1st Place, “Postcard from January” – Connie Soper (an epistolary pantoum!)

2nd Place:, “Dear Friend” – Dan Kaufman (wonderfully surprising language throughout!)

3rd Place,  “To the Stylist Who Cut My Hair Last Winter” – Keli Osborn (how the wry humor throughout manages to vacillate between derision and longing)

1st HM, “Where Eagles Rest” – Joy McDowell

2nd HM, “A Baffling Earth” – Nancy Flynn

3rd HM, “Epistolary” – Zachary Paul

(in each of these the specificity of the voice, clarity of occasion, and original language won me over)

Judge’s Comments:

Dear Poets,

We’ve all written letters, some more poetic than others depending on their occasion and intended recipient. So, the epistolary form is a seemingly simple form that we are all familiar with. It has ancient origins, in the Western tradition going back to Horace and Ovid, who didn’t “invent” the form so much as refine it. In doing so, they drew attention to the communicative properties of poetry, how flexible it is at holding a wide range of ideas and emotions, from the confessions of heartbreak to philosophical conjectures. Those who write in epistolary form, therefore, are engaging in one of the most self-conscious forms of writing. Although it has evolved greatly from the letters of antiquity through to the present moment, and although it can exist in a wide range of formal possibilities (from strict meter to the prose block), it always hides within it the same triadic balancing act: a speaker who directly addresses a recipient while we, the audience, listen in. That “listening in” is crucial. The aim of this form is to get at something universal through something absolutely subjective. That is, even though readers are not inside of the relationship in the poem, by their eavesdropping on the exchange they gain deeper knowledge about the human condition.

I thought of this triadic tension as I read through this year’s entries with great joy, eavesdropping lovingly on your conversations and conjectures. There were so many terrific poems in this bunch that I found it exceedingly difficult to narrow it down to just six. In order to make decisions, I found myself leaning toward poems that displayed an understanding of this balancing act: who showed a subtle and refined understanding of the speaker’s position as half-whisper-in-the-ear and half-speech-to-a-crowd. I was also drawn to the poets who showed a good understanding of sonic texture in their language, a keen attention to form (their forms aligned with their rhetoric), and tonal complexity or movement (their poems guided us through an emotional journey, so that we arrived at a point of surprise). I encountered many poems that I thought were excellent beginnings to personal essays but had no attention to sound. I encountered poems that were rhetorically interesting but seemed unaware of the poem’s structural possibilities. I encountered poems that had emotional heft but struck only a single emotional note. Those poems, however much I enjoyed them, didn’t land in the “yes” pile. So, the poems I chose for this year’s epistolary category impressed me with their understanding of the triadic balancing act of the form, their attention to sound and structure, and their tonal complexity.

I send heartfelt congratulations to you all for wading into this form, for trying to make sense of and give shape to what is otherwise our continuous chaos of living. May all your letters be read with love and may all your springs be bright.


Dr. Danielle Cadena Deulen


Postcard from January – 1st Place, Connie Soper

I write to you from nowhere special, simply the heart

of barren days, not on the cusp of anything.

Spindly branches splay strange webbed shapes.

And you are waiting for me to leave, weary

of barren days, not on the cusp of anything.

The birdbath is frozen, bulbs deep and dormant.

And you are waiting for me to leave, weary.

Look at my winter sky of black ice, stars skittering.

The birdbath is frozen, bulbs deep and dormant.

Zip up your wool coat with its fleece collar.

Look at my winter sky of black ice, stars skittering

like tiny explosions you just can’t hear.

Zip up your wool coat with its fleece collar.

Can you hear the ground crack under your feet,

like tiny explosions you just can’t see?

The world through windows is blunt, unadorned.

Can you hear the ground crack under your feet?

Spindly branches splay strange webbed shapes.

The world through windows is blunt, unadorned.

I write to you from nowhere special, simply the heart.

Connie Soper’s poems have appeared in Ekphrastic Review, Verseweavers, Cider Press Review, Clackamas Literary Review, and elsewhere. She divides her time between Portland and Manzanita, Oregon. Her first full length book of poetry, A Story Interrupted, was published by Airlie Press in 2022. She is currently at work on her second collection.


Dear Friend… — 2nd Place, Dan Kaufman

Excuse this residue of uttered ash

still clinging to my fingers, for it’s fall

and I’ve been burning in the yard.

Your tattered, paling blue “par avions”

from Corsica, the summer that you met Alain,

now as then your lines aglow. Another

postmarked Aspen, then as now October,

in that cast off year we realized

our unravelling. Bundled now

despite this heated, rippling air, I hear

those pages hiss, watch the curling corners

wither. Here’s one of mine “returned

to sender.” How memory flares,

a match ignited. Through swirling smoke

I stir these embers, append a settling

at the bottom…Sincerely, Autumn.

Dan Kaufman, a longtime and current OPA member, lives in Southern Oregon. His poetry has appeared in Jefferson Journal, Verseweavers, Sky Island Journal, Windfall, Pan/de/mik, Fireweed, Poeming Pigeon and has been recognized by the Oregon Poetry Association and the Southern Oregon Poetry Prize. Dan facilitates the monthly poetry open-mic at the Talent library.


To the Stylist Who Cut My Hair Last Winter – 3rd Place, Keli Osborn

When you first flung the black cape over my shoulders,

I was a superhero on holiday, a diva yielding to comfort.

Eyes shut, I reclined in your sanctum. I liked your youth,

your cheer, December light streaming into the salon.

After two or three visits, I knew about Judd, your fiancé,

about four-legged Banjo whose snapshot stuck to the mirror.

Your scissors loitered through tresses, blades in the hands

of an artist getting to know every strand. You might have

ignored details, but I was just one among dozens who sat

in your chair. Can you recall my reaction after the visit

last March? I respect asymmetry, sure, but lack the face

for Picasso or Braque. You mended my look with a snip

and a dab, or at least pretended to try. Should I have said

I’d never be back? Like a shark, I have to keep moving.

Oh, Stylist, childhood primed me for exits. I miss fingers

kneading my scalp. And I’m chasing the scent of your lather.

After growing up in four countries, Keli Osborn returned to Oregon, and has made her home in Eugene for decades. On the other hand, she’s new to drumming. Keli’s poems have appeared in The Timberline Review, San Pedro River Review, Nasty Women Poets: An Unapologetic Anthology of Subversive Verse, and other publications. 


Danielle Cadena Deulen is an author, professor, and podcast host who was born and raised in Oregon. Her latest poetry collection, Desire Museum, will be published with BOA Editions next fall (2023). Her previous books include a memoir, The Riots, two poetry collections, Lovely Asunder and Our Emotions Get Carried Away Beyond Usand a poetry chapbook, American Libretto. She is co-creator and host of “Lit from the Basement,” a poetry podcast and radio show (KMUZ 100.7 FM in Salem, OR). She is an assistant professor in the graduate creative writing program at Georgia State University in Atlanta.  

Author Website:

Podcast Website:

Social Media: @dcdeulen (Instagram), @danielledeulen (Twitter)


Dr. Danielle Cadena Deulen

Assistant Professor at Georgia State University

Podcast Host at Lit from the Basement

Author at

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