First Place: Bruce Dale Wise (Prize: $500)
Second Place: Damian Robin
Third Place: Reid McGrath
Honorable Mention: Betsy M. Hughes
Honorable Mention: Michael Curtis
High School Winner: Gloria Li
Best Essay: Leland James

 

A sincere congratulations to the above winners, to all of the finalists (who will be featured in the upcoming Journal), and to the hundreds of poets who participated!  Below are the winning submissions.

 

First Place: Bruce Dale Wise (Prize: $500)

Bruce Dale Wise is a poet living in Washington State.  He often writes under anagrammatic pseudonyms.

 

One Has To

One has to keep on striving even when
no one believes in what one is doing,
nobody cares what one has achieved—then!
One must go on scheming and construing.
One has to keep striving all the time,
when one’s spirit flags, when one’s doubt rises,
when one seems so distant from the sublime,
even in the midst of one more crisis.
One has to keep on striving when even
the whole world disregards all that one does,
including passing away and leaving.
At just one moment before what one was,
as long as there’s one second of living
left to do, one has to keep on striving.

 

A Herder Near the Sea
By Uwe Carl Diebes

A dream, a dream, is our life on the Earth here.
Like whitecaps in the surf, we lift our eyes and peer.
Like shadows on the waves, we drift and disappear.

We measure out our dragging steps by space and time,
and are (although we know it not) in the sublime,
as round us rolls eternity’s amazing mime.

 

Late Summer Tweet: 2013
By Li “Web Crease” Du

Poet Fu Ying,
of Liaoning,
labeled wrong
for practicing
Falun Gong,
was arrested
in Shenyang,
molested
again
for daring
to believe in
Zhen-Shan-Ren.

Note: Zhen-Shan-Ren can be translated as “Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance” and are the main principles of Falun Gong.

 

To a Fellow Traveler
By Wu “Sacred Bee” Li

I came upon the Shrine of Incense Stored,
below that gorgeous valley’s tow’ring peaks,
along the hidden tracks of men, and poured
my spirit to that beauty each soul seeks.
Deep in that ancient wood I heard a bell
and woke to find a waterfall’s harsh voice
there in the mountains—oh, I cannot tell.
I was not sad, but I did not rejoice.
I saw some larches line a lake’s round rim
and sunlight sparkles on the surface shake.
I knew that only meditation’s dream
could tame the deadly dragon in that lake,
who stirred beneath its surface, wan and gray,
as if to say, “You now are on the Way.”

 

A Vision at the Portal of Elysium
By Ed “Bear” C. U. Lewis

I saw him standing at the gate of heaven. It
was in a dream, but seemed so real I was in awe.
Behind him in my vision all was white and lit.
Dear reader, though hard to believe, I truly saw
this most magnificent of men. He was all shine
and smiling, like he was inviting me to draw
close, come. His costume draped upon his body fine.
He was so beautiful he blazed from head to toe.
He seemed so good, o, dark of skin, but pure, divine.
I wondered what it was that made his body glow.
I longed to enter in that lovely infinite.
I wanted so to join him there in all that glow.

 

 

 

Second Place: Damian Robin

Damian Robin is a writer and poet living in England.

 

Exchange
On the Harvesting of Organs from Falun Gong Practitioners

They go to
take the heart of you,
mark your skin & cut you through.

With silk knives,
their sharp skill connives
to stroke apart flesh & lives.

In surgic-
al masks, they’ll unpick
the atoms gods had made stick

until your
profitable or-
gan is isolated more

& taken
to a precise en-
trance in another human.

From large batched
statistics they’ve matched
your good part to be detached.

You’ve been chos-
en: & when thread sews
you shut & again blood flows

through your heart,
your heart will restart
as a stranger’s body part

& where your
heart was will burn/cure
in an incinerator.

 

Manifesto

Clouds skip away from the full shine of the full moon
The palace is lit up
The maestro lifts his stick
Majesty begins
The richness of kings
at least in human terms

How quick things are
Violins gone from the ballroom
Metal heartstrings crushed at the crowded dance floor bar
A slow-paced miss-matched lovers’ tryst
empties a club
A crowd vomits onto the kerb
A moist eye mirrors a fist
There are boot prints on the face of the moon

The perfect is undone
—or perhaps never was—
but culture carries on
answering the question
“why?” with a loose “because.”

So, we can say curtly:
“This age will make a mark.
Let it be light, not dark.
An artist’s calm duty
is to make clear beauty.”

