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"Whirligig" by S. Brady Tucker, Honorable Mention in the 2004 War Poetry Contest

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"The Castration of Sam McGee" by C. Wayne Lammers, Second Prize in the 2007 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest

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Award-Winning Poems: Winter 2009-2010

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Welcome to our Winter 2009-2010 selection of award-winning poems. These quarterly specials are included with your free Winning Writers Newsletter subscription. We'll release our next regular newsletter on December 15, where we'll be announcing the winners of the sixth annual Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse.

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Submit online to Carpe Articulum
Carpe Verbum Essay/Non-Fiction Postmark Deadline: January 7, 2010
Carpe Verbum Novella Postmark Deadline: January 7, 2010
Carpe Articulum Literary Review
Welcome to Carpe Articulum Literary Review! You can submit online! We look forward to reviewing your work and wish you luck in the contests. We are an international review with over 35,000 readers. We give away $10,000 every year to outstanding writers and artists and hope you will decide to become a member of our literary circle of friends. Enter our fiction, non-fiction, poetry, novella and photography contests at any time of year. We also accept submissions outside our contests via email.

The magazine is 150-200 pages of full-colour delight, translated into five languages. We feature short fiction, poetry, informative articles, photography, non-fiction and incredible interviews with hot up-and-coming writers as well as iconic ones such as Jodi Picoult (author of Change of Heart, Handle With Care, Nineteen Minutes, and My Sister's Keeper which was made into a major motion picture with Cameron Diaz) and Nicholas Sparks (author of Message in a Bottle, also made into a motion picture with Kevin Costner & Robin Wright Penn, as well as The Notebook, The Last Song, etc.) And that is just this October issue!

Our writing staff includes two ex-New York Times writers (both of whom are draped in copious prestigious writing awards) as well as movie and television people for national networks. We are truly fortunate to have a full-time staff of such quality people. Our readers make up the rest of the content via their submissions. You do not have to enter a contest to be published with us. Moreover, we are the original cross-genre, international review in the world. Our readership list reads like a virtual Who's Who list and that is specifically cultivated to make certain that the winners of the award series get the maximum exposure to important agents and writers who have the power to influence writing careers.

Please enjoy this gratis electronic version of our latest issue, a preview of what you can look forward to should you decide to become one of our literary family members. We offer a great deal to our readers, superior to other reviews in scope, resources and content. Should you decide to become one of our cherished subscribers, you will receive one issue free of charge and will also find yourself immersed in short fiction, poetry, incredible interviews with great and famous writers, and articles which are insightful, timely, and informative.


Congratulations to Helen Bar-Lev. She won the international category in the Senior Poets Laureate Competition from Amy Kitchener's Angels Without Wings Foundation. This contest offers a top prize of $500 for poems by US citizens (including those living abroad) who are aged 50+. The most recent deadline was June 30. Helen was named International Senior Poet Laureate for her poem "Venus". Our subscribers Ruth Hill and Diana Woodcock won the International Honor Scroll runner-up prizes. Read their poems here.

Congratulations to Monterey Sirak. Her poetry collection In the Presence of Shadows was published by BluewaterPress. This book is characterized by a strong connection to the Earth and to the Native American people. Monterey Sirak says of her work, "I write poetry as a way to reweave the frayed threads of life into a tapestry with a recognizable pattern. Everything in life is intertwined and dependent on each other. Somewhere in the passing of generations and time, we forgot we are the caretakers of each other and the earth. Understanding is the thread that will complete the pattern." She kindly shares a poem from this collection below.

Congratulations to Patricia McCarty. Her sonnet "Katydid" was published in The Binnacle, the literary journal of the University of Maine at Machias, as a runner-up in their 2009 Ultra-Short Competition. This free contest awards $300 in prizes for poems up to 16 lines and prose up to 150 words. The next submission period is December 1-February 15. In addition, McCarty's sonnet "Make Mine Darjeeling" will be published in the December issue of Rattle: Poetry for the 21st Century.

Congratulations to Devi Amanullah. Her poem "It Was Just a Dream" won second prize in MoonTown Cafe's Hot Poetry Contest. This free online writers' forum offers a variety of contests throughout the year. Visit her website to learn more about her writing and artwork.

Congratulations to JT Milford. His poem "Conjunction" won an honorable mention in the Heart Poetry Award from Nostalgia Press. We regret that this enjoyable journal ceased publication in 2009.

Congratulations to Berwyn Moore. She was named the first Poet Laureate of Erie County, PA. Read the press release here. In addition, her poem "Pins and Needles" won second prize in The Pinch Writing Awards for 2009, and her poem "MS" was posted on the Best American Poetry website on July 10. The Pinch is the literary journal of the University of Memphis. The most recent submission period for this contest, which offers $1,000 for poetry and $1,500 for short fiction, was January 15-March 15.

Congratulations to Karen Winterburn. She won the Novice Christian Poetry Contest from Utmost Christian Writers for the second year in a row, with her poem "Endgame". Her poem "Aporia of the Gift" also won the award for best rhyming poem. This C$500 award from a Canadian literary website is open to Christian poets whose work has never appeared in a print publication. The most recent deadline was August 31.

