1st Place: Crystal Willer, “Diptych in Black and White”

2nd Place: Connie Soper, “I and the Village”

3rd Place: Nancy Flynn, “Learning to See”

1st HM: Louise Barden, “Pieta: 1964 World’s Fair”

2nd HM: Keli Osborn, “A Certain Constellation”

3rd HM: Suzy Harris, “To Marc Chagall’s Falling Angel”

Judge’s Comments:

Ekphrasis is challenging, for both the writer and the reader. An ekphrastic poem is tasked with evoking an artwork for a reader who may never have encountered it before. At the same time, the poem also seeks to transform that artwork, to render it through the poet’s worldview, and in the process to make it strikingly different from what the reader might encounter if they were to view that photograph or sculpture or painting on their own terms.

In reading the entries for this contest, it was a pleasure to be both introduced to and reminded of such a range of inspiring artwork. As I selected winners and honorable mentions, I looked for poems that both sparked my curiosity about the artwork and seemed to offer a worldview independent of it. Ultimately, I chose the poems that invited me to focus on their language, the medium in which these poets craft their creations.

“Diptych in Black and White” balances careful observation with mystery. The otherworldly figure of the mother appears unexpectedly in the photographs. She is both hardly there and ever present, both as she was in reality and not at all so. The poem gestures toward all the other moments in life when we might pay such close attention to details–whether in a photograph or in our relationships–and yet still don’t truly know what or who we’re looking at.

“I and the Village” startled me with its surprising line breaks and brought a new attentiveness to details in a painting I’ve viewed many times. By inhabiting a character in the painting, this poem demonstrates how, sometimes, great art picks up where other great art ends.

“Learning to See” alludes to multiple artworks–a poem, a photograph, a mural–and distills them into a fierce litany of transformation. This poem becomes a kind of prayer for clarity, for an acknowledgment of history that others seek to erase, for an unblinking witnessing of contradictory truths.


Diptych in Black and White, 1st Place, Crystal Willer

This one’s mostly made of shadow. In the foreground is the door. 

The doorknob is a clean black cut out in the white wood, 

shine reflecting on the roundest part, like a cartoon. 

There’s the vertical border of the door and on the left, 

the side black with shadow, a small rectangle of white, 

and inside that, my mother. Her head is turned back, 

into the camera, and her hair is cut just above the shoulder, 

pulled into a half ponytail. Flecks of white are her eyes 

and mouth opening, which make her look a little demonic, 

laughter in a featureless face. It’s easy to say it mocks me—

the door as bad metaphor, the imp mother and her twisted 

look from the white shape saying, so little left, so little right.    


This one’s divided evenly in two: on the right is a door painted 

white with a black metal knob and lock, on the left is a wall 

with a framed drawing, a hatted woman’s face and some

curved shape on her right that looks like a boot but isn’t. 

Below that, my mother. She looks straight at the camera, 

doesn’t smile. Her hair is dark although I know it wasn’t. 

She’s wearing a black sweater and a heart necklace 

that’s whiter than the whites of her eyes. I never saw 

the necklace among her belongings, but I don’t think 

I would have worn it. There’s a shadow under her right eye 

like a bruise, or like her cheekbone is too high on that one side. 

I look right in her eyes. I don’t know what I’m looking at.

Artwork: Two untitled photographic prints by Barbara Jo Jenkins, 1983.

Crystal Willer’s poems have appeared in the Spoon River Poetry Review, Territory, West Branch Wired, The Columbia Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She has an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis and an MLIS from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and daughter, and works as an archivist at Lewis & Clark College.


I and the Village, 2nd Place, Connie Soper

Great art picks up where nature ends

——Marc Chagall

What is green but an arranged marriage

between yellow and blue;

so if you should wonder, and wonder

you would,

at the color of my face, nose, and cheek—

same hues as the sprouting olive

sprig I carry—

just know that a happy collision of paints


found synchronicity on my skin.

What you see is what you believe

and what you believe is what you see.

In my village fish fly, goats

swim. The peaceful beasts do not cry

out in pain or fear; no, they smile—smile

gifting sweet yellow cream

the farmers’ wives will churn to butter.

Here, too, a fairy-tale woman plants feet

in the sky; her violin spilling a liquid music upside

down, melodies so strung

with mystery and melancholy that I

and the village remember those songs

somersaulting over and under the corn/sun

flower fields.

After:  I and the Village, Marc Chagall

Connie Soper is a hard-core Oregonian who likes to visit small towns, hike, and walk the beaches of Oregon. Many of her poems are inspired by experiencing those places in all the seasons. She divides her time between Portland, and Manzanita, Oregon. Her poems have appeared in Ekphrastic Review, Catamaran, Cider Press Review, One Art, VerseWeavers, and elsewhere. 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.


Learning to See, 3rd Place, Nancy Flynn

                                                                       beginning with a line by Sylvia Plath

                                  & in response to “Untitled 3,” Lucas DeShazer’s photograph

                              of a mural on the Tee Pee Drive-in, Grand Coulee, Washington

Let this eye be an eagle.

Let it eye me until I am off, taking wing in the distance, aloft.

Let it focus on turbines of guilt cascading over a dam, the revelries of flood. 

Let it see the sign noting closed and the neon in the window contradict. 

Let the door open with a toll and close with mere slaps on a hand.

Let me remember each teepee once housed a ritual fire of grease.

Let this eagle be an eye.

Let it strain to piercingly stare—down, at, into then across

The ravine of a bottomland, breached.

On this morning of wild snow gilding green leaves

When the fronds of the ferns are arrows of droop

While bulbs persist, shoot up, in spite of winter’s claw—

What the eagle-eyed have seen: the drowning of graves, the indigenous driven out. 

Reclaim means retrieve, recover, bring (wasteland) under cultivation, reform.

Civilize. Tame.

Violence can be sputter on the grill, one steelhead flipped into a reservoir of loss. 

Let this eagle be an eye caught in the eddies of ruthless

Disregard. A bird of prey. Unblinking.

Nancy Flynn grew up on the Susquehanna River in northeastern Pennsylvania, spent many years on a downtown creek in Ithaca, New York, and now lives near the mighty Columbia in Portland, Oregon. She attended Oberlin College, Cornell University, and has an M.A. in English from SUNY/Binghamton. Her writing has received an Oregon Literary Fellowship and the James Jones First Novel Fellowship. Recent publications include the poetry collection, Every Door Recklessly Ajar. Her website is


Jennifer (JP) Perrine is the author of four books of poetry: Again, The Body Is No MachineIn the Human Zoo, and No Confession, No Mass. Perrine’s recent poems, stories, and essays appear in The Missouri Review, Cutbank, Plant-Human Quarterly, Buckman Journal, Harpur Palate, and Cascadia: A Field Guide Through Art, Ecology, and Poetry. A 2022 Oregon Humanities Community Storytelling Fellow, and a 2022-23 Independent Publishing Resource Center Artist-in-Residence, Perrine cohosts the Incite: Queer Writers Read series, teaches writing and gender studies at Portland Community College, and serves as a wilderness guide.


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