As illustrations on this blog, we are presenting the artwork of Pam Coulter Blehert, still life paintings and landscapes. The artist who died in 2021 was born in Evanston, Illinois and lived in Northern Virginia, the subject of many of her landscapes. She completed various Postgraduate courses in art: American University, Corcoran School, Odeon Art School (LA), Paris and holds a B.A. degree from Antioch College in Humanities/Studio Arts (1965). She participated in 17 solo exhibition in 1988-2007 and in 34 group exhibitions in 1999-2011. She also received 25 grants and awards over the course of her career that included teaching art at various institutions and having her artwork represented by several noted galleries. You can find more information on her website at pamcoulterart.com.
WINNERS OF CSPS MONTHLY CONTESTS IN 2021
January 2021 - Theme: Nature, Seasons, Landscape
First Prize: Dr. Emory D. Jones, "Sanctuary"
Second Prize: Marlene Hitt, "Summer of Fire"
Third Prize: David Anderson, "The Coming Snow"
February 2021 - Theme: Love
First Prize: Claire J. Baker, "Speculation"
March 2021 - Theme: Open, Free Subject
First Prize: Julia Park Tracey - "Just One Thing"
April 2021 - Theme: Mythology, Dreams, Other Universes
First Prize: Jerry Smith "Aboriginal Americans"
Second Prize: Teresa Bullock "Plain Air, Oxford"
Third Prize: Ruth Berman "Praxilla's Folly"
May 2021 - Theme: Personification, Characters, Portraits
First Prize; Louise Kantro "Is That a Bird?"
Second Prize: Elaine Westheimer "Mending Its Own Business"
Third Prize: Elizabeth Kuelbs "The House Knows"
June 2021 - Theme: The Supernatural
First Prize: Gail White, "The Ghost in the Restaurant"
July 2021 - Theme: Childhood, Memoirs
First Prize: Corey Weinstein "Mezzrow's Mistake"
Second Prize: Keala Rusher "On Butterflies"
Third Prize: Chryss Yost "Canid"
August 2021 - Theme: Places, Poems of Location
Second Prize: Eileen Carole "Caribbean Dreams 1 & 2"
Third Prize: Lynn M. Hansen "Anacapa, Island of Mirage"
September 2021 - Theme: Colors, Music, Dance
1st prize: Catherine McCraw, "Blue Plate Special"
2nd prize: Carla Schick, "Other Miracles I Failed to Notice.(Remembering Coltrane's Dear Lord)"
3rd prize: Jonathan Ansley Ward, "Are Islands Alive"
October 2021 - Theme: Humor, Satire
First Prize: Joan Gerstein, "A Day of Races"
November 2021 - Theme: Family, Friendship, Relationships
Second prize: Cathy Porter, "Insatiable"
Third prize: Jeff Graham, "Ode: the 2020's"
December 2021 - Theme: Best of Your Best (award-winning or published poems)
First prize: Lynn M. Hansen, "Storm Spiders"
Second prize Elizabeth Kuelbs, "Flower Moon"
Third prize Louise Kantro, "By the Campfire, Borrego Desert"
JULY - FIRST PRIZE - COREY WEINSTEIN
What was I thinking,
what was thinking anyway?
In high school I thought a lot
about who was doing what to whom,
And how did I fit in or out.
A jock, yes that barn door right tackle,
The pride of Little Warsaw, Polsky Tech,
Lumbered dumbly right up to us stoners,
Da ya know where I ken get sum, y a know, sum.
A doobie lookin' for a doob, yes,
Dope, dank, bud, boo, giggle stick, weed,
Joy by many names,
Herb, cabbage, reefer, shake, In so many ways,
Ganja, da kine, Cheech and Chong, skunk.
His Jay Tokenstein to my Mezz Mezzrow,
My 420 every day to his can't name the day.
Dare I on a dare, I did dare, I swear.
In the hall, swivel eyes, arms at sides,
palms fast and smooth, cash and goods,
A dime bag, he'd never know it was Oregano.
Let's just say, He Knew.
What was I thinking!
One day, I woke up
Just like every other
But this day, I was no longer
Sixteen or seventeen or eighteen.
Instead, the lettuce in the planterbox
had bittered and bolted
Shooting up flowering stalks,
While the air smelled of soil
And warm tomatoes
Fresh off their vines in mid July.
