Monday, November 27, 2017

Announcing Our 9th Annual Spirit First Poetry Contest

Annual Spirit First Poetry Contest

Deadline: February 28, 2018 (midnight)
First Prize: $200
Second Prize: $150
Third Prize: $100

Complete Guidelines:

Spirit First is pleased to announce its 9th Annual Meditation Poetry Contest. Poetry submissions may be of any length and any style but must have a theme of Meditation or Mindfulness. Poems may reflect any discipline, any faith, or none. Poems must be previously unpublished. Poems not on the themes of meditation, mindfulness, stillness, or sacred silence will not be included in this meditation poetry event.

Enter up to three submissions. Poems beyond three submissions will not be considered. Please submit your poems by email unless you do not have access to the Internet. Poems will be accepted by U.S. Postal Service for those who do not have access to sending through the Internet. All others are requested to be emailed. Poems sent by U.S. Postal Service will not be returned. Poems must be received by February 28, 2018.
Please submit your poems all in one file or inside the body of an email (rather than three poems in three separate files). Please do not send your poem(s) in a PDF (formatting and spacing are lost if your poem is sent in a PDF).  Be sure to include the author's name, address, telephone number, and email address. There is no cost to enter this contest. Submissions must be received no later than February 28, 2018. Please note: We are sorry to say we are unable to provide personal evaluations/reviews of individual poems. 
Winners will be announced on or before June 30, 2018, on the Spirit First website at www.spiritfirst.org. Winning poems will be published on the Spirit First website, the Spirit First Facebook page, the Spirit First blog, and in a Spirit First newsletter (authors retain full rights to their poems).

How to submit:

By email: send to meditate@spiritfirst.org.

By U.S. Postal Service (for those unable to send by email), send to the following address:
          Spirit First Poetry Contest
          PO Box 8076
          Langley Park, MD 20787

To all our participating poets, thank you for your beautiful words. We look forward to reading your poems!

Join us!

Friday, June 30, 2017

2017 First-Place Winner--Jennifer L. Freed

Our 2017 First Place Winner is Jennifer L. Freed for her poem "At the Middle School Concert."

Jennifer L. Freed’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in literary journals and anthologies including Amsterdam Quarterly, the Common Ground ReviewThe Worcester Review, and Forgotten Women: A Tribute in Poetry; in the medical journals JAMA and Chest; and in a chapbook, These Hands Still Holding, a finalist for the 2013 New Woman’s 
Voices prize. Years ago (before husband, before children), she taught English in China and in then-Czechoslovakia. She now lives with husband and children in Massachusetts. Her website is 
jfreed.weebly.com.



At the Middle School Concert
by Jennifer L. Freed

The seventh grade band squeaks
through its festive repertoire,
and the harried day is still wound tight
along my spine.
I am checking the time,
thinking about the sixth grade chorus
and the eighth grade strings
still waiting to play,
thinking about the list of To-Do
I have not yet done,
when, from the stage,
or the air, or the whisper
of another mother passing near,
comes the sense
of being
here.

All at once I see
how the small boy beating the drums
is wagging his red head, beaming. 
How the boy on trombone wears neon
green socks beneath his khaki slacks. 
How the girl with gold satin shoes
and sparkling pink tulle
waves as she raises her flute.
Another girl clicks her high heels like Dorothy. 
The band teacher waves his baton
and bounces with verve.
Every note is brimming
with gorgeous imperfection.
We are held, all
of us, in the light
of this
fragile
night.

2017 Second-Place Winner--Lawrence Kessenich

This year's Second Place Winner goes to Lawrence Kessenich for his poem "Healing."

Lawrence Kessenich
Photo by Joseph A. Cohen
Lawrence Kessenich, who has practiced Transcendental Meditation almost continuously since 1971, won the Strokestown International Poetry Prize in 2010. His poetry has been published in Sewanee Review, Atlanta Review, Poetry Ireland Review, and many other magazines. He has a poetry chapbook, Strange News, and two full-length poetry books, Before Whose Glory and Age of Wonders. Kessenich has also published essays; he had short plays produced at festivals in Boston, New York and Durango, Colorado; and his first novel, Cinnamon Girl, was published in September 2016. His website is www.lawrence-writer.com.