Congratulations to Irene Mosvold. Her story "Standard of Care" was one of five shortlisted for the 2009 Bill Naughton Short Story Competition and will be published in their annual anthology, Splinters. This contest, with a top prize of 200 euros, is sponsored by the Kenny/Naughton Autumn School, an Irish writers' workshop. Deadlines are in early September. Email Paul W.D. Rogers for details.

Congratulations to Ellen LaFleche. Her poem "Working the Evening Shift at the Ice Hotel in Quebec City" was a finalist for the 2009 Juked Poetry Prize and will be published in Juked, Issue #7. The Juked Fiction and Poetry Prizes offer $500 in each genre; the most recent deadline was August 31. Ellen's poem "Missing Child: Mystic, Connecticut" was also a finalist for the Many Mountains Moving Literary Awards. The most recent deadline for this $250 poetry and flash fiction contest was June 20. In addition, the online journal Wordgathering nominated her poem "Taking My Six Year Old Son to the Dinosaur Cafe" for the Pushcart Prize.

Congratulations to Valma M. Bartlett. Her poem "Assignment Number Two" won 9th place in the rhyming poetry category in the 2009 Writer's Digest Annual Writing Competition. This contest from a leading publisher of writers' resources offers prizes up to $3,000 for poetry and prose in various genres. The most recent deadline was May 15.

Joel Schwartzberg had an essay selected for inclusion in the anthology The Good Men Project: Real Stories from the Front Lines of Modern Manhood. He will be moderating a reading and discussion panel about the book in New York City this month. Schwartzberg's website was featured in an October 21 story from the Associated Press about excessively violent and explicit Halloween costumes being marketed to children. Visit his website for information on his essay collection The 40-Year-Old Version: Humoirs of a Divorced Dad.

Madeline Sharples' poems "Demolition" and "Reaching for a Star" were published in Vol. 7, Issue 2 of Perigee: Publication for the Arts, an online literary journal. She kindly shares "Demolition" below. Visit her blog for more poetry and prose.

Joanne Stephen's poetry collection Through My Eyes, Vol. 2 is now available from Read an interview with her at Beewan Magazine. She kindly shares a poem from this collection below.

Ann Eustace's poem "Bipolar Roller Coaster" will be published in the December issue of Wordgathering, an online journal of disability-related poetry and criticism.

Susan Tepper was interviewed on Brizmus Blogs Books about her new short story collection, DEER, which was published earlier this year by Wilderness House Press. Read a review here.

Christopher Provost's senryu was accepted for publication in the Fall 2009 issue of Frogpond, Volume 32, Number 3:

unrippled surface
reflecting back a stranger
exactly like me


Tom Howard/John H. Reid Short Story Contest
Postmark Deadline: March 31, 2010
Now in its 18th year. Prizes of $3,000, $1,000, $400 and $250 will be awarded, plus six Most Highly Commended Awards of $150 each. Submit any type of short story, essay or other work of prose, up to 5,000 words. You may submit work that has been published or won prizes elsewhere, as long as you own the online publication rights. $15 entry fee. Submit online or by mail. Early submission encouraged. Winning Writers is assisting with entry handling for this contest. Judges: John H. Reid and Dee C. Konrad. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest - No Fee
Online Submission Deadline: April 1, 2010
Winning Writers invites you to enter the ninth annual Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry Contest. We've simplified the entry process and increased the prize pool to $3,600, including a top prize of $1,500. There's still no fee to enter. Final judge: Jendi Reiter. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

War Poetry Contest
Postmark Deadline: May 31, 2010
We seek 1-3 original, unpublished poems on the theme of war for our ninth annual contest, up to 500 lines in total. We will award $5,000, including a top prize of $2,000. Submit online or by mail. The entry fee is $15. Final judge: Jendi Reiter. See the complete guidelines and past winners.

Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse
Postmark Deadline: June 30, 2010
Now in its seventh year, this contest seeks poetry in traditional verse forms such as sonnets and free verse. Both published and unpublished poems are welcome. Prizes of $3,000, $1,000, $400 and $250 will be awarded, plus six Most Highly Commended Awards of $150 each. The entry fee is $7 for every 25 lines you submit. Submit online or by mail. Early submission encouraged. This contest is sponsored by Tom Howard Books and assisted by Winning Writers. Judges: John H. Reid and Dee C. Konrad. See the complete guidelines and past winners. The winners of the sixth contest will be announced in this newsletter on December 15, 2009.



by Richard Deming
Winner of the 2009 Norma Farber First Book Award
Postmark Deadline: December 22
This prestigious award from the Poetry Society of America offers $500 for a first published book of poetry by a US author. Deming's Let's Not Call It Consequence was published by Shearsman Books in 2008. This melancholy, sensual poem from his collection asks whether savoring the present moment can compensate for a loss of faith in anything beyond this world.

by Gayle Reed Carroll
Winner of the 2009 Merton Prize for Poetry of the Sacred
Entries must be received by December 31
This free contest offers $500 for a poem that "expresses, directly or indirectly, a sense of the holy or that, by its mode of expression, evokes the sacred." Thomas Merton was a 20th-century Catholic monk and author who combined Christianity with Eastern contemplative practices. This poem unexpectedly finds a quiet beauty in an old man's surrender to Alzheimer's, without glossing over the confusion and sadness.

by Joshua Corey
Winner of the 2008 Tupelo Press Dorset Prize
Postmark Deadline: December 31
This highly competitive award offers $3,000 and publication by a leading independent press. In these selections from Corey's prizewinning Severance Songs, recurring themes of rain and moisture seem to symbolize the way that human connections are intensely felt yet elusive and always about to evaporate.

