Wednesday, May 01, 2013

First-Place Winner, Poetry Contest 2013

Levi Andrew Noe is awarded first place for his poem "To Light the Way." Levi Andrew Noe hails from Denver, Colorado. He is a writer, a teacher, a yoga practitioner and instructor, a maker of botanical products, a world traveler, and a seeker of realness in all its forms. Levi is in the process of self-publishing his first book, a children's picture book titled One Day as a Raven (read more about his book here).

If Levi were trapped on a desert island and could have only one book to read, he would have a very hard time deciding between a collection of poetry from either Rumi or Hafiz.

To Light the Way
            by Levi Noe
I imagine a time
when the spark
you truly are
finally catches fire
through all the damp and mildew
and sets your dead-wood self
I am supposing you will say
something like “yeeouch!”
and possibly you may
be desperate enough
to stop, drop, and roll,
or run for the nearest
body of water.
But then
after several minutes
of mortified lunacy
you will find yourself
covered in dirt
dripping wet
laughing hysterically,
not caring how insane
the crowds gathering around
might think you are,
not worrying
whether or not
someone has called the police.
I imagine you will stop laughing then
and begin to weep
for all the illusions
of skin
and bone
and sinew
and thought
that now blow somewhere
across the midwest as fertile ash.
All of that illusion
that you once identified with,
and claimed as yourself
gone, gone, gone.
And once the madness
and mourning pass
I suppose you will float away
or choose to stay here as a naked,
penniless, homeless wanderer
with no aim, no fear, and no motive
but to love and to burn like a candle
to light the way.

Second-Place Winner

Second-place honors go to Mark Smith-Soto for his poem “Flamingos.” Mark Smith-Soto is Professor of Spanish and editor of International Poetry Review at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  He has published three prize-winning chapbooks and two full-length poetry collections to date, Our Lives Are Rivers (University Press of Florida, 2003) and Any Second Now (Main Street Rag Publishing Co., 2006).  His poetry, which has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and won him an NEA Fellowship in Creative Writing (2006), has appeared in Antioch Review, Kenyon Review, Literary Review, Nimrod, The Sun and many other publications.  In 2010, Unicorn Press brought out his work of translation Fever Season, the selected poetry of Costa Rican writer Ana IstarĂº.  His most recent works are Berkeley Prelude: A Lyrical Memoir (Unicorn Press, 2012) and the chapbook Splices, just out from Finishing Line Press.

            by Mark Smith-Soto 
What advantage in the wild
could there be in perching on
one leg, skinny and knob-
kneed, or in parading, among
predators, so openly pink?
What quirk in nature led
to this queer turn of bird,
gaudy bundle on stilts,
Cyrano beak, a neck for
sticking out? At the zoo,
thirty or forty of them stood
like an installation, ablaze
with improbable tranquility,
not a feather aquiver for minutes
on end. A while now I’ve
known unexpected beauty
can break you into a grin,
pluck the irony out of you
clean as a thorn. Watching
them that day, I raised one foot
and placed it on the other ankle,
for ten seconds at least
I stayed that way.

Third-Place Winner (tied)

Third-place honors go to Natascha Bruckner for her poem “One at the Center.” Natascha Bruckner earned an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Naropa University in 1999. She lives in Santa Cruz, California, and serves as managing editor of The Mindfulness Bell, a magazine on the art of mindful living. In January 2013, Natascha and fellow poet John Chinworth published a book of poems titled Whiskey Ginger, available on

One at the Center
            by Natascha Bruckner
You don’t see water.
You see wavering trees, rippling clouds,
a sun rocking back and forth.
The pond is a liquid mirror
until a small, stout-nosed fish
wiggles and taps the air
from below, sending out
concentric haloes
like portholes opening
then melting back to glass.
You don’t notice silence
until the bell master
invites bronze to sing,
wave upon ringing wave
surging outward
like flutes of a fountain.
The motion of love is no different.
Touch your darling with a smile,
a warm hand.
See joy lift his face.
Watch kindness ease her hands.
Water moves into waves as
silence folds into song
as we turn each other into love.

Be fearless like the stout-nosed fish.
Be humble as the bell master.
Be the one at the center
making a motion
of beginning.

Third-Place Winner (tied)

Third-place honors (tied) go to Iain Macdonald for his poem “Walking Meditation.” Born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland, Iain Macdonald has earned his bread and beer in a variety of ways, from factory hand to merchant marine officer. He currently lives in Arcata, California, where he works as a high school English teacher. His chapbooks Plotting the Course and Transit Report are published by March Street Press.

Walking Meditation
          by Iain Macdonald
My elderly mother
takes my arm,
leaning on me
for support
as we head uphill
toward home.
She moves 
very, very slowly,
and I find
I must focus
and breathe
for balance,
her every step
becoming mine.

Editor's Choice Award 2013

The Editor's Choice Award 2013 goes to Temple Cone for his poem "A Closer Absence." Temple Cone is the author of three books of poetry: That Singing, from March Street Press (2011); The Broken Meadow, which received the 2010 Old Seventy Creek Poetry Press Series Prize; and No Loneliness, which received the 2009 FutureCycle Press Poetry Book Prize. An associate professor of English at the U.S. Naval Academy, he lives in Annapolis, Maryland.
A Closer Absence
           by Temple Cone
There’s got to be a word
for this longing
that kneels beside you
in an empty chapel
or follows you beneath bare trees,
a word inflected
with pulse and handclasp and breath.
You would need a thousand tongues
just to speak it,
unless you found
you were one of the tongues
and the word
was being spoken
through you. Was you.

2013 Poetry Contest

Spirit First is pleased to announce the winners of the fourth annual meditation poetry contest. Entries arrived from nearly every state in the United States, the District of Columbia, and 21 other nations worldwide. International submissions came from Australia, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, England, Germany, Greece, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Luxembourg, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Philippines, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Ukraine, and Wales. (Several poems arrived from poets without state/country information, so other countries may have been represented.)
As each round of the competition continued, the judging become more and more difficult. So many beautiful poems! Our reviewing committee had a great challenge in selecting the winners. Thank you, reviewing team, and thank you to all our poets for participating in this meaningful event. Congratulations to all our winners!

And now, we begin posting our winning poets and their poems.