Healing
by Lawrence Kessenich

Tasting stillness and knowing that it was medicine.
- Roshi Joan Halifax

What we call stillness may be composed of
sea bird calls, waves shushing across sand,
the almost audible sparks of light dancing
on water. Even in the deepest stillness,
the heart beats, blood whooshes through the ears,

joints click as the limbs make small movements.

The still are steady as the earth on its axis,
their stillness a way of being, of interacting

with the world. Like a gyroscope balanced
on a string, a dervish spinning on a mountaintop,
an angel dancing on the head of a pin.

And what is healing but the restoration
of balance, that which is out of sorts sorting
itself out? When one tastes stillness, like warm
sweet milk settling the stomach, all that has
been troubling, disturbing, all that has made
one feel sick gently dissipates, and all

that’s left is being.  

2017 Third-Place Winner--Pat Wadsorth


Our 2017 Third-Place Winner is Pat Wadsorth for her poem "If."

Pat Wadsworth has been writing poems and stories, and keeping journals, since she learned to read and write. Writing about the joy, sorrow, beauty, and wonder of life is her way of staying balanced in good times and sane in bad ones. After retiring from a twenty-four year career working with high-risk youth and their families, Pat enrolled in writing classes at her local community college. Encouraged by teachers, friends, and family members to submit her work for publication, she took the plunge. Her poetry has appeared in Mind Magazine, The Voices Project, The Blue Heron Review, and Sliver of Stone.



If
by Pat Wadsworth

if we look closely
into each other’s eyes
we will see tiny magic mirrors

if we listen closely to other voices
with open hearts
we will hear echoes

and, if we reach out
with loving hands
we will touch ourselves

with holiness

2017 Special Category Award: Haiku--David Monteith

This year's Haiku Award goes to David Monteigh for his poem "paper lanterns."

David Monteith is a former high school teacher—he lived and taught in San Antonio for nearly 20 years. Now he lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he is a journalist, a dog sitter, a facilitator, an Iyengar yoga practitioner, and a writer. He also runs an Etsy shop (Ex Libris Novum) where he sells earrings he makes out of comic book word bubbles. He loves playing with words. He's written three children's stories that haven't yet found a home. Last year he won a Banned Book Week writing contest with a story written in the style of 1001 Arabian Nights. “Paper Lanterns” is his first published poem.

paper lanterns
a haiku by David Monteith 

Breathe, then place your thoughts
like paper lanterns on the
river of your breath

2017 Editor's Choice Award--Liz Dolan

This year's Editor's Choice Award goes to Liz Dolan for her poem "The Humble Do Not Fear Failure." 

Liz Dolan’s first poetry collection, They Abide, was nominated for The Robert McGovern Prize, Ashland University. Her second, A Secret of Long Life, nominated for a Pushcart, has been published by Cave Moon Press. A nine-time Pushcart nominee and winner of Best of the Web, she was a finalist for Best of the Net 2014. She won The Nassau Prize for Nonfiction, 2011, and the same prize for fiction, 2015.


The Humble Do Not Fear Failure
by Liz Dolan                                                                                          
March
and I'm still
waiting for the amaryllis
on the sill to bloom
as it did last winter.

Another slender green stem
sprouts. Lovely so!
But not the golden goblet
of last year's  frosty gloom.

I've sprinkled stardust,
chanted psalms,
danced fandangos.

I've entreated
trees,
stones, 
whoever/whatever will listen.

I've even worshiped turtles, frogs, lit candles to tarantulas.

But the red-winged seraphs guffaw
clutch their sides
laugh at my pleas. “Stay on your knees,” they say.

What I force always fails.

Too late I've learned
to wait.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Announcing Spirit First Poetry Contest 2017

Annual Spirit First Poetry Contest

Deadline: January 31, 2017(midnight)
First Prize: $200
Second Prize: $150
Third Prize: $100

Complete Guidelines:

Spirit First is pleased to announce its 8th Annual Meditation Poetry Contest. Poetry submissions may be of any length and any style but must have a theme of Meditation or Mindfulness. Poems may reflect any discipline, any faith, or none. Poems must be previously unpublished. Poems not on the themes of meditation, mindfulness, stillness, or sacred silence will be disqualified in the first round.