We are gathering a growing library of award-winning poems in Poetry Contest Insider, over 125 to date. Enjoy a wide range of today's best work. Sign up for a free trial.





by S. Brady Tucker

The Dead:

When he is alone, in an
easy chair, say, or in the dark,
under a raspberry jam night sky, sitting
on his oak deck, he hears them:

he hears Sammy and Doug and Erik whisper
their jealousy—they whisper their hatred for
his life and the world simmers with a
terrible heat, and he is not

alone for a moment, but awfully
surrounded by them again, and he
knows what they mean when they
speak to him, and his blood red and blue

from heart to arteries to veins
beats like syrup and he is in the desert
again, his knee in the sand, his tan
desert combat boots dug in as if

rooted there, and he hears again the
sound of them whispering with the voices
of bullets popping and whirring and
thumping flesh, and he hears them

roar their fear so loud and awful
and terrible that his weapon falls to his
feet and his gloved hands hold bloody
chunks of sand against his ears

to drown out the sound of it all. When
it is over, he shakes the sand out of
his baby fine hair, and he picks up his
discarded weapon in shame. To the east, bombs

and bullets still purr as a war rends everything
he knows and everything he ever will know.
When he is alone, they remind him:
"You will never be alone. Never."

The Alive:

When there are other people around,
he knows that some of it isn't
real—like how the feel of Erik's
blood sticking to the black metal

of his weapon was real, or how the
oily smoke of Erik's blood burned his
nostrils when his weapon overheated was real.
Real real. And he knows this is wrong and untrue

and he is as afraid of getting help
as he was in that desert when everything
went wrong in the world. So he pretends
that they are not a fiction, that they exist,

like Erik's severed foot existed still tied
into its boot—how it felt to pick up that
foot and place it in a pile of other things that
were Erik's, and sometimes it even works for him.

Do you see why he thinks of the world like
proverbs in fortune cookies? "Burning flesh is
the smell of success!" or, "You are alive for some
obscure reason." He smiles sometimes when

he thinks like this, but he knows it isn't funny.
He knows that they will continue to whisper to
him for the rest of his life, and that he is doomed
and lost and cursed. No one will ever laugh with him

and no one will ever know the cowardice he is capable
of, and how Erik would be alive if it weren't for him.
But know this: somehow, one night, he will know five minutes
of peace—just five minutes of life, as it should have been.

Copyright 2004 S. Brady Tucker

This poem won an Honorable Mention in the 2004 War Poetry Contest sponsored by Winning Writers. Author S. Brady Tucker received a $50 award. See the judge's comments on the winning poems from this contest.



Paul R. Johnson's The Cry of My SoulOn Sale Now
Paul R. Johnson's The Cry of My Soul
After many years of writing Paul Johnson has released his first book of Spiritual and Inspirational poetry, called The Cry Of My Soul. Check it out at the Essence Bookstore.

This is just the back of the page
   You know, the one from the other side
      I just didn't want it to be blank
         That doesn't appeal to my eyes.
            So I thought I'd just write something
               To fill that blank, empty space
                  It seems a bit more fitting
                     You know, for the time that it takes.

So don't take these words to be serious
   But something to just make you smile
      Something to awaken a memory within
         That takes you away for awhile.

               Let these words paint you a picture
                  As they flow from my pen.
                     My hope is to put a smile on your face
                        You know, from friend to friend.

Paul R. Johnson has lived in the Yukon since the summer of 1970. He attended school in Dawson City until 1972, then went to vocational school in Whitehorse in 1973. He has worked and travelled all over the Yukon and has come to love this land and its people like no other place that he has been. He has worked in gold mines, been a long-haul trucker and a mechanic, and sung and played drums in a small-town country band.

Paul's writing began in grade 8 when he won a scholarship for the very first poem he ever wrote and since then he has written volumes.

"I haven't published much of that, though, because it was a hobby for me; more like an escape. I write of people and experiences that touch my heart. Much of my work is given away to those for whom it was written or from whom it was inspired."

Ellen LaForge Poetry Prize Closing This Month
The Ellen LaForge Poetry Prize Seeks Submissions
Postmark Deadline: December 31
Established in 1983 as the Grolier Prize, the Ellen LaForge Poetry Prize is open to all poets who have not yet published a book of poetry, including small press, chapbook or trade book. The winner receives $1,000 and two copies of the poetry prize Annual. Up to six poems by the winner and four by each of three runners-up are chosen for publication in the Annual.

