Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest 2015
Congratulations to the winners of the 2015 Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest!
First Prize $1,500 Poetry
Jude Nutter, The Shipping Forecast
First Prize $1,500 Traditional Verse
Marilyn L. Taylor, The Seven Very Liberal Arts: A Crown of Sonnets
Honorable Mention $100
- Donald Adamson, Proper and Enduring, Poetry
- David Hill, After Wounded Knee, Poetry
- Justin Hunt, My Mother, My Father, Poetry
- Laura M. Kaminski, Hush, Poetry
- Ray Keifetz, Night Farming in Bosnia, Poetry
- Maribeth Pittman, Two Women in an Unbalanced Street Scene, Poetry
- Shoshauna Shy, Keepsake, Poetry
- Eileen P. Kennedy, Migration, Traditional Verse
- Allegra Keys, Thin Line Between Love and Hate, Traditional Verse
- Kathleen McClung, Lighter Than Her Lace: A Crown of Borrowed Self-Portraits, Traditional Verse
- Katy McKinney, Worm Bin Sestina, Traditional Verse
- Stuart J. Silverman, Letter to Her Father, Traditional Verse
- Jeff Walt, Serial Killer Sonnet, Traditional Verse
Judge Ellaraine Lockie comments on the winning entries
Traditional poetry forms have had a blockbuster year in the 2015 Contest. The winners' list includes: two sonnet crowns, two sestinas, a villanelle, a palindrome, a pantoum, an elegy, three ekphrastic poems, and two poems with such distinct and unique construction as to be classified nonce forms. Read our press release announcing the winners.
Subject-wise, the list addresses: family, murder, war, natural death, history; love, in two of the most unique poetic ways I've encountered; art in various facets; and a poetic approach to composting with earthworms.
I want especially to applaud the unusually high number of excellent rhyming narratives this year. Although none made it to the final list, I thoroughly enjoyed and admired their excellent stories and craft. The overall quality of poems has risen with each year I've judged, which resulted in having to make the very toughest choices this year. In the end, what determined the winners was how well they held up to repeated readings. All of the fifteen winning poems continued to grow in significance. They are stunning examples of the lasting power of poetry, and I hope you find them as riveting as I do.
Now I must announce with regret that, due to vision limitations, I will be leaving as judge of this contest. I want to thank Adam Cohen and Jendi Reiter for their undying support and for once again allowing me to award extra winning poems: three this year that I couldn't bear to leave behind. They run a contest/website that truly puts the development and well-being of poets and writers ahead of financial considerations.
It's been a privilege to read and spend time with your poems. I leave you with a quote from the poem, “Eating Poetry,” by the late Mark Strand. It says exactly what I feel about the last three years with you:
“Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.”
“The Shipping Forecast” by Jude Nutter
Tom Howard Prize for verse in any style
This powerful poem spins off the BBC Radio broadcast of weather reports and forecasts for the seas around the British Isles. In exquisitely delivered subtle conceits, a dying woman travels from one state to another as if on a boat to the next life, her deathbed a berth on a cargo ship. Nautical imagery and a radio-voice repetition bring us to the woman's bedside where existence is as beginningless and endless as the rings that appear in the poem. This full-circle perception offers strength for her family in that “this is what it comes to: earth spin, wind and rain.” A kind of comfort springs like the fluidity of water for the woman's family and will offer the same for readers who are losing, have lost or will lose a loved one. Universal appeal, exceptional craftsmanship and beautiful language kept me coming back again and again to this poem. (Anyone interested in the interesting story of The Shipping Forecast radio broadcast can find it here, and a stunning YouTube presentation here.)
“The Seven Very Liberal Arts: A Crown of Sonnets” by Marilyn L. Taylor
Margaret Reid Prize for verse that rhymes or has a traditional style
In case you're thinking of skipping this one because it might be a boring rendition of the seven liberal arts that comprised school education in the Middle Ages, you'd be sorry. You'd miss out on a laugh-out-loud read that manages, unlike much humorous poetry, to maintain its freshness and charm with continued readings. There are innumerable examples of sex cleverly hiding in the curtains of literature, but here the poet does a massive spring cleaning while managing to keep the form itself immaculate and to polish by parody each of the classic liberal arts métiers of old. Both the poet's skill with the ever-difficult sonnet corona form and with content are responsible for such overall excellence. Particularly refreshing is the contrast of such flamboyant modernity against the modesty of antiquity in a single piece of writing. An extraordinary poem that can bring even non-poetry fans to the fold!
Honorable Mentions, Tom Howard Prize:
“Proper and Enduring” by Donald Adamson
We are made keenly aware of the role art plays in recording, communicating and preserving the memories of atrocious or otherwise unsettling events in this superbly crafted and potent poem. Just as the visual arts, music, plays, films and creative literature speak to us on emotional levels that history books and facts often don't or can't, this poet cuts through to the marrow of sensory learning and retention.
