The Poetry Letter No. 2 of 2023 (Online ISSN 2836-9394; Print ISSN 2836-9408) included the Monthly Contests' Winners for 2022 and four book reviews. In the first part, we reproduce the poems.
The winners of the 2022 Monthly Contests, adjudicated by Alice Pero, are:
• January (Nature, Landscape):
1st Prize: Pamela Stone Singer, “Forest Air”
2nd Prize: Jane Stuart, “On the North Side”
3rd Prize: Gwen Monohan, “Focal Points”
• February (Love):
1st Prize: Jerry Smith “Lovers”
2nd Prize: Jane Stuart “Crossing the Moon”
• March (Open, Free Subject):
1st Prize: Jeff Graham, “A Certain Day's Every,”
• April (Mythology, Dreams, Other Universes):
1st Prize: Debra Darby, “Awaken.”
• May (Personifications, Characters, Portraits):
1st Prize: Carol L. Hatfield “Cloud on the Ground”
2nd Prize: Joan Gerstein “White on White”
• June (The Supernatural):
1st Prize: Pamela Stone Singer,“Buffaloes Escape”
• July (Childhood, Memoirs):
1st Prize: Anna J. Jasinska “My chicken egg apron”
2nd Prize: Lynn Axelrod “Fenestra”
• August (Places, Poems of Location):
1st Prize: Sean McGrath “10/21: At Sea, After Light”
2nd Prize: Colorado Smith “Tigers of the Tsangpo”
3rd Prize: Teresa Bullock “Born Again”
• September (Colors, Music, Dance):
1st Prize: Jane Stuart, “Watching Time Go By”
• October (Humor, Satire): No award
• November (Family, Friendship, Relationships):
1st Prize: Richard L. Matta, “Shucking Shells”
• December (Best of Your Best, awarded or published poems):
1st Prize: David Anderson “Where Plovers Complain”
2nd Prize: Carla Schick “She Painted”
The Monthly Contests' Chair and Judge, ALICE PERO, joined the CSPS Board as a Director at Large in May 2019 and became the Chair of Monthly Poetry Contests in January 2020. She was elected the 10th Poet Laureate of Sunland-Tujunga in April 2020. She has published poetry in many magazines and anthologies, including Nimrod, National Poetry Review, River Oak Review, Poet Lore, The Alembic, North Dakota Quarterly, The Distillery, Fox Cry Review, The Griffin, and G.W. Review, and others. Her book of poetry, Thawed Stars, was praised by Kenneth Koch as having “clarity and surprises.” She also published a chapbook Sunland Park Poems, written as a dialogue with Elsa Frausto. Pero teaches poetry and is a member of California Poets in the Schools, a nonprofit dedicated to empowering students to express their uniqueness through writing, performing and publishing their own poetry. She is also the founder of Moonday, a reading series that has been on-going in the Los Angeles area for upwards of sixteen years. Ms Pero has created dialogue poems with more than twenty poets. She also created the performing group, Windsong Players Chamber Ensemble and performs with them as a flutist.
You cannot see
but know yourself as light.
Wings hoist you to the top of a tree.
You see meadows’ waves
and luminous wildflowers.
Touch tongues of birds.
Swallow night air.
Cleanse your lungs.
Let forests’ darkness wrap your body.
Open your mouth to stars.
Geese fly into autumn.
Their flight brings lavender sky
and iridescent feathers.
Soon branches will bend with winter.
Pine and wind-scented air
remind the forest is near.
Pamela Stone Singer, First Prize, January 2022
ON THE NORTH SIDE
Walking through darkness
-another sleepless night—
my foot hits a star
But the wind blows shadows
and in the distance,
the moon sighs
comes to life—
shells in a bowl
made of wax
The sky quivers.
I reach for
my bow and arrow—
nothing is there,
just the owl
and moss that grows
on the side of trees
Jane Stuart, Second Prize, January 2022
Jerry Smith, First Prize, February 2022
CROSSING THE MOONWe met on a ship crossing the moon,a cruise of momentsmade of steel and glassthrough deep blue seasand mountains hard as sandthat has been packedby hands in icy gloves—Oh love is wild!and this was our romance,a foxtrot played and danced toby the stars.We moved above earthin chiffon veilsand vests of champagne corks—Our glitter crownsshined in the shadowsof a thousand tearsbecause this was pretendand love oved on,leaving us a world of indigoand fading light.
We don’t know whybut the ship docked at dawnand we became firefliesin sudden flighton tomorrow’s wingsthat bloomed tonight.Jane Stuart, Second Prize, February 2022
Jeff Graham, First Prize, March 2022
AWAKENFind the stringsRide the gleaming scales of the fishblazing melon, gold, scarletnocturnal sapphirebefore vanishing into the ocean at dawn.Mooring the dreamlessdream remembering in towlisten to the tides of morning.The fishtail reveals its secret.Awake to awakenIn waves of shimmering water,The mystical call of the whalebeckons.AwakenFind the strings.