Submit, in duplicate, a manuscript of up to six previously unpublished poems and no more than twelve double-spaced pages. Your name must not appear on the manuscript. Include a separate cover sheet with your name and contact information, including email address and poem titles. Entry fee: $10, payable to The Ellen LaForge Memorial Poetry Foundation.

Winner and runners-up will be notified by March 31. Please mail your entry to:
    William Joiner Center
    Healey Library, 10th Floor
    University of Massachusetts, Boston
    100 Morrissey Boulevard
    Boston, MA 02125-3393
For more information please email or visit Please enjoy this winning poem from last year's contest:
    Smallest black hole found
    by Christine Klocek-Lim

    In search of the visible woman
    I walked right past her. Didn't see
    her sitting at the table, talking
    quietly about the spirit. They say
    you can't measure the mass
    of an invisible object; you can only
    look for the energy that spins away
    from the center like a voice heard
    through a closed door, the sound
    too dim to find clearly in the dark.
    I remember her dying, the sterile tang
    of the morphine. How the last day
    her voice failed her and we learned
    ignorance. I pretended to hear the voice
    of god but there was only the silence
    and the memory of her at the kitchen table
    talking about nothing important. For years,
    all of us there with her, listening.

Grayson Books Closing Next Month
Grayson Books Chapbook Competition
Postmark Deadline: January 16, 2010
Prize: $500, publication of chapbook and 50 copies
Reading fee: $15
Submit: 16-24 pages of poetry, two cover sheets (one with contact information and one anonymous)
SASE for results only

Simultaneous submissions are permissible if we are notified immediately upon acceptance elsewhere.

This year's judge is Kate Rushin, author of The Black Back-Ups (Firebrand Books). Her "The Bridge Poem" appears in This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, an anthology edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa. Recipient of the Rose Low Rome Memorial Poetry Prize and the Grolier Poetry Prize, her work is widely anthologized. Rushin teaches creative writing at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. Previously, she taught at Wesleyan University, where she served as Director of the Center of African-American Studies, Associate Professor and Visiting Writer.

Please mail your entry and fee to:
    Grayson Books
    P.O. Box 270549
    West Hartford, CT 06127-0549

Please enjoy these poems from two of our past chapbook winners:
    Furniture by Lois Marie Harrod Putting the Refrigerator on the Curb
    From Lois Marie Harrod's chapbook, Furniture

    On the hottest day of the summer, 98 degrees,
    the refrigerator decides to walk to the curb
    with the stubbornness of a woman in a nursing home,
    who wants to go home to her crib and comforter.

    So we help the poor thing begin her journey
    back to dust, no easy trek with all her glass and plastic,
    aluminum and steel, those adamantine substances
    made to last without the memory to keep cool.

    But before we begin dismantling doors, we tell
    the refrigerator that it is her own fault just as we blame
    our fathers and our fathers' fathers for ancient

    misdemeanors, all that sweat and rotted fruit.
    When it's our turn to go, we say, no one will have to unscrew
    the hinges before we can be carried through the door.

    The Collecting Jar by Rob HardySubstitute Teaching
    From Rob Hardy's chapbook, The Collecting Jar

    Nothing I could write is as beautiful as you.
    For you I put out the flower of myself,
    and you likewise cannot help but blossom.
    There is nothing more natural than the flourish
    with which you open into the world,
    petalling outward in the profusion of yourself
    as if radiance were the simplest gift.
    Even the girl on the playground
    who sits alone with her knees to her chin
    is a bud of great hopefulness, the center
    of her own creation. She knows
    the best thing is to be wanted, and the miracle
    is that she will blossom so many times,
    resiliently reaching sunward for her place
    in the world. It is the same for me,
    coming each morning to a different
    set of lesson plans, graphing myself to the arc
    of your upward growth: for you I am flowering again.
    For you I have had to relearn everything but love.

Oregon Quarterly Closing Next Month
11th Annual Northwest Perspectives Essay Contest (no fee)
Postmark Deadline: January 31, 2010
Oregon Quarterly invites entries to the 11th Annual 2010 Northwest Perspectives Essay Contest in both student and open categories. Entries should address ideas that affect the Northwest. The Oregon Quarterly staff will select finalists and the contest judge, Tom Hager, will choose the top three winners in each category. Past judges have been Kim Stafford, Barry Lopez, John Daniel, Karen Karbo, Brian Doyle, Lauren Kessler and Craig Lesley.
  • Prizes in the Open Category: $750, $300, $100
  • Prizes in the Student Category: $500, $200, $75
  • No entry fee required
  • First-place essays will appear in Oregon Quarterly
  • A selection of top essays will be featured in a springtime public reading on the UO campus
  • Fifteen finalists (ten in the open category and five students) will be announced in the Summer 2010 issue of Oregon Quarterly
  • All finalists will be invited to participate in a writing workshop with the contest judge on the day of the reading
Entries should be nonfiction, should not have been previously published, and should be no more than 1,500 words in the student category and 2,000 words in the open category. The student contest is open to any student currently enrolled and pursuing a graduate or undergraduate degree at a college or university. One entry per person. Find the submission address and complete guidelines at (click on Essay Contest).

