Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest 2014
Congratulations to the winners of the 2014 Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest!
First Prize $1,000 Poetry
Emily Rose Cole, Allegheny County, 1888: Ava Remembers Her Canaries
First Prize $1,000 Traditional Verse
B.J. Buckley, Insomnia: A Suite in Thirteen Hours
Second Prize $250 Traditional Verse
Martin Hill Ortiz, Two Mistakes
Honorable Mention $100
- Viola Allo, Hunger Flew With Me From Cameroon, Poetry
- Claire Askew, Fire Comes, Poetry
- Harry Bauld, Ball, Poetry
- Glenn Morazzini, Elegy for Bobby Kennedy, Poetry
- Jude Nutter, My Mother’s Teeth, Poetry
- Viola Allo, Bodies, Flowerbeds: A Villanelle, Traditional Verse
- R.G. Evans, Everything Makes Music When It Burns, Traditional Verse
- Joanne Lichtenstein, My Kingdom for a Horse!, Traditional Verse
- Sian Lindsey, Slainte, Traditional Verse
- Aliene Pylant, Genesis, 1978, Traditional Verse
- Eleanor St. James, Museum Visitation, Traditional Verse
Judge Ellaraine Lockie comments on the winning entries
I'm here to tell you that poetry is alive and well throughout the world! I continued to be deeply moved, educated, and haunted by the poems entered in this year's contest. Truly, the necessity of eliminating so many profoundly excellent poems in order to declare winners was a painful one. I carried the forty-plus finalist poems around for over a month, weighing each daily, before choosing the winners. This year, as in last year, our sponsors graciously added an extra Honorable Mention award when I simply could not leave two particular poems behind and also a Second Place Award in the Traditional Verse Contest. Read our press release announcing the winners.
This year's competition was unusually challenging to judge because there was no line limit. The poems spanned from spare three-liners to seventy-four-page epics, with many poems in the twenty- and thirty-page range. It seemed like judging different genres against one another; yet a poem is a poem no matter the length. One might think that longer poems would have an advantage, but often I found the opposite to be more accurate. Length doesn't necessarily equal quality, nor does the technique of writing within a particular form; and with extra length there is extra opportunity for flaws.
I'm proud to present the fourteen winning poems, which range from a single page to fifty-five pages. The winners eloquently address love in its different facets, death, insomnia, guilt, fear, nostalgia, history, slavery, politics, and the lasting effect of art. Some will open your mind and fascinate you with originality. One will make you laugh out loud (I promise), and one may break your heart. I hope all of them will dazzle you as much as they do me.
“Allegheny County, 1888: Ava Remembers Her Canaries” by Emily Rose Cole
Tom Howard Prize for verse in any style
This powerful poetic sharing of a tragic story is told through implication and must be pieced together by the reader, which in turn pulls the reader into the poem in a uniquely personal way. The simplicity of the language allows the reader to share the narrator's grief, its haunting impact echoing long after each reading. The poem is as concise as the images that pierce like arrows through it, illustrating the power of communicating a story of great magnitude on a single page. This poem relies on neither sentimentality nor manipulation and is an extraordinary example of “showing instead of telling”.
“Insomnia: A Suite in Thirteen Hours” by B.J. Buckley
Margaret Reid Prize for verse that rhymes or has a traditional style
The narrator of this poem could be the Einstein of insomnia. On first read, she appeared to be a brilliant obsessive-compulsive whose haphazard thoughts flew like bullets into the heart of sleep. If that's all this poem had to offer, it would still compel the reader with phenomenal imagery, metrical rhythm, and sonorous quality of language. However, repeated readings unveil a gradual dissolution of consciousness in carefully constructed commentary that progresses from mathematics to metaphysics. The narrator weaves themes of consciousness, nature, religion, and death into a meditation while capturing the essence of insomnia, a condition to which most of us can relate. The form here is dictated by the poem's content, with its implications of passing time in months and hours that include the witching hour. The meticulous use of twelve and thirteen-lined stanzas, each with corresponding numbers of lines and of syllables in each line provides a most fitting framework for this outstanding poem.