 

Straining to Photograph a Distant Lake and Trees from a Moving Train

The lake cradles symmetries of spring trees.
The sky scries the membrane of wide waters:
unseen breezes, like me, are passers-by
somehow touching the lake, trees, reeds, clouds, sky.
My eyes focus on these without shutters,
curved lenses, flat prisms, mirrored degrees,
or a cam’ra.

Time is ev’rywhere. Chances come and go.
Human measures don’t hold change; they’re certain
to follow the universe and The Way:
birth, stasis, degeneration, decay:
and the core of Falun Gong: Zhen-Shan-Ren.
Our image of the cosmos moves so slow
it’s like a photo.

The lake acts still. Rests at perceived bound’ries.
A discrete life. Its thoughts float and stir,
share vast heavens, multi-universes,
worlds’ peripheries, karmic reverses –
images appearing out of nowhere,
or trays of developing chemistries
in a darkroom.

My smartphone can’t pin down this transience.
Digitalised snaps are surface soap suds,
their skins can’t cope with what’s seen from the train.
Though other unseen dimensions retain
this spring moment, I strain to see buds.
Yet I know they’re there – hiding their essence
like pixels.

 

Preparing for Winter and Spring

An English Autumn’s Coming

Indoors, a crisp leaf skates on smooth floorboards,
gunned by silent puffs from our gapped doorway –
A fragile scout in advance of damp hoards
soon to glut local pavements and roadsides
with the soaked, soft sprawl of  urban decay.

Winter Weight–A Present Hallowe’en

Keep close; after what’s fallen has rotted:
the cold—old feelings that dropped forgotten—
the stony dead loss that was put to bed
and warmed a little—begins to rise unbroken

in black and Christmas-caked with crumbed earth
human beings are stitched with fixed grins
screen-printed to party for all they’re worth
not knowing what this mimicking begins

a close. After what’s fallen has rotted.
A cold. Good feeling lost, unspoken.
A dead loss. Beaten. Put to bed.
The Soul, bandaged, laughed at, left for dead.

The Last or First Season

A Being Beyond Belief makes a stir,
The Cosmos lit by His Ability.
Multi-sunned choirs inspire the air,
peel earth’s walls to take The Light To Be
while Others fall beside eternity.

 

 

Third Place: Reid McGrath

Reid McGrath is a poet living and working in the Hudson Valley. 

 

Metamorphic Rock

Pressure is what the loam feels when, buried
and dis-tracted, it cannot function right;
when it cannot get at the rain and light;
when it, by a hellish heat, is harried.
When it is not prepared, or preparing,
To produce, what it was meant to produce;
when its physical makeup is not loose;
when it’s sick and tired of temporizing.
For what it wants is to produce good fruit;
to rise like cream out of that sub-terrain.
But who we are is never absolute;
and via all this pressure and this pain,
solidified like some rare earth-bound loot,
it settles by becoming rock again.

 

Juxtaposition

Here is a blonde-marked maple tree:
Stands by the road so stolidly
While mourners make their floral shrines
And in the night a taper shines;
But soon the taper will burn out
And yet the tree will remain stout;
And it will stand for years to come
Spreading its leaves beneath the sun;
And in the Fall will drop them too,
And with some Springs its bark renew.

Us mourners, we, will go to bed,
But where can a tree lay its head?
It does not budge or cringe or cry,
And does not ask the question: Why?
It’s just a token that young man
Was done in by his own élan.

 

Stopping by Courts on a Sunny Morning

One night-crawler out on this sparkling court,
Dried-up and shriveled, overdone, not red,
Neglected to take heed, or to report
‘Twas all mirage; to turn around instead.
Followers, these, in the benighted hours,
Had wriggled out to nab a bit of wet;
Who in the sun wilt faster than flowers.
This holocaust is something to regret.

If one was living: I was curious.
I paced the court off with an eagle eye.
The cocky sun was sure, was luminous.
But near the fringe hap’ly did I espy
One writhe (or throe); his pain would I allay.
I threw him in the woods and went away.

 

Honorable Mention: Betsy M. Hughes

Betsy Hughes graduated from Vassar College with an A.B. in English and an abiding love for poetry.  She earned her M.A. in English from The University of Dayton and taught high school English for 30 years at The Miami Valley School.  In retirement she has moderated courses in literature and creative writing for The University of Dayton Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.  Her sonnets have appeared in The Ohio Poetry Association Anthology “Everything Stops and Listens” and in several literary journals.  Betsy is the 2013 winner of the Stevens Manuscript Competition sponsored by the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, with her book entitled “Breaking Weather” to be released in the spring of 2014.  Her primary interests revolve around her (retired) professor husband, two children, and four grandchildren.   