Please enjoy this excerpt from "Numbered Days" by Harold Toliver. This essay won first place in the open category of our tenth contest.
    ...From farther out on the plain I see in the rearview mirror several peaks above the timbered ridges. The channels for snowmelt were grooved after the last volcanic outburst, within the tenure of Native Americans. Solar uplift is even now gathering moisture at sea for the return journey. Out by land, in by air. What a cycle is there! I can't even guess how long it's been going on, though I know it's but a fraction of star cycles like that of our own native second-generation sun, imprinted on every earthling since creaturely life began.

    To Bend and through town. Photons are arriving from distant sources. To get here at just this moment they had to set forth before the sun collected its debris and began its atomic burn. On journeys of various light years, they reach the High Desert Museum just as I do, joined by a flood of rays dispatched from the sun as I was entering town eight minutes ago. Together their kind have been lighting my way by the trillions, bouncing off every surface. They are brilliant in this dry desert air. The pine needles glisten with them. The ailing warrior raptors taking R and R in the aviary luxuriate in them and air their wings in warm comfort. Moderate, this climate, nothing at all like the millions of degrees of star cores and heatless space...

Click to view "Numbered Days" in full and all the winning essays from our tenth contest.

2010 William Saroyan International Prize for Writing
Postmark Deadline: January 31, 2010
Submissions are now being accepted for the fourth William Saroyan International Prize for Writing. This award, given by Stanford University Libraries in partnership with the William Saroyan Foundation, recognizes newly published works of fiction and non-fiction with a $5,000 award for the winner in each category. The prize is designed to encourage new or emerging writers and honor the Saroyan literary legacy of originality, vitality and stylistic innovation. For entry forms and more information on the prize, visit the Saroyan Prize website:

Please enjoy this excerpt from the 2008 Fiction Winner, The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss...
    When they write my obituary. Tomorrow. Or the next day. It will say, LEO GURSKY IS SURVIVED BY AN APARTMENT FULL OF SHIT. I'm surprised I haven't been buried alive. The place isn't big. I have to struggle to keep a path clear between bed and toilet, toilet and kitchen table, kitchen table and front door. If I want to get from the toilet to the front door, impossible, I have to go by way of the kitchen table. I like to imagine the bed as home plate, the toilet as first, the kitchen table as second, the front door as third: should the doorbell ring while I am lying in bed, I have to round the toilet and the kitchen table in order to arrive at the door. If it happens to be Bruno, I let him in without a word and then jog back to bed, the roar of the invisible crowd ringing in my ears.

    I often wonder who will be the last person to see me alive. If I had to bet, I'd bet on the delivery boy from the Chinese take-out. I order in four nights out of seven. Whenever he comes I make a big production of finding my wallet. He stands in the door holding the greasy bag while I wonder if this is the night I'll finish off my spring roll, climb into bed, and have a heart attack in my sleep.

    I try to make a point of being seen. Sometimes when I'm out, I'll buy a juice even though I'm not thirsty. If the store is crowded I'll even go so far as dropping my change all over the floor, the nickels and dimes skidding in every direction. I'll get down on my knees. It's a big effort for me to get down on my knees, and an even bigger effort to get up. And yet...

    "A significant novel, genuinely one of the year's best. Emotionally wrenching yet intellectually rigorous, idea-driven but with indelible characters and true suspense."
    —New York Magazine

Houston Writers Guild Now Open
Houston Writers Guild: Grand Prize Novel Contest $1,000
Postmark Deadline: February 28, 2010
Houston Writers Guild will award $1,000 to the first-place winner in their Spring 2010 contest. Submit the first ten pages of your novel. Second prize is $300 and third prize is $200. We welcome a wide range of genres: Mainstream, Literary, Romance, Romantic Suspense, Historical, Saga, Mystery, Thriller, Spy, Action, Adventure, Sci-fi, Fantasy, and Non-Fiction. Go to for details. Winners will be announced at our Spring 2010 Workshop on April 10 featuring a prominent editor, a literary agent, and a noted screenwriter.

Please enjoy this excerpt from the beginning of Claudia Herring's novel Enchanter, the first-place winning entry in our 2009 Novel Contest:
    The desert is quiet. Still. The red sun at the horizon. The sand radiating the day's intense heat. A sinister wind whirls and dances through the dunes, trailing plumes of dust like translucent scarves of the sultan's sinuous dancers. The desert dweller clutches the talisman at his neck and silently chants the prayers that protect him from the curse of the spirits, the Kel Asuf.

    A sound arises, high and thin like a reedy flute faintly heard through rustling dried grasses. The atmosphere—taut. They flee to their sturdy tents, brave veterans of sandstorms, panicked by a force unseen, a force that ancient legends perpetuate. Inside, sitting anxiously on their kaleidoscopic carpets, ignoring the brilliant colors and entangled designs, they whisper their incantations.

    They raise their heads and listen. A hush falls; the air grows heavy; time slows. Suddenly, an enraged roar from a battle-scarred warrior shatters the silence—his takoba, his long sword, his colleague in combat—vanished. The crazed look in his eye belies his remorse at crossing one who casts spells and bestows curses. He looks to his wife, her eyes grow wide as she stumbles to the babe's crib, her hand at her talisman as she frantically pulls at the covers; she looks up, her face serene, the babe safe in her arms.

