Read the Winning Poems from OPA’s Themed Category

About the poems from judge Susan Rich:

No doubt that reading these strong poems during this time of COVID influenced which pieces resonated most with me.  For example, today, poetry as breath includes additional meanings. Breath also recalls how the iambic foot mimics the heartbeat, how the reader’s breath can hold onto silences in a poem. I must admit, I am partial to the lyric moment, to a time out of time.  In “Breathing,” the poet  implicates herself/himself/themself:  “It feels cliche asking the geese overhead/ for inspiration, so I don’t,” perhaps this is a nod to Mary Oliver’s poem, “Wild Geese.”  Or perhaps the bus stop is simply under a flightpath. Either way, the poet has my attention. Yet again, in the next poem, in “Waiting,” the poem is restless, it’s searching for a strong location and instead finds something different than what it is searching for:  “Hungry / lonely, the poem wants to go to a scenic overlook/ or maybe walk around behind the jail /where girlfriends of felons blow kisses / to the boys inside – ” Here I find echoes of lines from  Naomi Shihab Nye where she counsels young poets: “you might think your poem needs to go to church but really it needs to go to the dog races.”  And while one poem is searching out its subject-location, another poem is pursuing a reluctant poet. In different ways, these poems work to enliven the relationship between poet and subject:  “green with promise. /The poem cowers in a corner /or maybe that’s me.” 

As I read over this impressive range of poems, I keep interrogating myself as to which poems appeal to me and why. Some things are immediately apparent: concision, fresh imagery, surprising syntax. These are the nerdy poetic conventions I like to think about.  And while I admit to having a certain leaning towards the surreal, this bias made me scrutinize poems with surreal elements all the more. I tried as much as is humanly possible (humanly possible for me) to put my own tastes aside and to meet each poem on its own terms. I tell my students that contained within each successful poem is a map that teaches the reader how to navigate it. May you enjoy the cartographic paths these poems offer you. Happy reading.

Winners:

First Prize:  “Breathing” – Jenna Funkhouser

Second Prize: “Waiting” – Michael Hanner

Third Prize: “I Try and Run Away from the Poem, An Ars Poetica” – Donna Prinzmetal

Honorable Mentions:

First: “Nothing Up My Sleeve” – Jerri Hardesty

Second: “Lunch with the Surrealists” – Carey Taylor

Third: “Toolbelt” – Dan Kaufman

Seattle poet Susan Rich is an award-winning poet, editor and essayist. She is the author of Gallery of Postcards and Maps: New and Selected Poems, Cloud Pharmacy, The Alchemist’s Kitchen, Cures Include Travel and The Cartographer’s Tongue / Poems of the World. She has received awards from Artists Trust, PEN USA, The Times Literary Supplement, and the Fulbright Foundation. Her sixth book, Blue Atlas is forthcoming from Red Hen Press. Her seventh, Gallery of Postcards and Maps: New and Selected Poems forthcoming from Salmon Poetry, 2022. Her work has appeared in the New England Review, Image Journal, and Poetry Northwest among other journals. You can visit her at www.poetsusanrich.com.


WINNING POEMS:

Jenna Funkhouser, “Breathing” – Themed: Ars Poetica, 1st Place

Breathing

I am trying, more than anything, to be
patient. No more dashing into the crush
of self-revelation. What do you want?
the silence is asking me, and I say
nothing, nothing yet. Standing at a bus
stop in the cold, simply breathing. The
sun waiting for me behind the blue haze.
It feels cliché asking the geese overhead
for inspiration, so I don’t. I just watch.
Inhale. Unclench my hands.

Jenna K. Funkhouser is an author and nonprofit communicator living in Pacific Northwest. Her poetry has recently been published by Geez Magazine, As It Ought To Be, Ekphrastic Review, and the Saint Katherine Review, and was a runner-up in the National Federation of State Poetry Societies: Poetry Society of Indiana Award. She has imagined many lives for herself, but always ends up calling Portland, Oregon home.


Michael Hanner, “Waiting” – Theme: Ars Poetica, 2nd Place

Waiting

I’m here at the bus stop waiting for a poem,
but bus after bus and no poems.
Perhaps they took the train and are now
idling around the station waiting for a poet
to stop and give them a lift,
find a stub of a pencil,
an old ball point,
a sheet of cold white paper
empty as the moon. Hungry, lonely,
the poem wants to go to a scenic overlook
or maybe walk around behind the jail
where girlfriends of felons blow kisses
to the boys inside –
listen for their low moan
as they crush out their smokes,
look back up at the faces
in the small bright windows.

Michael Hanner is an architect whose poems are found in Spillway, Timberline Review, Shark Reef Review, Nimrod, Cloudbank, Rhino, Southern Humanities Review, Gargoyle, Mudfish and others. His most recent books are Alice, 2021, More Alice, 2021, Adriatica, 2016 and a guide book. Le Bugue, Black Périgord & Beyond, 2016. He loves Toni Hanner, sharp scissors, Esterbrook pens, travel, ironuy, English croquet, French cooking and Argentine tango.


Donna Prinzmetal, “I Try and Run Away from the Poem, An Ars Poetica” – Theme: Ars Poetica, 3rd Place

I Try and Run Away from the Poem, An Ars Poetica    

But I keep coming back.

The hunger for syllables

unravels me.

Once I was lost in a spiral geography,

maps I couldn’t follow.

The wind was whistling so hard

I could barely hear the poem

mumbling from the deep inside of things,

winding through me like smoke.

This poem is keeping a secret.

Dust speckles a shaft of sun through a window.

A door opens to a narrow dream,

green with promise.

The poem cowers in a corner

or maybe that’s me.

You know what it’s like to hear bones chatter,

their ghostly clicks and whispers.

That’s what this poem is doing now,

letting me know what I know

which is absolutely nothing.

Donna Prinzmetal is a poet, psychotherapist and teacher. She has taught poetry and creative writing for more than 30 years to adults and children. her poems have appeared in many magazines including Prairie Schooner, The Comstock Review, The Journal and Verseweavers. Her first book, Snow White When No One Was Looking, was published with CW Books in May of 2014. She is the recent recipient of the 2020 Lois Cranston Prize from Calyx Journal.

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