Enter up to three submissions. Poems beyond three submissions will not be considered.
Please submit your poems by email unless you do not have access to the Internet. Poems will be accepted by U.S. Postal Service for those who do not have access to sending through the Internet. All others are requested to be emailed. Poems sent by U.S. Postal Service will not be returned. Poems must be received by January 31, 2017.
Please submit your poems all in one file or inside the body of an email (rather than three poems in three separate files). Be sure to include the author's name, address, telephone number, and email address. There is no cost to enter this contest. Submissions must be received no later than January 31, 2017. Please note: We are sorry to say we are unable to provide personal evaluations/reviews of individual poems. 
Winners will be announced on or before June 30, 2017, on the Spirit First website at www.spiritfirst.org. Winning poems will be published on the Spirit First website, the Spirit First Facebook page, the Spirit First blog, and in a Spirit First newsletter (authors retain full rights to their poems). 

How to submit:

By email: send to meditate@spiritfirst.org.

By U.S. Postal Service (for those unable to send by email), send to the following address:

Spirit First Poetry Contest
PO Box 8076
Langley Park, MD 20787

To all our participating poets, thank you for your beautiful words. We look forward to reading your poems!

Thursday, June 30, 2016

2016 First-Place Winning Poem

First-Place Winner: Building a Brace by Joe Cottonwood 
Joe Cottonwood has worked as a carpenter, plumber, and electrician for most of his life. He is the author of nine published novels, a book of poetry, and a memoir. His novels for adults include Famous Potatoes (1978) and Clear Heart (2009). His novels for children and young adults include Quake! (1995) and The San Puerco Trilogy (1990-1996). Joe Cottonwood's 2013 memoir, 99 Jobs: Blood, Sweat, and Houses, based on his experiences as a contractor, carpenter, plumber, and electrician, is available electronically and in print—readers and reviewers have praised its humor and authenticity. Joe lives in La Honda, California, where he built a house and raised a family. More about Joe at http://www.joecottonwood.com/.

I am Building a Brace
by Joe Cottonwood

I’m a carpenter. There’s a mindfulness of craft—of any manual labor, actually—if you open yourself to it.

I am building a brace for the front porch
of my brother who is on the other side
of that door listening with headphones
to a recording of Chinese poetry

(in Mandarin, which he understands)
while he is dying, slowly,
brain cell by brilliant brain cell
in that rocking chair
whose joints are creaking,
coming undone.

He no longer remembers his phone number
or how to count change at the grocery store.
He is in denial of any problem
but the crack in the porch grows wider
millimeter by millimeter
so out here in the rain
I set four-by-fours upright as posts,
then I jerk four-by-eights as beams
     lifting on my shoulder
     held by my hands     transferred through my spine
     pushing with my legs
     anchored by my feet
as the useless joists of the deck
drop termite shit onto my eyebrows
like taunts of children:
nya nya you can’t fix this.
But I can brace it for a while.

Long enough, at least
for my brother to forget ten languages.
I will repair that rocking chair.
I will change his sheets,
install grab bars in the shower
because he’s my brother.
I won’t let his porch collapse
out here in the rain.
I simply won’t.

Holding a baby is a window to meditation.

2016 Second-Place Winning Poem

Second-Place Winner Jacqueline Jules is the author of the poetry chapbooks Field Trip to the Museum (Finishing Line Press) and Stronger Than Cleopatra (ELJ publications). Her poetry has appeared in numerous publications including InkwellQuaker Life, St. Anthony Messenger, Christian Science Monitor, Soundings Review, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, Potomac Review, Imitation Fruit, Connecticut River Review, and Pirene's Fountain. Jacqueline Jules is also the author of 30 books for young readers including the Zapato Power series, Sarah Laughs, and Never Say a Mean Word Again. Visit her online at www.jacquelinejules.com. Jacqueline is a previous winner in our Spirit First annual poetry contest, winning first place in 2014 for her poem "To Be a Gold Droplet Floating." 

Mirrored Light
by Jacqueline Jules

The moon’s light
is only an illusion,
a reflection of the sun,
shining beyond sight.
Yet each month,
I watch a slim crescent
wax to a brilliant orb
and consider
how luminous
my life would be,
if I could mirror light
from the heavens

like that.