“Two Mistakes” by Martin Hill Ortiz
Runner-Up, Margaret Reid Prize
This is a five-act farcical tale set in US pre-Civil War times and told in fifty-five pages of finely crafted sonnets divided into seven-line stanzas. Akin to Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors, the complicated story is full of trickery, misidentifications, hilarity, and the kind of melodrama one would find in comic opera. The poet doesn't overlook the vernacular of the time, nor poetic devices. Readers will find sustained rhyme and meter over the entire saga—an impressive feat!
Honorable Mentions, Tom Howard Prize:
“Hunger Flew With Me from Cameroon” by Viola Allo
In this poem, smell, taste, and touch are the vehicles used to stunningly render a foreigner's overwhelmed reaction to moving to a new country and culture. The poet's fresh imagery and skillful use of the senses bring the poem to life while giving the reader a novel anthropological look at two vastly different cultures.
“Fire Comes” by Claire Askew
This perfectly-paced poem uses conceit, simile, metaphor, creative imagery, and figurative language to ignite suspense. A tour de force of personification!
“Ball” by Harry Bauld
How an account of a baseball's interior could be this fascinating and so poetically written was a big, thrilling surprise to me. A grand-slam example of a poem opening the reader's mind!
“Elegy for Bobby Kennedy” by Glenn Morazzini
The poet here brilliantly alternates two poems that filter the persona of Bobby Kennedy and historic events through first, a boy's perspective and then continuing through the changes and growth of both narrator and a nation over several decades…a most ambitious and accomplished undertaking.
“My Mother's Teeth” by Jude Nutter
This is a deeply touching account of a daughter's coming to terms with her mother's death through the ritual of returning the mother's teeth to nature because “...sometimes, there is no language. Only gesture.” Yet, here language becomes the vehicle, expertly employed.
Honorable Mentions, Margaret Reid Prize:
“Bodies, Flowerbeds: A Villanelle” by Viola Allo
Content suffers not a bit inside this eloquent and expertly constructed villanelle that reminds us how our writing gives voice to the dead, linking it to the “slender-petaled tongues in a flowerbed” after “the sharp shovel of silence”.
“Everything Makes Music When It Burns” by R.G. Evans
The metaphor here is universal, suggesting we go beyond accepting the inevitability of death to finding beauty in it, encompassing it as the counterpart of life that it is. Content is enhanced greatly by the villanelle form.
“My Kingdom for a Horse!” by Joanne Lichtenstein
This happy, hilarious, and impeccably constructed poem reads and stays with the reader much like a hit song. It's a rare humor poem that holds its punch indefinitely. It still makes me laugh when I read it. Do please read it out loud; its musicality and clever silliness are contagious.
“Sláinte” by Sian Lindsey
Anyone who has ever had to leave a cherished place will relate to this love poem of place that is delivered with finesse in images so rich in craft that the poem could be called a word painting. It reads like a well-crafted toast in an Irish pub.
“Genesis, 1978” by Aliene Pylant
This poem soared above all the other love poems with its inventiveness, strikingly beautiful locution, and use of dissimilarities to fountainhead romantic chemistry.
“Museum Visitation” by Eleanor St. James
In this charming, imaginative, and masterfully-wrought sestina, the interaction between a young boy, the voice in his museum headphones, and a painting of a reclining woman turned muse reads like a three-way badminton game. The poem is a fine example of how the arts interrelate and of the lasting impact of visual art.
Ellaraine Lockie is the outgoing judge of the Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest. Ms. Lockie is a widely published and awarded author of poetry, nonfiction books, and essays. Her eleventh poetry collection, Where the Meadowlark Sings, won the 2014 Encircle Publications Chapbook Contest and was published in early 2015. Other recent work has been awarded the 2013 Women's National Book Association's Poetry Prize, Best Individual Collection from Purple Patch magazine in England for Stroking David's Leg, winner of the San Gabriel Poetry Festival Chapbook Contest for Red for the Funeral, and The Aurorean's Chapbook Spring Pick for Wild as in Familiar. Ellaraine teaches poetry workshops and serves as Poetry Editor for the lifestyles magazine, Lilipoh.