

Stealing flowers from the neighbors
I could only think of you in your hospice bed,

your weary head,
waiting for me to appear.

Poet’s Bio: Sherri Levine is an artist and poet living in Portland, Oregon. Her poems have been published in CALYX, Poet Lore, The Timberline Review, and others. She won the Lois Cranston Memorial Poetry Award and also First Place in the Oregon Poetry Association biannual contest. Her book, In These Voices, was published in 2018 by Poetry Box.

Judge’s Notes: I love the journey of this poem, from *almost* humor at the start to real poignancy at the end. It makes the reader ask a question early on—why this stealing?— and then surprises with its answer at the end, which telescopes the poem out into a larger story. And all this is done with such music, elegant internal rhymes that quietly weave throughout—hood/bush, rush/hush, sneeze/weeds/knees, head/bed/head. It’s a bit like a song that begins as a lark and ends up much darker.

Third Place in Members Only Category:
“Weathervane” by Charles Castle

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Weathervane                           

                                                                                                                                                                                                  Butterfly                                     weathervane

Metal roof on a red barn             hay stacked

John Deere tractor                 backed against

            a picket fence

Four black cows                  and a prized bull

          some distance on a hill

A farmer’s wife                      in a garden plot

tomato plants                a trellis vine

flowered like       the woman’s dress

A stoic scarecrow            with a clergy collar

Screen door swinging     on a crooked hinge

An old dog                 beneath a cottonwood

             asleep

And the farmer’s            teen-aged daughter

      cocooned             in a rope hammock

         reading Anaїs Nin

Poet’s Bio: Charles Castle writes from Eugene, Oregon. Before Covid, he was co-host of the monthly open mic, Burnin’ Down the Barnes at Barnes and Noble Books, and he frequented as many other readings as he could. He believes in spoken poetry, delivered live and in person, and so he is currently in exile. Charles has published four books; Living with Patriarchs, A Season’s Second Coming, A Good-night in America and Chasing Down the Storm.

Judge’s Notes: This poem is image, image, image—a story the reader sees. And it moves and swings, with its left-right justification and its weathervane and its screen door. The shape evoked one farmy thing after another in my mind—a silo, that door, a window, a field. And then, after all the fresh, authentic images, the last three lines turn very arch—you know the daughter is dreaming of a bigger world. And even though the world she lives in has its beauty—heck, we just spent an enjoyable poem there—still, we can’t help but root for her and whatever it is she sees beyond that farm. She, and all the ambitions and dreams we feel on her behalf, are what elevate this poem to a higher plane.

Judge’s Bio: Amy Miller’s full-length poetry collection The Trouble with New England Girls won the Louis Award from Concrete Wolf Press. Her poetry and nonfiction have appeared in Barrow Street, Gulf Coast, Rattle, Tupelo Quarterly, Willow Springs, and ZYZZYVA, and anthologies including Ghost Fishing, Nasty Women Poets, and Clash by Night: A London Calling Anthology. She won the Cultural Center of Cape Cod National Poetry Competition, judged by Tony Hoagland, the Kay Snow Award, the Jack Grapes Poetry Prize from Cultural Weekly, and the Earl Weaver Baseball Writing Prize. She lives in Ashland, Oregon.