Monday, October 01, 2012

Fourth Annual Spirit First Poetry Contest

Spirit First is pleased to announce its fourth annual meditation poetry contest. Poetry submissions may be of any length and any style but must have a theme of meditation, mindfulness, stillness, or silence. Poems may reflect any discipline, any faith, or none. Poems must be previously unpublished.

Deadline: January 31, 2013
First Prize: $175
Second Prize: $125
Third Prize: $75

Please do not enter more than three submissions. Sending more than three poems will lead to those poems being disqualified.

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 Internet access. 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, 2013.

Please submit your poems all in one file or inside the body of an email (rather than three poems in three separate files). Please 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, 2013.

Winners will be announced no later than April 30, 2013, on the Spirit First website at Winning poems will be published on the Spirit First website and the Spirit First blog, and in a Spirit First newsletter (authors retain full rights to their poems).

How to submit:

By email: send to

By U.S. Postal Service (for those without Internet access), send to the following address:

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

We look forward to reading your poems!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.
~ Henry David Thoreau
photography by permission

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

The louder our world today is, the deeper God seems to remain in silence.
 Silence is the language of eternity; noise passes.
~ Gertrud von Le Fort

photography by permission

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Poetry Contest Editor's Choice Award

Spirit First is pleased to announce the Editor's Choice Award 2012 goes to Monica Devine for her poem "this." Monica Devine is the author of four children’s books, among them Iditarod: The Greatest Win Ever, a former nominee for the celebrated Golden Kite Award. Her adult nonfiction piece, On The Edge of Ice (about her travels with a whaling crew in the Arctic), won First Place in the Dorothy Churchill Cappon Award for Creative Nonfiction with the literary journal New Letters. Other credits include First Place winner in the Fairbanks Arts Association Annual Statewide Poetry Contest for her poem “No One Thing.”

Monica has traveled extensively to Indian and Eskimo villages throughout Alaska in her work as a speech-language pathologist, and she draws inspiration from the wilderness just outside her backdoor to write, paint, and practice the art of photography. Her fifth children’s book, Kayak Girl, is forthcoming from the University of Alaska Press.

by Monica Devine  

I have walked 100 steep steps to the Buddha’s home
And chanted with monks in an exotic Hindu temple.
I have meditated in a cave afraid of darkness until my
mind softened into no sound.
I have sung Latin and received the holy wafer on my tongue,
and walked the Medicine Wheel singing songs
to Mother Earth under a full moon.
Yet in all my pleas to the heavens asking to what drum
does my heart resonate?
my hands unfold
my chest rises and falls with each breath
and a quiet voice says, This.
Just     this.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Poetry Contest First-Place Winner

Spirit First is pleased to announce the winners of the third annual Spirit First Meditation Poetry Contest. Entries arrived from 37 states in the United States (including the District of Columbia) and 19 other nations worldwide. Thank you to everyone who participated (your poems were wonderful...), and congratulations to our winners. And now, here are our 2012 winners and their poems:   

Lawrence Kessenich is awarded first place for his poem “Meditating with a Dog Named Vasana.” Lawrence Kessenich is an accomplished poet living in Massachusetts—he won the 2010 Strokestown International Poetry Prize, and his poetry has been published in Atlanta Review, Poetry Ireland Review, Cream City Review, Ibbetson Street, and many other magazines. His chapbook Strange News was published by Pudding House Publications in 2008. Another chapbook was a semi-finalist for the St. Lawrence Book Award and finalist for the Spire Press Chapbook Contest. His current collection, Before Whose Glory, was a semi-finalist for the Off the Grid contest. His poem “Underground Jesus” was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Kessenich has also published essays, one of which was featured on NPR’s This I Believe in 2010 and appears in the anthology This I Believe: On Love. His play Ronnie’s Charger was produced in Colorado in 2011.

Meditating with a Dog Named Vasana*
by Lawrence Kessenich

The mind is not easily ignored.
Told to sit in the corner like
a good little dog, he disobeys
bringing thoughts like toys:
a green rubber block, a stuffed squirrel,
an old, slimy, gnawed-over bone.

Take this simple mantra, I tell him,
and play with that. But he wants to do more.
He barks, licks my face, sniffs my crotch,
drops a brightly colored ball at my feet.
Vasana! I say sharply.
But to no avail. He is my dog
and requires my attention.

I toss his ball across the room
again and again and again.
He brings it back to me
again and again and again.
Until, finally, he drops it,
lays down in his corner, and falls asleep,
dreaming of sticks thrown into rivers.
Good dog, Vasana. Good dog.

Sanskit word for concept “monkey mind”

2012 Poetry Contest Second-Place Winner

Second-place honors go to Skip Renker for his poem “Silent Reach.”

F.W. "Skip" Renker lives in Midland, Michigan, and teaches English, Introduction to Meditation, and World Religions courses at Delta Community College.  He has published poems in small press magazines and is the author of two chapbooks, Birds of Passage and Sifting the Visible.  He lives on the Pine River in mid-Michigan and draws inspiration from the natural world, from his wife Julia Fogarty, from family and friends, and from the Source of all being.

A Silent Reach
            by Skip Renker

There’s a stillness in the world
that lives at dusk in the tapering pines
near the riverbank, light held in high branches,
darkness further down and deeper
in the woods.  Nothing is dead,

not the stumps, the trees
bare of leaves, the pine needles
on the forest floor, the smooth rocks parting
the river, and not this stillness,
wholly self-contained,

needing nothing, yet
waiting for us to awaken in it, 
as if, like roots, stillness lives to reach, reach
to feed on the world and give back through
itself, servant and conduit.

all along the line 
it lives to reach, to feed
and be fed on.
needing nothing, yet
waiting for me to wake up to it.
Sleep isn’t stillness.  Stillness is awake
to its roots.  It lives, it lives
to reach, to feed.

2012 Poetry Contest Third-Place Winner

Third-place honors go to Holly Hughes for her poem “Credo.” Holly J. Hughes is the editor of the award-winning anthology Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer’s Disease, published by Kent State University Press, and she is the author of Boxing the Compass,  published by Floating Bridge Press. Nominated for several Pushcart prizes, her poems and essays have appeared in many anthologies.  The Pen and the Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World, a collaboration with essayist Brenda Miller, is forthcoming from Skinner House Press in May 2012.

A graduate of Pacific Lutheran University’s MFA program, she teaches writing at Edmonds Community College, where she
co-directs the Sustainability Initiative and Convergence Writers Series. She has spent over 30 summers working on the water in Alaska in a variety of capacities, including commercial fishing for salmon, skippering a 65-foot schooner, and more recently, working as a naturalist.   She divides her time between Indianola and Chimacum, Washington.

by Holly Hughes

Make a place for the glint in the seal’s eye that second before
it rolls back its slick head, slips silent beneath the surface.

Make room for the shimmer of salmon, splitting the sun, leaping
for the stream of its birth, even knowing what’s ahead.

Carve out a corner for the crab who grasped the blade
of the cleaver that sliced it in two, wouldn’t let go. 

That light, dazzling dark sea ahead, remember it, remember
how it seeps from billowing cumulous when you least expect

or how the sun finds the crack in the horizon’s solder to empty
out its cargo at dusk, a slick sheen across the water.

How the green spinning earth and blue brimming sea go on and on
even when we’re not looking,  and that perhaps, if we can pay

attention for even a second, remember just this, it may not
make us whole, but it could be a good place to begin.