2016 Third-Place Winning Poem

Our 2016 Poetry Contest Third-Place winner is Arlene Gay Levine for her poem "Marigolds."

Arlene Gay Levine, author of 39 Ways to Open Your Heart: An Illuminated Meditation (Conari Press) and Movie Life (Finishing Line Press), has had poetry and prose appear in many venues, including in The New York Times, in an off-Broadway show, and on radio. Her poetry is frequently anthologized. She lives with her husband in New York City where she tends a garden of words, roses, and herbs. Learn more at http://www.arlenegaylevine.com/.


Marigolds
by Arlene Gay Levine

There are days when nothing works.
Not forgiveness, not gratitude, not

even an excursion into the silence,
inside, which currently sports a
“Do Not Disturb” sign.

No, nothing works.
Quirks and quandaries cut
like knives while the dismal
drone of the daily quotidian
beats a bad rhythm

in your fragile heart
yearning to stay present,
accepting…well,
like I said –
it doesn’t work.

Yet amidst the sludge of such
dark sky thoughts, twirling your
life round to the ground like the
spiral of a falling feather, you
sense a nudge, happen to look up

and see that pot of marigolds,
you know, the ones you planted
in the hopes that the sun of
their faces would shine you
back to the bright side of now


and it does. 

2016 Editor's Choice Award

Editor's Choice Award for our 2016 Poetry Contest goes to Jon Wesick for his poem "Meditation Instruction."

Jon Wesick is the author of the collection Words of Power, Dances of Freedom; he hosts San Diego’s Gelato Poetry Series; and he is an editor of the San Diego Poetry Annual. Jon has published over 300 poems in journals such as the Atlanta Review, Pearl, and Slipstream. He has published almost 100 short stories, and in 2015, “Visitor” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His poem “Bread and Circuses” won second place in the 2007 African American Writers and Artists contest. Jon Wesick has a Ph.D. in physics and is a longtime student of Buddhism and the martial arts.

Meditation Instruction
by Jon Wesick

Even if an A-frame of chicken bones
is all that’s left of your last meal
and the executioner will come for you soon,
settle your awareness in the here and now.

Even if the turkey is still raw
ten minutes before the banquet,
Even if you lost the winning lottery ticket
and your future prosperity tumbles with pants in the dryer,
practice the here and now.

Even if your joke about the porn star
brought a grimace to the pastor’s lips,
Even if a fart loud as an air horn
erupted at Toastmasters,
let waves of awareness return you to the here and now.

Even if your neighbor uses your lawn as his dog’s toilet,
Even if that SUV takes two parking spaces,
Even if you obsess over your upcoming scene in Tarantino’s film,
Even if your Nobel Prize acceptance speech is tomorrow,
let your mind be a redwood rooted in the here and now.

Even if a naked Angelina Jolie (or Brad Pitt)
calls you from the bedroom,
Even if a new Lamborghini gleams in the driveway
and the keys are in your pocket,
let your mind be an immovable mountain in the here and now.

Even if you fantasize this immovable mind
will make you an action hero,
Even though this poem is only a metaphor
and such a mind is impossible,
Even though Einstein proved that now does not exist,

your here and now are enough. 

2016 Special Category Award--Haiku

Our Poetry Contest 2016 has added a Special Category Award—Haiku, and the winning entry is Awareness ~ Zen Haiku by E.B. Littlehill. 

E.B. Littlehill is a former journalist and marketing communications writer. After being downsized from her corporate communications job during the Great Recession (she is still trying to figure out what was so great about it), she started a new career as a freelance event photographer. In 2014, she began a Tumblr blog of poetry and photographs called Smoke Signals from the Hill. She recently reached 800 followers. All but a handful are complete strangers. Her poem, “Instagram Photos” was chosen for inclusion in the Montclair Write Group Sampler 2016. Her first book of poetry, See the Dragons ~ A Collection of Zen Haiku, is currently being considered for chapbook publication. Read more at http://smokesignalsfromthehill.tumblr.com/. The Spirit First 2016 Meditation Poetry Contest was the first poetry contest she ever entered.



Awareness ~ Zen Haiku
by E.B. Littlehill

I am awareness
Secrets of the universe
Are all inside me