If I spoke to my past self
And she asked me if true love exists
I would tell her yes,
Because I know it myself.
Though, it doesn't feel like
heartracing and insects,
The way people say it does.
More so a letter with good news
You were not expecting,
Sweet tea, and a fleeting breeze
That carries scents you can't begin to place,
But recall all the same.
This story begins with low sun and low tide.
The shadows pulled across on the sand,
rolled out like butchers' paper.
The blue-grey brush strokes evening.
Tbis is the story my dog tells himself,
of shadow wolf in the wilderness,
running with his fierce jaws and arch
of feathered tail projected onto sand.
And the shadow of me, long-limbed
giant wobbling south, with the tide
and the darkness snarling over
who will get us first.
AUGUST - FIRST PRIZE - AHMAD MALIK
Montreal from a Departing Plane’s Window
The buildings and bridges that were so bright and so towering yesterday
with a thousand lambent flickers receding like an irreversible lament.
City lights that often spoke of home, of her, of tears hidden no longer
breathing in fragile shimmers the way teardrops do.
Somehow, I know the wistful agonies that vacillate in the city air
after an hour of rain; somehow, I know the petrichor of moist yellow leaves
rising from the street sides around St. Denis tomorrow morning.
In a few hours,
I’ll be a line of burning frost in the sky,
a contrail of wonder for a child lying in the dying November grass.
And now I can see all the streets I never saw,
all the people I never knew,
all the lives I never lived.
Caribbean Dreams 1 & 2
Anacapa, Island of Mirage
Emerging from coastal fog
Anacapa, known by the Chumash
as Anypakh, Island of Mirage,
appears as one island
but is actually three
separated by water.
Wind-swept and volcanic,
Anacapa grows golden
with a unique floral display
each Spring - giant coreopsis.
At the East end of the island chain,
Arch Rock bends over the sea,
forms a frame for reflection
of our solar flame as it slides into the next day -
its last beams glittering
on the writhing water that slaps
steep cliffs along island sides.
Without fresh water or trees,
western gulls form pairs,
join the largest breeding colony
of their species in the world.
Safe from predators, surrounded
by abundance of food, they build nests
in sheltered depressions of vegetation,
forage in the rich waters off shore,
feed and defend their spotted chicks,
circle overhead keening,
dive bomb human visitors,
appear out of the fog
SEPTEMBER - FIRST PRIZE - CATHERINE MCCRAW
Blue Plate Special
I closed my eyes and recalled
the old Bluebell Cafe, long closed,
which was a few blocks
from my parent's home.
and served "blue plate specials".
I tried to remember the distinct color
of the sturdy china dinnerware ...
at first I thought cornflower
but my memory twisted
to a darker tint, more a deep royal blue,
like a winter evening in Paris,
the time of day the French call l 'heure bleue.
Then my mind segued to the Club Cafe downtown
that served homemade custard or fruit pies
and the waitress who was always there
with the blueblack beehive hair,
wearing the mustard gold uniform
with the cream ruffled apron.
What was her name -
Edith, Evelyn, Esther, Estelle?
I refuse to believe she retired or died,
She was too essential.
I prefer to imagine she slipped through
a lattice-work square in time
and now resides in a black-and-white
Twilight Zone-esque diner
where she doles out slices of blueberry pie
and thick mugs of hot coffee
while she daydreams of sneaking out
back for a Marlboro break.
Then I revert to trying to conjure
the shade of those plates -
cheerful afternoon blue,
or a deep twilight hue?
It's not really true you can't go home again,
(Remembering Coltrane's Dear Lord)
Coltrane's sax breaks sound
Each note yearns for the next
Walk these hot humid days
Walk although your body just drifts
Strange to view everyone turn in
tears centered in their eyes
clouds drift in and out
no direct path of light
Each note ascends to the next
unpredictable sequence of chords
a key no one heard before shudders
I move looking out a window
catch my reflection
yet cannot see
Each note turns
Each note trails above
Unbroken clouds desert lupine
blossoms as though resting
in opened palms-
Alone and not I listen again
did I hear him crying or just
myself shedding skin
I thought I knew
Are Islands Alive?
Sunrise over Kauai
Blue/Green + Golden sand
The night loses its magic
The day begins to dance
Are islands alive?
Do they breathe in
The warm tropical breezes
Do they exhale turquoise surf?