 

Ballet Lesson

The flow has ebbed and left a tidal pool.
A little tern wades in with webbed feet
So delicate they wobble in the cool
But keep the balance of this athlete.
She moves her slender body, takes the stance
Of ballerina on the sandy floor,
Performs her birdlike steps in daring dance
Just inches from the deeper waters’ shore.
Encore!  Petite danseuse with such esprit
That you forget the dangers of the flood,
The predators that spoil your fantasy,
The squalls and all that make you quickly scud.
Oh graceful swallow, from you may we learn
Through time and tide to turn and turn and turn.

 

Interruption

A golden silence reigns — a holy time
When on this autumn day of burnished leaves
And fruitful harvest in its perfect prime,
The quiet permeates the air and weaves
A web of wonder in my soul.  But then!
Such sudden piercing, penetrating scream!
A handsome hawk appears within my ken
And, swooping down, it interrupts my dream.
This keen-eyed predator is on the hunt,
So swift to strike with strong and seizing claw
That my complacency is an affront,
I must respond respectfully with awe.
For there is beauty in this bird of prey,
In nature’s moment, drama for the day.

 

Runes

The reason why I pocketed this stone:
It beckoned from the bottom of a pool,
A shallow in the lake — It was alone,
My own — I felt it round and smooth and cool.
Another day I found a driftwood piece,
An ugly form which waves rejected, beached.
This long proboscis was a strange caprice;
Exposed to sun, the nose was pocked and bleached.
My favorite souvenir might be this shell
Upon whose enigmatic face an eye
Stares up at me inscrutably.  Its spell
Has fateful powers known to signify.
Inspired, I worship texture, shape, design;
Inscribed are notes of nature’s underline.

 

April Earth

Beneath us sleeps a secret, patient world
Of fertile earth and plantings — bulbs and seeds
In moistened soil, safely tucked and curled,
Receiving rains sufficient to their needs.
The ground is soundless.  Underneath, the mood
Is active waiting, purposeful, and pure –
Anticipation cooled with quietude
Until a sure emergence is secure.
Then urgent stems must make their run to light,
They push through pathways in the loam, upswing –
Up!  Up!  –  toward a place where all is bright,
They burst into the warmth and fire of spring.
New shoots from tubers, bulging buds give scope
To subterranean harbingers of hope!

 

Honorable Mention: Michael Curtis

Michael Curtis has 40 years of professional experience in architecture, sculpture, and painting.  He has taught and lectured at universities, colleges, and museums including The Institute of Classical Architecture, The National Gallery of Art, et cetera.  His paintings and sculptures are featured in over 300 private collections; his many public statues can be found in The Library of Congress, The Supreme Court, other public buildings and squares.  Professional experiences include Archivist of State Art (Michigan); guest curator, The Detroit Institute of Art; founder of art galleries; widely published poet; founding director of The National Civic Art Society, et cetera.


The Sculptor to His Apprentice

Instruction

The tales of Ovid are a theme that suits
The Prince, but will not do for your repute.
Avoid lust.  Clients of the better kind
Desire the tales that beautify the mind.
You may display the human flesh with taste
Discreetly in the hands and face.  Be chaste:
Show in your theme what suits the moral best;
Put in the good and true, leave out the rest.
And yet, even the clergy like their jewels
To glister Heaven and to glimmer Hell,
And every congregation comes to see
Angels above when they are on their knees.
Put in the awe invention can devise
For art should be a feast for human eyes.

Envision 

Allow the man to know the ecstasy,
Let him participate in what he sees,
Incise the swollen tongue to make him feel
The taste of agony: Make it real.
Press in the broken skin, paint on the white
Of eyes the drops that glisten and excite
The senses of the man; draw out the knife
With precision to lend the martyr life.
Overflow the canvas, make the picture breathe
With color and with light, show all things seeth-
Ing, swelling, feeling force of the divine
Presence of our God.  Make your painting shine
And shimmer, draw him upward heavenly
To let him be the picture: Make him see.