    The djinni's reprisal—merciful—this time. The djinni has come and gone.

    This is the legacy of my ancestors. This is their bequest.
    I am djinn. I am abandoned.

    When I awoke it was dark. I stretched my arms above my head, feeling the light silk of my nightdress—the hard work of thousands of industrious and sacred lepidopteran larvae and their keepers—shimmer around my body.

    The light comes up slowly, and I see the gleam of silver and gold, the glimmer of jewels on my ivory tabletop—reflecting the rubies' blood red, the emeralds' echoing green and the ancient amber of the topaz—as if it were a soft, tranquil pond. The floor is mostly in shadow, but where the light falls, it illumines colors rivaling my jewels—my rugs, the finest weave of silk from the Persian masters, treasures on which to tread.

Prairie Schooner Book Prizes in Poetry and Short FictionPrairie Schooner Book Prizes in Poetry and Short Fiction: $3,000 and Publication
Postmark Deadline: March 15, 2010 (don't enter before January 15)
Enter the Prairie Schooner Book Prize Series contest—now in its eighth year! Winners of the annual competition for a book of short fiction and a book of poetry receive $3,000 and publication by the University of Nebraska Press. Competition is open to new and established writers. Mail manuscripts with a $25 entry fee for each one to:
    Prairie Schooner Prize Series in [specify Poetry or Short Fiction]
    University of Nebraska-Lincoln
    201 Andrews Hall
    P.O. Box 880334
    Lincoln, NE 68588-0334
Complete guidelines and information are always available at: Click on the "Prairie Schooner Book Prizes" link. And be sure to visit our blog for updates: Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

    Congratulations to the winners of our seventh contest!

    The Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction for 2009 goes to Ted Gilley for his manuscript, Bliss. He will receive a $3,000 prize and publication by the University of Nebraska Press. His poems and short stories have appeared in Poetry Northwest, Northwest Review, Prairie Schooner, Rattle, the National Review, New England Review, Free Verse, and many other magazines and anthologies. Awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts/Vermont Arts Council and the McCullough Library in 2007, Gilley won the Alehouse Press (San Francisco) national poetry competition in 2008. He lives in Bennington, Vermont. Gilley is a native of southwestern Virginia but has lived in New England for thirty years.

    The winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry for 2009 is Shane Book for his manuscript, Fourth World. He will receive a $3,000 prize and publication by the University of Nebraska Press. Currently living in San Francisco, Book has published poetry in journals in the US, UK, and Canada and in many anthologies, most recently Gathering Ground (U of Michigan P). He was educated at the University of Western Ontario, the University of Victoria, New York University, the Iowa Writers' Workshop and Stanford where he was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry. The recipient of scholarships to Cave Canem, the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics, and Bread Loaf, his awards include a New York Times Fellowship in Poetry, the Malahat Review Long Poem Prize, an Academy of American Poets Prize, and a National Magazine Award.



by Monterey Sirak

Where are the stars
which formed my canopy at night?
Sister Moon was not eaten
by a giant bullfrog this time,
but was eclipsed by neon signs,
placed by man's hands
And all our drumming and singing
cannot drive them away
For they watch over the land
of concrete and steel, ruled
by the gods of prosperity
who banish free will
in this, the darkening land
The Red Path has become
The Gray Road, the trail of
lost souls, wandering aimlessly
in perpetual twilight
For the giant buildings stand
between us and the sky people
Our eyes cannot see their visions
Our ears cannot hear their words
of wisdom, for they have become
numb from constant noise
Moccasined feet, sneaker clad feet
Booted feet, and bare feet
All walking separate from each other,
over Mother Earth; who staggers
under the burdens her children
have heaped on her shoulders
And she cries for their wasted years
of sorrow and stagnation
Years of being divided,
with no forgiveness
and no reconciliation
As the rivers of sad tears
flow westward under shadowed
skies, now is the time for all
of God's children to come
together on a journey
to the sunrise
The Red Path, the Black Path,
the White Path and the Yellow Path
must become One Path;
traveling east to the lightening land
with all of humanity flowing
along hand in hand
What he did does not matter now
What she said; crystal droplets
of sound shattered long ago
The Creator made us in his inner image
Different colored brothers
sharing the same soul
Only with united hearts, can we make
The flowers grow again
The trees hum with life again
The stars dance at night again
And make Mother Earth smile again
For only love
will drive away
the shadows on our sun

Copyright 2009 by Monterey Sirak

This poem is reprinted from her collection In the Presence of Shadows, recently published by BluewaterPress.


by Madeline Sharples


We've demolished the scene of the crime.
We don't have to look into that room anymore
and wonder if little spots of blood still remain
on the floors and walls.
We will no longer step into that tub and see Paul
in his white long sleeved work shirt
and khaki pants sitting against the shower door
in a bloody puddle.
They've taken it all away.
The old aqua blue tub is gone.
The toilet, and sinks are gone.
The faux marble counter with burn stains
from the tiny firecrackers
he set off as a teenager is gone.
And the god-awful blue and yellow vinyl flooring is gone.
Sterile white tiles and fixtures will take their place
in a room where no memories
either of life or death exist at all.