“After Wounded Knee” by David Hill
This elegy is not only for a man but for an entire culture and its people. It's an effectual reminder written in imagistic and flowing language that haunts us into remembering what shouldn't be forgotten—an apt example of the message in the above-listed winning poem, “Proper and Enduring.”
“My Mother, My Father” by Justin Hunt
Here, two voices from the same person meld the present and past in familiar, imagery-laden language in a poem of astounding beauty. The poet's nonce form and the use of italics contribute greatly to content. There's not one word that doesn't belong in this lovely and original tribute to a mother and father.
“Hush” by Laura Kaminski
The role of analog audiotape and its impermanence poignantly reflect the similar nature of love and existence. This juxtaposition is offset by the art exhibit that inspired this highly creative poem with its lasting, sad and beautiful effect on readers. The technology behind the poem makes it emotionally significant in a way that digital recording may not, something similar to the difference between a handwritten thank-you card and an emailed one.
“Night Farming in Bosnia” by Ray Keifetz
Stark, simple diction paints a complex scene in just a few words when these Bosnian farmers go from being hunters to being the hunted. Internal rhyme, word rhythm, imagery and masterful use of language left me nearly breathless.
“Two Women in an Unbalanced Street Scene” by Maribeth Pittman
When reading this poem, it's easy to feel unbalanced oneself…or maybe claustrophobic or suffocated. That's how accomplished the poet is with word painting the narrator's obsession about women, through first a church dome metaphored into a woman's breast and then through an evocative group of used-up women. A creative and intriguing poem!
“Keepsake” by Shoshauna Shy
Historically, this plaintive poem from the viewpoint of an unborn child could have been a universal theme. And perhaps it still is in other cultures. Fresh extended metaphors, insight and an ending that suggests a whole other story make this poem unforgettable.
Honorable Mentions, Margaret Reid Prize:
“Migration” by Eileen P. Kennedy
This poem that encompasses adjustment to new cultures and homesickness for those left behind takes on fresh relevance in view of the millions of refugees arriving in countries all over the world. Just as the people in it move from one country to the next, the pantoum form expertly shuffles them along while memories all the while return them to their homelands…a moving poem in every sense of the word.
“Thin Line Between Love and Hate” by Allegra Keys
In that the reader is directed to read it twice, once downward and once upward, this poem may initially appear to be a gimmick. But it is not; it's a palindrome and an outstanding example of form fitting function. It might also seem on first read that the poem is about opposite relationships. Yet the opposite side of every loving relationship exists within, whether or not we choose to name it. The title suggests that here we have a poem that indeed shows how love and hate can blend into one another in the same relationship, and realistically, doesn't that happen at times in most loving relationships?
“Lighter Than Her Lace: A Crown of Borrowed Self-Portraits” by Kathleen McClung
In this trip through a hall of the poet's personal museum, we are treated to a refractive historical look at women through their own eyes and through the lens of the corona form from the sixteenth century through the twentieth. Each sonnet sequence is impeccable and required extensive research by the poet. The poem stands alone on a high pedestal without structural support from the paintings. However, new and greater appreciation grows when the self-portraits are also viewed. Each is available on the Internet, and I highly recommend spending some time with them as you read this brilliant and epic poem.
“Worm Bin Sestina” by Katy McKinney
This poem is a masterful example of the sestina form and is almost Shakespearean in its humorous tribute to an earthworm's excrement. Extremely clever wordplay abounds throughout. For example, follow the many uses of the word “casting” for some outrageous guffaws and for a tour de force in how words can portray different grammatical roles. And yet the poet goes a step beyond fine craft and fun to also reference our own mortality.
“Letter to Her Father” by Stuart J. Silverman
Many in the Western World would cheer to hear of a Chinese girl child escaping the agony of having her feet bound. Through this expertly-wrought sestina, we see the complexity surrounding the custom and the sobering price such a girl paid for its exemption in the Ming Dynasty. We are forced to examine our judgments, which is an important function of poetry. The sestina form here is greatly enhanced by the poet's choice of ending line words. The word “must” emphasizes that the binding was something not to be questioned. It recalls fate and duty and the futility of individual choice. Counter its repetition with “feel,” and you have the dichotomy of this beautiful, restrained (no pun intended) sestina.
“Serial Killer Sonnet” by Jeff Walt
This deeply disturbing character study is made even more impactful by the sonnet form. In the poem we find cause, effect, fear, understanding and horror, yet the speaker's violence is not excused or sensationalized. It's a succinct and well-executed wake-up call for a society that too often sleeps through child abuse.
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.