BROOKLIN POETRY SOCIETY’S INAUGURAL POETRY CONTEST (2018)
THREE HONOURABLE MENTIONS (in no particular order):
Congratulations to all the award winners! Like you, I’m eager to discover which poets penned the top poems. Blind judging ensures that everyone’s work is examined fairly.
For this contest, I sought out poems that best resonated with the contest’s theme: “interrogating the local”.
As was suggested in the contest guidelines: poets were encouraged to reflect on such questions as “what does it mean to locate oneself in a given area? How significant are local communities in a globalized world? Why do we identify ourselves as local? How can we understand that term? How does the local speak to you?”
I was pleased to see such creative (outside the box) responses: such a wide variety of styles and subject matter in the submissions.
Initially, I read the poems several times; placed them in various piles and then read backwards according to a draft ranking.
When comparisons between different treatments made it difficult to be objective, I created additional criteria. For example, 1) was the poem unique? Did it include images and/or sounds that stayed with me for days? Perhaps the subject matter was unusual or it was written in a unique style or voice. 2) Did the poem move me emotionally? For example, did it make me laugh or cry or feel angry? 3) Did the words scan or flow well when read aloud? (Yes I did read them aloud.) 4) Did the poet use the five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch? 5) Did the work include poetic devices such as metaphor or similes?
I read the poems again.
In the final analysis, the first place winner “LANDSCAPES” moved me both emotionally and intellectually. Not only did the first lines pull me into the locale of the rural landscape but they startled me. Rather than focus on the rebirth/renewal theme normally associated with a spring setting, this farmer’s mind laboured on death. Note the heavy layers of images: Annie with “her hands no longer fluttering”, the children “no longer willing or able/to liberate life from the laughing clay/gone now to the jeweled cities”, the skies “starless and immense as blackboards” and the powerful last line “life’s pull to stay life’s push to leave”. Talk about the dilemma of sitting on the rural fence! Even the 7-line stanza form reminded me of routine furrows in a plowed field or the furrowed brow of a worried farmer. Well done.
A haunting poem about change and the uncertain future of local farms and farmers.
The second place winner “my local forecast is you” appealed to me for a different reason. This variation of a found poem whirled and swirled with the rich language associated with meteorology and climatology. It raised love to the cosmos, which isn’t a new concept, but how could anyone forget these unique lines: “my windsock will follow your eddys” or “you are the sun pillar of my twilight”? The airy form with extra spaces within the stanzas added a breezy feel to the piece.
A fun, playful poem about a close relationship to the local weather and that special love.
The third place winner “what remains” is a great poetic example of how less is more. In fact, it is this minimalist form that reinforces both the title and the base, the last one-word-line surrounded by white space for emphasis: ‘home’. What a powerful ending! In a few lines, the poet has shown that despite the loss of words perhaps due to dementia (or the fire-induced loss of our possessions in this case the mind), what remains is our concept of home. The symbolic fire can also be interpreted in several ways adding depth to what may first appear to be a simple poem.
A simple yet complex poem about the solidity and importance of a home.
The honourable mention poems should be treated equally, although, they are completely different.
“Maps” was selected for not only its strong sensory description of home but the way it nicely bookended the poem with the reference to a dot. Imagine home as a dot. Here’s the line that elevated the poem for me: “a local piece of geography now marked/on her skin with just a dot”. A poem about the strength of a dot in triggering local memories. Wow!
“Fissures” painted vivid images of home, home life, and the “distant cracks approaching, threatening”. I especially liked the use of colour: red, red, white. The colour of Canada? The colour of blood versus purity? These are the subtle images or fissures I see hidden in this poem. A poem about changes to the home environment and what will be left for future generations.
“chelsea on facebook and off” pulled me into the poem with its eye-catching title and kept me reading with some humourous lines “everybody’s crazy, really,”, “mooning over posters of/donny osmond’ and “we wonder if there was some sort of/contagion that infiltrated the drinking water/in those public school fountains”. Long poems such as this one must be extra strong to compete with shorter and more concise poems where weaker lines can more easily be weeded out. However, in this five-page submission, the voice (more narrative versus poetic) was so strong, consistent, and unique compared to some of the other submissions that I had to include it. It was the strongest of the longer poems that were submitted. A witty yet thought-provoking poem about local drama: the harsh reality associated with popularity and/or the lack of it.
Once again, congratulations to the winners, plus a huge round of applause to all the poets who submitted original work to the contest. Thanks for sharing your poetic words.
–Debbie Okun Hill, Contest judge
Brooklin Poetry Society’s
Inaugural Poetry Contest 2018