Six years later
instead of the dark room
that he walked out of for the last time
leaving the door slightly ajar
his bed never slept in
his dirty laundry slung over his over-stuffed chair,
his checks from work left on the side table un-cashed for weeks,
his pictures and posters meticulously thumb tacked
in perfect rows on the walls
his books and records all lined up in alphabetical order in his closet
along with his shoes and plaid shirts from second-hand stores,
his keyboard, electronic drums, amplifier,
and his music, each tape labeled and packed in a canvas bag,
so we could easily choose a piece to play at his funeral.
Instead, the room is totally bare
except for a new bay window that looks out to the garden
and new shiny hardwood floors.

A writing table and a comfortable sofa
will go in there
with space in the closet
for shelves of poetry books,
and files of poems hoping to be published.


The garage houses his things.
Boxes labeled Paul's fiction A-Z
Paul's jazz records K-O
Paul's rock and roll A-F
are stacked just where I can see them
as I open the door
and park my car every evening
after a long day at work.
On top of the boxes are
a pile of dungeons and dragon games
one tarnished brass duck bookend
that he got for his Bar Mitzvah,
his purple treasure chest where he kept his pot,
a cigar box filled with metals and belt buckles
his uncle brought him from Russia.

Leaning against the wall
is a roll of his drawings
that he made while in the psych ward at Bellevue
each declaring his love for Janet
now married with two children.
And rolled tightly within his drawings is a photo of her
with high pointing breasts,
slim waist, flat stomach, and round, firm buttocks
proud, and so ready.

But Paul was not.
He let her go
He let it all go
with one sweep of the knife.

Copyright 2009 by Madeline Sharples

This poem was published in Vol. 7, Issue 2 of Perigee: Publication for the Arts, an online literary journal.


I Am That Woman
by Joanne Stephen

A mother
A daughter
A sister
A friend
I Am That Woman
A soldier
A fighter
A debater
A warrior
I Am That Woman
A public speaker
An author
A poet
A charmer
I Am That Woman
What I refuse to be is a failure,
A loser, a problem or victim of society
Living life blindly trying to blame the economy
Or better yet to blame the system
Because I was too fearsome
Or illiterate to learn a new curriculum
And tied down by the slum
Just to ruin my life when it has just begun
I will never be that woman to promote negativity
I will be that woman to live successfully
I Am That Woman

Copyright 2009 by Joanne Stephen

This poem is reprinted from her new poetry collection Through My Eyes, Vol. 2, now available from



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Literacy Students and Tutors Invited to Publish Their Writings
ProLiteracy and the National Gallery of Writing have a website where students and the people who work with them can publish their writings and share their experiences, ideas, and opinions about teaching, learning, or any other topic that interests them.

Students can write the pieces themselves or dictate them to their tutors/teachers. The pieces can be descriptions of how their lives have changed as they learned to read or to speak English, stories about experiences or someone they admire, letters to friends or relatives, poems, reviews of movies, recipes, lists of steps to make or do something, grocery lists, descriptions of jobs or hobbies, their hopes for their future or that of their children, etc. It doesn't matter if students are beginning writers or have lots of experience—all writers are welcome!

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Contributions will be accepted through May 2010. Visit the website to learn more or to submit a piece of writing.

The National Gallery of Writing is sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English with funding support from Verizon and Verizon Thinkfinity. For more information about the ProLiteracy Gallery, contact Linda Church at

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by C. Wayne Lammers

There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who mole for gold
There are stories there
That will curl your hair
And make your blood run cold
But the strangest sight
In the arctic night
I ever chanced to see
Was that night on the varge of Lake LaBarge
We castrated Sam McGee

It was well into fall as I recall
And the weather was starting to blow
The chill in the air
Would freeze in our hair
And turn it white as snow
And the pecker-poll trees
With icicles for leaves
Had bent their backs with the strain
And the search for gold had left us as cold
As the freezing, drizzling rain

It was late one night by an oil lamp's light
With only the stars on guard
In a leaky old tent
With the center pole bent
We all were playing cards
There was Tommy Glen, from Oregon
And, as best I can recall,
A man named Kent,
Who did relent
He had no home at all

There was Tom Cartee from Tennessee
But the man I remember best
Was Injin Joe, who, wouldn't you know
Was worst than all the rest
Some said his home
Was way up in Nome
Where he took him an Eskimo wife
And then one day
Or, so they say,
He killed her with an Ulu knife

As I started to say, on that fateful day
Sam's luck was running bad
Which he proclaimed
With heart-felt pain
"The worst he'd ever had"
He bet his Soul
And all his gold
On the last hand he could play
And Injin Joe smiled, oh so slow
And said, "I think I'll raise"

Old Sam turned pale and started to wail
"I've nothing left to bet!"
And Injin Joe, with his eyes aglow
Said, "You ain't finished yet"
He picked up his pile
And, all the while
He slowly let it fall
And my blood ran cold
When he said, "All my gold,
I'll bet against your Balls"

Sam started to sweat and with deep regret
Took a sneek-peak at his hand
As Injin Joe let his thumb run slow
On the Ulu knife, and then
Sam McGee
Sitting next to me
Said, "By God, I'll Call"
Then giving a nod
And caressing his cods
Said, "Let them pasteboards fall"

"Take it slow," cried Injin Joe
"It's a serious game we play
You called my bet
But I do regret
I haven't seen your stakes!"
"For goodness sakes, It's not his stakes,"
Cartee said to us all
"He won't relent
I do lament
He wants to see Sam's Balls!"

