2020 Spring Contest Winners: Poet’s Choice: Honorable Mentions

Judged by Lynn Otto

1st Honorable Mention: “Missing” by Suzanne Sigafoos, Portland, OR

2nd Honorable Mention: “Women’s Day at Sauna” by Michelle Williams, Portland, OR

3rd Honorable Mention: “Facing Backward on the Train” by Dan Kaufman, Central Point, OR

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.

From “Missing”: “Look: the helmsman is waving. / Look: the vessel, framed in the Golden Gate / Look: it’s turning. / Look: it’s gone.” From “Women’s Day at the Sauna”: “We are shadows on vacation / from our forms / relieved when one vents // for us all, a vapor / answer of mutual calm.” From “Facing Backward on the Train”: “which I’ve remembered too, a rhythm trains repeat, / lup-dup, lup-dup, as if these tracks were stretching back.”

2020 Spring Contest Winners: Members Only: 1st Place Winner

Cradling Dad

Cathy Cain

I hooked up to the galaxy of the centrifuge

my milky platelets swirling like stars

like swifts into the chimney of night

I held the dream of him

the rhythm of his breath

how he loved the Milky Way

how he needed the stars    

then the swift dark wind

those stars like blossoms scattered

then the snap of bough

that could not cradle     nor hold

against the relentless cold

Poet’s Bio

Cathy Cain is the author of Bee Dance (The Poetry Box, 2019) and Empty Space Places You (Finishing Line Press, 2018). Her honors include the Kay Snow Paulann Petersen Award for Poetry, the Edwin Markham Prize for Poetry, and recognition from the Oregon Poetry Association. Her poetry has appeared in Reed Magazine, The Poeming Pigeon, Verseweavers, and VoiceCatcher. Cain taught in the public schools for over thirty years. She lives near Portland.

Judge’s Comments – Andrea Hollander

I was pleasantly stunned by this brief poem. Its author uses an array of surprising metaphors, as well as—at the poem’s powerful close—a children’s rhyme most of us grew up with, which is alluded to in the poem’s title, though we don’t discover this until we reach the closing lines.

The journey one takes through the poem is filled with swift turns, the strongest of them marked by stanza breaks to indicate larger pauses. And though there is no punctuation, there is no need. The poet carries us along rhythmically without fault, using that sudden extra tabbed space in the penultimate line to signal the poem’s final turn. The closing end-rhyme completes the poem memorably by providing aural satisfaction. And we are left, too, with the almost palpable presence of the speaker at the very moment he or she can no longer “hold” him “against the relentless cold.” Marvelous!

2020 Spring Contest Winners: Members Only: 2nd Place Winner


Don Kunz       

You build a world from fragments:

A row of decaying Brownstones,

An empty street in the morning rain,

A mud-spattered, much-battered tailgate.

You can’t zoom out enough to frame:

That half-acre Banyan tree in Lahaina,

That treaty site at Medicine Lodge Creek,

That macaque colony reclining on Gibraltar.

You focus on small curiosities:

A book’s fractured spine,

A mirror that hides your image,

A door partially opened to darkness.

You develop disconnections:

Light dying in a coyote’s eye,

The patina on a bronze doorknob,

The threshold we never cross.

Poet’s Bio

Don Kunz taught University of Rhode Island for 36 years. His essays, poems, and short stories have appeared in over eighty literary journals. Don has retired to Bend, Oregon, where he writes fiction and poetry, volunteers, studies Spanish, and plays the Native American Flute. He is a member of The High Desert Poetry Cell, a group of five men who from Bend, Oregon who donate the proceeds from their readings and published books of poetry to non-profit community organizations.

Judge’s CommentsAndrea Hollander

The structure of this image-heavy poem is easy to follow, but the journey we take as we read its sixteen lines is not predictable. The opening line of each 4-line stanza tells us what the you of the poem is doing. Whether or not this you is a photographer, able to frame or not frame various scenes and/or objects is not ultimately important. What is important is the way the poet presents a series of photographic images as the poem moves from wide angle to panorama to close-up to specific elements within a close-up. While that seems an almost predictable pattern, the final gesture of the poem, which contains both an image and what amounts to a comment upon it that cuts away all the visual and gives us an unanticipated and unexpected emotional close.