Read the Winning Poems from OPA’s Traditional The Golden Shovel Category


October 24, 2022



1st Place – over the wintry, Marvin Lurie

2nd Place – Our Eyebrows Raised Like Cathedral Arches, Linda Ferguson

3rd Place – Without the Solace of Green, Trina Gaynon

1st HM – Migration, Amelia Diaz Ettinger

2nd HM – Without Effort, Brad Maxfield

3rd HM – Of Gwendolyn Brooks, Barry Vitcov

Judge’s Comments:

It was a pleasure to read the wonderful submissions for this contest, and it was difficult to select the winners from among so many clever entries.  My main criteria were control of line endings and the relationship between the source text and the resulting poem on which it is based. Did the poet draw attention to the final word in each line, or did they craft sentences and line endings that softened the presence of language that is fixed in place by the form?  Did the poet adapt the sense of the source text to fresh contexts adjacent to the source while avoiding mere duplication of meaning? 

We never want to feel as though the line marches predictably or obviously to its conclusion, but instead hope the end of one line will carry us smoothly to the next. James Longenbach, in his book The Art of the Line, makes a distinction between line endings that align with syntactical units, which he calls parsed, and those that cut across syntactical units, which he calls annotated. Careful balance between parsed and annotated lines can produce surprising effects when lines are read in isolation.  Sometimes a line is syntactically coherent when taken by itself, but when read in context with the following line, the syntax expands and offers multiple meanings. 

Aside from control of line endings, the best poems in this form also absorb the borrowed words seamlessly so that they avoid drawing attention to themselves, while making a whole new poem separate from but akin to the sense of the source material. 

Among the winners you will see a satisfying tension between Robinson Jeffers’ hard monosylables and the fluid imagery of Dali’s Persistence of Time, echoes of modernist word play and stream of consciousness, and sudden shifts of perspective that complicate otherwise pastoral scenes.  These poems provide us with many surprises and represent the work of poets strongly in control of their craft.  All the winners and honorable mentions are the work of fine poets, and I congratulate them all. 


Over the wintry – 1st Place, Marvin Lurie

forest, winds howl in rage

with no leaves to blow.


The trees are frost struck. Over

them like a cowl the

sky is gray and wintry. 

A crust of snow covers the forest

floor. Everything bends away from the winds.

Wolves gather to howl

their dominion and mastery in

this cold world, where winds rage

through the trees, coating them with

ice. All small creatures hide. No

birds dare the branches. Only a memory of leaves

remains in some small hollows to

say there once was green, so harsh are the winds that blow.

Marvin J. Lurie is a retired trade association executive who lives in Portland, Oregon. He is an active member of the Portland poetry community, including two terms on the Oregon Poetry Association Board of Directors (OPA) and as a participant in several critique groups. He is an almost perpetual poetry student at the Attic Institute of Arts and Letters in Portland as a multi-year member of its Poets Studio and a 2016-17 Fellow of its Atheneum.


Our Eyebrows Raised Like Cathedral Arches – 2nd Place, Linda Ferguson

          From a line in “A Carafe, that is a Blind Glass” by Gertrude Stein

Just what is a

Mrs. Malvarap, anyway? What kind                  

of trip or trap, chit or chat is that, clompity clap, in

lumberjack boots and sunflower hat, guzzling from a glass

with a striped bee sting bobbing among the absinthe ice cubes and

plaid and khakied dads? Perhaps a

proper relation (a cardigan of a cousin

or a niece pearled within a shell’s clamped lips?) could explain a-

way our perplexity, although there’s no spectacle

here – such a relief! – nothing a gabardine cop (and/

or a calico mother) couldn’t iron with a pigeon coo pat, nothing

to stitch or staunch, despite a strange

flamingo she’s flouncing up the street (not to church, though, A-             

men to that)! Was there ever a Mister? Is there an eyelash in our pudding? A single

neon salmon? Was that her banana peel laugh taunting our stately steeple hurt?

Oh, knot your scarf, lest she season your boiled wool with some shocking color!

A five-time Pushcart nominee, Linda Ferguson is a writer of poetry, fiction and essays. Her chapbook Of the Forest was the 2nd place winner of The Poetry Box Chapbook Prize 2021, and Not Me: Poems About Other Women, is forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. Her first chapbook, Baila Conmigo, was published by Dancing Girl Press. As a writing teacher, she has a passion for helping students find their voice and explore new territory.


Without the Solace of Green – 3rd Place, Trina Gaynon

After “Flights of Swans,” Robinson Jeffers

Wear the persistence of memory, and

Live in the presence of melting watches

Grown cold and bound to a strap, the

Nightmare Dali kept alive so long:

Summer dawns, low tides on the coast.

Not one bird floats above the mountain

On the horizon. His clocks no longer vibrate.

The persistence of memory flows from

Paintbrush to canvas. Are these clocks bronze?

Able to resist the corrosive power of salt, to

Refuse to spark, to retard a patina of green.

Are the cases of these pocket watches bronze?

Their white faces with blue shadows fail to

Keep time. The shore offers no hint of green

Life. It insists on our irritable attention year

After year, tide after tide. It lives on after

The mind begins to wander, year after year,

Along bleak sands under cloudless skies, and

Finds it is never quite seven o’clock after all.

Trina Gaynon’s poems appear in Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, other anthologies, numerous journals, and a chapbook An Alphabet of Romance from Finishing Line Press. Her book Quince, Rose, Grace of God is forthcoming from Fernwood Press. She currently leads a group of poetry readers at the Senior Studies Institute in Portland and participates in the Ars Poetica community.


JUDGE James Benton lives in La Grande, Oregon with his wife of 46 years, where he teaches English Writing at Eastern Oregon University. In prior lives he has worked as a sailor, an electrician, a bill collector, a musician, a night janitor, a retail clerk, and a private investigator. He earned his MA in creative writing at Cal State Sacramento and his MFA at Eastern Oregon University. Poetry, essays, reviews and memoir have appeared in Word Riot, Convergence, Raintown Review, Tahoma Literary Review, Rattle, and many others. His collections, Sailor, and The Book of Sympathetic Magic, are published by Winter Goose Publishing.

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