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.