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

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

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

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

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.

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                                                                                          
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
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.