(for my mule, Andromeda)Never one to belostin fog -she callsitto her.She shineswhite as any opal -with a quietfirein the belly.The fog holdsthe four-beatdrumof her pearlhoovesand keeps it allto itself.The sky recognizeshermolds andformssoft cottonsculpturesin her honor.Cloudon the groundshe is -with one flickof her tailthe rainobeysand we ridethe afternoonon a veilof grey….iridescentat the core….Carol L Hatfield, First Prize, May 2022
Wrapped in cloaks of snow, buffaloes
live in Moon’s lightning-green eye.
Embedded in their bones
palimpsests reveal eternal life.
Etched with star drawings, stick figures and shapes
from outer space, their horns speak stories of worlds
where they travel calm plains.
Water songs and ceremonies, their messages.
Wander hills and valleys: cone flowers, golden rod, milkweed.
Speak the holiness of earth.
Pamela Stone Singer, First Prize, June 2022
MY CHICKEN EGG APRON
My grandmother said I must sleep two times—once under the pear tree,
once under the attic skylight, before can come to the kitchen and put on my eight-
pocketed chicken egg apron and run among purple heads of burdock
to the nests hidden in the thicket near the chicken coop. Then, I comb the bush
till I hold in my hands and shine with straw an alabaster egg. I return to the beginning
and must wait. Again, I am a day and two sleeps away, trusting
that next morning, if I follow the plan, I will find my treasures. Meanwhile,
I collect odd symmetries, study luster and trace veins growing through the forms.
I fill the hours putting opal coils of snail and dry poppy heads spilling black seeds
in my pockets, until I am certain I slept two times. I have dreamt in the storm
of pear blossom. I have dreamt under the starry attic window
of finding the ideal oval forms. But if I cannot get any, I pick pieces
of tree bark and collect pinecones, and stash them in my apron pockets
as if they were what I wanted. They are not, yet they gleam warmly
of still-sticky droplets of resin, I cannot resist. My fingertips curiously
dip into the liquid amber— it is unexpectedly warm and bitter-sweet.
Anna J. Jasinska, First Prize, July 2022
Papermill Creek flows in wide
–our own Missouri. Midmorning
jacks snap at mayflies.
through their wing fenestra,
splays in dapples of gleam.
Air almost visible like gnat-buzz.
Pickle weed greens out wide
to greet them all like a mother
holds a family together.
You break the mesmer,
elusive beneath a splash.
Nothing solid, not mud-swirl
curled against the current,
not the embankment crumbled
one dirt speck at a time
Then LOL up you pop,
whip water from your hair,
bobbing cork, glistening grin.
If only Father were as buoyant
when he dived in the Sound,
––not wading, not scanning.
Quick bottom spun him silent
on the ghostline
of his infant fontanelles.
Gleaned from the sea, shut
until his lungs heaved
a bolus of saltgrass onto sand.
Beach heat unwaxed pores,
plasma bathed his heart, and
our breath mingled in the light,
resumed its daily circuit
in the dark of our bodies.
Lynn Axelrod, Second Prize, July 2022
BORN AGAINFlying low, skimming insect-likeabove the waterI surrender myself muteto the sea plane's droning.I am fit tight into its small body,trapped, strapped in, no time for fear,no place else to goexcept maybe Africawhere Beryl Markham floated like thisabove giraffe-groomed acacia,savannas worn by wildebeest,and dusty trails shuffled bylines of leathery elephants.Looking down, I think I seethrough ocean's ancient skina silvery pod of porpoise,great blotches of whalelumbering south the way they dofor warmth and food and sex.From here nothing is hidden from me.From this gull’s view, I see it all.Smoke clutches a cabin in a woodall shades of green;cotton ball sheep hurrytoward their heaps of hay.But too soon,I am delivered gentlyonto ocean's face. I am born againon her wrinkled skin.Theresa Bullock, Second Prize, August 2022
ON WATCHING TIME GO BY
The dance you say
is everything time gives
earth-people waiting to be born
va'ben' -you say-red shoes
cross the stage in leaps and endless
through triangles and squares.
The passing moment turns itself
follow-shadows fall in
empty holes. All motion is
sudden white light ...
your feet find yesterday
and then fall into tomorrow.
Jane Stuart, First Prize, September 2022
OCTOBER 2022 - NO PRIZES
We met and moved like a breeze from bar to beach, the moon witness
to her unveiled dress. Her pearlescent dress button lost in abandoned restraint,
hidden in the sand. Symbols simplify explanation. But in time, more missing buttons,
my unbridled imagination, and the possession monster roiled and churned inside me.
a dark cloud
on a patch of sweetness
On my face and lips, moonlit bubbles break like little hearts compressing and filling
with the tide. Sand string undertows pull at my feet, anniversary tears in my eyes.
My son’s small voice calls me back to the beach, says “mom pulled her favorite
dress out of storage and asked me to ask you can we find some oysters,
a missing button?” We start looking.
sharp beach glass
the slow path
Richard L. Matta, First Prize, November 2022
SHE PAINTED…She painted portraits,walking through dark alleys.And as she watchedthe moon vanishbehind the rooftops,she caught glimpsesof her eyespeering through dark windowswaiting for her handsto take the brushand cast a shadow on the wall.Looking into mirrorsshe painted sunsets.And as she watchedher face vanishwith the fading light,she caught glimpsesof the moonpeering through her windows,waiting for her handsto take the brushand cat the final stroke.Carla Schick, Second Prize, December 2022Published in Primavera, Vol 4, 1978