Breathes there a man with steady hand
Who has wagered both his Cods
Who won't complain the petty pain
Of peeks and pokes and nods
In spite of his fright
He was quite a sight,
But the gold shown in his eyes
Sam swallowed hard
And dropped his cards
As he began to rise

He slipped the rope with feverent hope,
That held his baggy jeans
We started to stare
As he trembled there,
His pants around his knees
The lump in his throat was tight as a rope
As he let his underwear fall
And Injin Joe
Leaned forward, slow,
To inspect Sam's dangling Balls

"It's a marvelous pair that you've got there"
Injin Joe exclaimed
Then he started to cry
With a tear in his eye
As he told us of his pain
"I was drunk one night and started a fight
With my wife, as I recall,
And I paid the price
From her Ulu knife
When she cut off both my Balls!"

"With this same knife I killed my wife"
Said Injin Joe to Sam
"And I'll confess
I can not rest
Without a pair of them.
So I'll bet my Soul and all my gold
And if you lose this time,
I want you to know
I'll still have my gold
And your Balls will then be mine!"

What a gruesome sight in the Arctic night
Sam's Balls were hanging low
Then he swallowed hard
And picked up his cards
And spread 'em out—reeeal slooooow
The Injin grinned and spread his—then,
As quick as a deer in the fall
He made a slice
With the Ulu knife
And cut off both Sam's Balls

Sam screamed and cried, I thought he'd died
The way he carried on
And all that night
By the oil lamp's light
He cursed and kicked and moaned
But Injin Joe
Was all aglow
As he stroked Sam's grizzly Cods
With a far-away stare that would chill the air
Said, "I've got a pair, By God!"

The weeks went by and the Arctic sky
Began to lighten slow
Our band turned west to Sam's protest
With thoughts of Spring and gold
Sam's Balls were dried
And securely tied
Round the neck of Injin Joe
And they dangled there,
That gruesome pair,
Wherever he would go

Old Sam would stare at the severed pair
A teardrop in his eye
And he swore to God
He'd get some Cods, someday, by and by
Now, the trail was rough
And the men were tough
But the mountains reached the sky
And as we climbed
Sam fell behind
And then we heard him cry

On a weathered knoll that was far below
We saw his face turn pale
Then he fell on his knees
By a pecker-poll tree
That grew beside the trail
We ran below in the knee-deep snow
To Sam's persistent call
And we found a cave
On that fateful day
With an entrance exceedingly small

As we peered in the hole, that was dark and cold
We saw an Eskimo's bones
And we wondered there
In the cold, still air
If this had been his home
But Injin Joe, who was in the know
Said this was a burial place
Then he gave out a groan
That was sort of a moan
And a smile came on his face

At the back of the hole was a pile of gold
That was all a man could haul
And Injin Joe
Crawling forward slow
Got stuck and started to squall
He squirmed and tried to get inside
The gold shown in his eyes
But, try as he might
The hole was too tight
To admit his massive thighs

We called on Sam to make the try
Since he was exceptionally small
But we failed to spy
The gleam in his eye
That said he'd have it all
Now some might say
It was just his way
Of getting even and all
And who could blame him, after all,
We'd cut off both his balls

The last we heard of Sam that day
As he slipped through a back hole in the cave
Was his rounding laugh
As he made his dash
And drug the gold away
Twas not a place
To say the least
For a righteous man to be
And we all swore to hunt him down
He'd never more be free

It was early fall, as I recall
Before we chanced to meet
We'd stumbled down
To a Gold Rush town
To Libate our defeat
In the back of the saloon
On a fancy chair
Surrounded by ladies of the night
Sat Sam McGee from Tennessee
What a magnificient sight

We found him in the Golden Spur
Surrounded by wealth untold
The opulence there
Still curls my hair
And makes my blood run cold
We could only stare at his flipitant aire
With all the wealth we'd dreamed
Then he opened his coat
And around his neck
Two Golden Balls swung free

On that fateful night we paid the price
For Castrating Sam McGee
And I wonder now
Just who has the pair
The Castrated, or the Cas-tra-tee
Still, all in all
It was quite a haul
But I remember the way he'd squalled
He may have got the best of us
But at least I still have my balls

Copyright 2007 C. Wayne Lammers

Sent as a joke to The Famous Poets Society, this poem won second prize in the 2007 Wergle Flomp humor poetry contest sponsored by Winning Writers. It is a parody of Robert W. Service's poem "The Cremation of Sam McGee". Author C. Wayne Lammers received a cash prize of $764. See the judge's comments on winning poems from this contest.


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