Read the Winning Poems from OPA’s New Poets Category

October 24, 2022



1st Place — Eyelashes in the Sink, Christine Payne

2nd Place – Safe, Zachary Paul

3rd Place – My Mother Said, Ann Stinson

1st HM – Ghosts, Olivia Niland

2nd HM – The apple tree is gone, M. Sean Stanley

3rd HM – Ordinary—A Ghazal, Becky Chinn

Judge’s comments:

The first-place winner, “Eyelashes in the Sink,” is not afraid to go to the lengths it needs to in order to make the reader feel something. Poems about illness are tricky—so much has already been said—but this poem is an original take, its emotions unvarnished and very real, and the poet also chose this difficult villanelle form, against which this angry poem strains like a dog pulling on a leash. It’s brilliantly rendered, true to the moment, and utterly memorable. The second-place winner, “Safe,” is about as pared down as poem can be; no words are wasted, and even the form is bare minimum—no capitalization, very little punctuation, except for those two delightful and surprising exclamation points. It goes to unexpected places, even though that box stays right where it is—which is the heart of the poem. “My Mother Said” took third place for its gentle motion—from the comment by the mother to glimpses of the teenager’s life to the step forward in time in the fourth stanza, and then the earnest wish that the mother had been someone different. The poem never veers into sentimentality, and offers up one small surprise after the other as it whispers through this quiet story that resonates on so many levels.

            I love the visual and grammatical fragmentation of the first honorable mention, “Ghosts”; its irregular stanza and line lengths bring to mind a torn fabric as it jumps from recollection to dream, and then veers off in another direction at the end. I didn’t know what to expect from one line to the next—a wonderful thing in a poem. “The apple tree is gone,” the second honorable mention, looks as well crafted visually as a stone wall, and reaches for the extra-interesting words—“hale,” “twining,” and that amazing phrase, “Left to new architects and / to gardens for animal desires.” The ambiguities—the relationship between the people, how much is real and how much metaphor—heighten the pleasure of the poem. And the third honorable mention, “Ordinary—A Ghazal,” is joyful and playful right from the first line, tossing around internal rhymes and clever echoes at the ends of lines. It was a smart move to choose “ordinary” as the recurring word, and this poet made the most of the possibilities, celebrating language as the poem winds among humor, dread, and everyday tenderness.


Eyelashes In The Sink – 1st Place, Christine Payne

Poison through your veins will flow

sickening all it grazes.

You’re not here anymore, just go.

Brittle hair unwilling to grow

mocks in the shower drain.

Poison through your veins will flow.

Am ambitious life now lying low.

A pariah, a ravaged phantom.

You’re not here anymore, just go.

The delight of food a fading glow.

Old joys a torturous burden.

Poison through your veins will flow.

Sleep, deep sleep is all you know.

Better there than awake and aware.

You’re not here anymore, just go.

Friends’ platitudes are all for show.

Eyes betray their impatience.

Poison through your veins will flow.

You’re not here anymore, just go.

Christine Payne is a cancer patient who is struggling with chemotherapy (the theme of her poem). She occasionally writes short stories but rarely poetry. She was having a bad day and this spewed out of her. She’s not usually such a downer! Normally her free time as a retiree is spent playing Pickleball or walking her mini Australian Shepherds.


Safe  — 2nd Place, Zachary Paul

whenever we move

i find

that crystal



wedding gift







Zachary Paul is a father, husband, school teacher, and poet. Originally from a small coastal town in Oregon, he now resides in the Willamette Valley.


My Mother Said – 3rd Place, Ann Stinson

I’m glad he’s kissing you there

instead of other places.

upon seeing the hickey

on my fifteen year old neck.

A neck normally bent

over a library book or

craned to see the river

from the top of a fir tree.

For years I told this story for laughs;

my cool, outspoken mother.

My fifty-nine year old self winces.

Wants to remember a soft shoulder touch,

maternal curiosity,

Do you like him?

Are you enjoying yourself?

Ann Stinson grew up on her family’s tree farm on a ridge above the Cowlitz River. After high school, she left rural life to study and work in cities: Seattle, Tokyo, New York, and Portland. Her brother’s untimely death brought her back, to write about the land and its people. She is the author of The Ground at My Feet: Sustaining a Family and a Forest, published by Oregon State University Press in November 23022. She joined OPA this year.


JUDGE Amy Miller’s Astronauts won the 2022 Chad Walsh Chapbook Prize from Beloit Poetry Journal, and her full-length poetry collection The Trouble with New England Girls won the 2017 Louis Award from Concrete Wolf Press. Her poems have appeared in Barrow Street, Copper Nickel, Narrative, RHINO, Terrain, Tupelo, Quarterly, Willow Springs, and ZYZZYVA. She received a 2021 Oregon Literary Fellowship in Poetry and lives in Ashland, where she works for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and is the poetry editor of the NPR listeners’ guide Jefferson Journal. Website


IG: amymillerpoet


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