Imitation

Seek in your art the grandeur of the Greek,
The noble calm, the sweet simplicity.
Question Nature, conceive Her, look beyond
Into Platonic Forms, hold them, respond
With measured lines determined logically,
Like angels sing, purely and exactly.
Balance the essences, leave out the rest,
Choose for your model summits of the best.
Restrain your brushes and confine your hues
To form an object of abiding truth—
That skill of art which is most rarely won
Is found in things lavishly underdone.
Think to know and know then what to feel.
The greatest art is art which is ideal.

Genesis

All men and nations move, as move they will
Compelled by storms some purpose to fulfill;
Never knowing where they go, nor why;
They live, they do some things and then they die.
The artist stands apart, he stands alone:
Seas swirl, leaves blow, he keeps his place like stone,
Some great stone standing buffeted by waves,
He and his thoughts heroic hold their place.
He looks into the tempest’s wild rage
Calm and sure, the Caesar of his age
He marshals men unborn to do his will,
Time breaks, reforms, his purpose to fulfill.
Like Nature to its functions, God in awe,
The feeling of the artist is the law.

Realigned

The essence of the line restricts, contracts,
It is by nature a defining act.
The line contains an image in the past,
It draws us back, it binds, it holds us fast.
The vastness of the brain will set you free,
Just close your eyes and let the painting be;
Be free of concepts, free of old régimes;
Let go your will, allow the brush to dream.
Yet master, line can hold a thing in place;
What harm will happen to an unlined face?
If we erase, what horrors might we reap?
Monsters will roam the earth when reason sleeps.
If we by breaking lines break with the past,
What law of art allows an art to last?

 

High School Winner: Gloria Li

Gloria Li is a junior in high school and an aspiring marine biologist living in Florida. In her free time, she likes to draw, paint, sing and make movies with her friends.

 

Homo Aestheticus

Art: ephemeral human perfection,
fueled by practice and whetted by taste,
petals blossomed from seeds of reflection,
a speech­–undelivered–scrawled in such haste!

And still, tales woven by the painter’s brush,
history in the eyes of stone long carved,
strike so lucid, overpowering a rush,
into the hearts of men for ages starved!

Oh, rapture that endures the test of Time,
shine light into eyes blind for far too long,
and they, civilizations in their prime,
shall immortalize their artists in song!

How low you are, humanity, how flawed–
and yet in your beauty how like a god!

 

Taste of Utopia  

I’ve walked the streets of decades decadent
idyll unto my idle heart bequeath–
spied angst upon faces, lady and gent,
but felt an intimate joy underneath.

I’ve walked with the destitute of our world,
small children’s feet stained with the dirt of life,
yet seen the sun on their faces unfurled
as they laughed through many a starless strife.

I’ve walked to the edge of the cliff and stared
down at a world of ephemeral kind;
the bittersweet breeze caught me unprepared
as greatness tickled the back of my mind.

For every man or woman’s paradise,
lies not in front, but behind their two eyes.

 

Toussaint’s Imprisonment
An Overture to the Present

Gone now were those passion-filled days,
when calm discourse fell victimized
to gunpowder shouts and rebellious craze
while battles raged past ideas unrealized.

Gone now were those young boys’ faces,
names and bodies forever to juggle
in his mind as they moved to greener places;
shameless reprieve, away from the struggle!

Now was the time of iron-clad bars,
risen in front of him like the looming gate
that conceals a land of velvet-kissed stars
and pleasures, pleasures of the human state!

Thought he to himself, in the darkness of night,
cursed is the world that lets the glorious fade,
the ones who before sang with war-seasoned might,
and now are on the edges of coffins displayed.

 

Best Essay: Leland James

Leland James has been published over 100 poems worldwide in over fifty journals and magazines, including The Society of Classical Poets Journal, The South Carolina Review, New Millennium Writers, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Aesthetica. He has published two books of poetry, Inside Apples and the forth coming This is the Way the World Ends from Finishing Line Press. He was an International Publication Prize winner in the Atlanta Review poetry competition, winner of the Portland Pen Poetry Prize, and runners up for Society of Classical Poets, the Fish International, and the Welsh poetry prizes. He received the Franklin-Christoph Merit Award for Poetry in 2008. He lives in a cabin in the woods in northern Michigan with his wife of 40 years. You may see more of his poetry at www.lelandjamespoet.com.

Click here to read the winning essay.

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2017 Poetry Competition Submission Instructions Submit three to five poems, each of which does not exceed 50 lines. Email as a word file or in the email body to submissions@...

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