Is Love like an island—
A warm embrace of wonder
A surrender of the heart
Into a peaceful sea of Light?
Sunset over Kauai
Golden Fire into Green/Blue
The day enfolds into twilight
The stars begin to dance
OCTOBER - FIRST PRIZE - JOAN GERSTEIN
Day of Races
With briefcase in hand and sharpened pencils,
I traverse streets of this coastal town.
In evenings, mornings and afternoons,
I wear sturdy shoes, walk up and down.
I enumerate for the US Census,
going to non-response follow-up homes.
I record the answers they give me,
though I'd rather be penning a poem.
The questions of name, sex, age are easy.
"Are you of Hispanic origin?" is OK,
but I know when I voice the next question,
perplexed people will stare with dismay.
We're almost done, it's the fifth question,
I smile sweetly as I gaze at their faces.
Please look at list D, I say, with dread,
Choose one or more of the following races.
There's Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean,
African American, Negro, Black,
American or Asian Indian,
maybe White if a name starts with Mac.
There's Filipino or Other Asian,
Native Hawaiian or perhaps Samoan.
You could be Other Pacific Islander.
Tell me which ones you have chosen.
I don't really understand, they reply,
I think of myself as Canadian.
With a weary smile and patience of Job,
I say Look and show them List D again.
Where is Estonia,? they inquire.
I'm sorry but I fail to understand.
Using examples I learned in training,
I cite some groups, give a helping hand.
Pacific Island groups include Tongans.
Other Asian groups are Laotian or Thai.
I say, Aha, there's another category:
Some Other Race, in desperation I cry.
Tell me what you want to call yourself.
I'll write whatever you want me to.
You can be French, Nubian or Russian.
I just want this interview to be through.
Finally they decide what race to pick.
At this address, the Census I complete.
But I bet you dollars to donuts,
at the next home, this farce, I repeat.
NOVEMBER - FIRST PRIZE, MARILYN ROBERTSON
Cannery Row Mural, 1946
lunch wagon pulls into a parking spot beside the tracks.
A passing engine trails its banner of black smoke,
but cannot put a damper on the scene -
all greens and yellows drifting
toward a peach-colored horizon.
Nobody looks anxious here,
wondering what might come next.
The woman in the back of the wagon
slices bologna as usual.
The man on the bicycle steers his loaves
of sourdough to their destinations.
The blonde on the porch railing leans forward
as a soldier lights her cigarette -
his strong arm holding up a weathered post,
his sturdy boots just waiting for instructions.
ten too many, and the night
and if you cross me,
but daylight kicks that idea
I won't hold your coat
and I swallow
Ode: The 2020's
Sometimes, people enter your life -
what I thought
of what I thought there was,
of what I thought there was to say.
Strand of hay in a needle stack,
broken by the camel.
Hat pulled out from the rabbit.
White mask hoisted atop the mizzenmast -
DECEMBER - FIRST PRIZE - LYNN M. HANSEN
Prickly like puncture vine seeds
speckled brown, spiny-backed,
storm spiders undulate
as they ride harmonics
of tropical breezes.
Throwing, running, cutting,
throwing running cutting,
they craft geometry of delicate threads,
communities of silk made visible
in back lighting, or soft mist
Tethered to grass, leaf, balcony,
crouching centrally in their silvery plane,
imitating dead leaves, directing
yellow mammary-like bumps toward
the light, Gasteracantha await prey.
Suddenly, dashed like Hawaii
during hurricane winds of Hele ulu ulu,
a mower slashes gossamer webs,
casts spiders adrift clinging to silken balloons
riding pulses of wild warm air.
Fortunate filaments snag on a shrub,
anchor arachnids who begin again,
throwing, running, cutting,
throwing, running, cutting,
a delicate geometry of thread.
~ 1st Prize in Nature, Ina Coolbrith Annual Poetry Contest, Oct 15, 2004
Before dawn breaks, catch the palms:
those dutiful guards, who shade
their little daytime queendoms,
feeding bees and woodpeckers,
in the windy dark, when the jacarandas
lavish blossoms at their feet, and
the roses exhale honey and clove,
and the jasmine trembles like a bride.
Their lush plumes, sequined with stars,
ravish the flower moon.
~published in Black Bough Poetry: Freedom-Rapture Edition, June 2021