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THE WINNER OF THE THIRD FORTNIGHT POETRY PRIZE IS RICKY RAY

AN AMERICAN POET OF TALENT
In tough times, Eyewear is continuing to grow and develop this rather special, fast-paced, 14-day turnaround poetry prize.

This time the judge was Ms Rosanna Hildyard, our senior editor at Eyewear, and an Oxford graudate, who has written a new translation of Pere Ubu which we will be publishing shortly. The 4th edition of the contest opens today with our judge being Oliver Jones, a poet, editor, and author of a critical survey of Trump's rhetoric.

The shortlist is


Antony Huen – ‘Ekphrasis’

Brianna Neumann – ‘Heart Murmur’

Chris Hardy – ‘Each Summer’

Danielle Lejeune – ‘Counting Seven Crows’

Ellen Kempler – ‘Elegy At The End Of A Beach Walk’

Greer Gurland – ‘It Is Easy To Forget’

JDA Winslow – ‘text3’

Jose Varghese – ‘Sex In The Time Of Air Raids’

Justin William Evans – ‘Night Prayer 3’

Lenore Hart – ‘Looking Into The Eyes Of A Woman’

Myna Wallin – ‘Blood Lines’

Paola Ferrante – ‘Homing’

Richard Ray – ‘Seven Hundred Sights In A Horse’

Roger Sippl – ‘Broken’


And the winner and runner-up are discussed below. Well done to all!

Winner: Ricky/Richard Ray, ‘Seven Hundred Sights In A Horse’

Runner-up: Danielle Lejeune, ‘Counting Seven Crows’

JUDGE'S COMMENTS:

This fortnight’s shortlisted poems in Eyewear’s ongoing flash-prize were chosen for their spirit and sense of daring. These are the poems, out of those submitted, that felt playful – that were attempting something novel in the form of poetry. Whether it is Antony Huen’s fragmentation of the ancient technique of ekphrasis, for a view seen through the lens of a smartphone, or JDA Williams’ loving, lavish ode to a pot roast sandwich in ‘Night Prayer 3’, each of these authors has found an entirely original voice. It’s reassuring to see a lack of cliché. It’s exciting to read poems which are skilful, sarcastic and innovative. They do not pander to literary fashions or accepted values; they are all truly expressive.
 
My winner, ‘Seven Hundred Sights In A Horse’ by Ricky Ray, and runner-up, ‘Counting Seven Crows’ by Danielle Lejeune, both invoke the mythic power of the number seven. Both authors use poetry as an almost supernaturally powerful form of language – a chant, curse, or charm.

The winning poem, ‘Seven Hundred Sights In A Horse’, could be one of Bob Dylan’s folk songs – to the tune of ‘Seven Curses’ or ‘Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts’. It is a true American legend, blackly funny, with the laconic narration of a TV Western. The words are well-worn – ‘mangy’, ‘chemo’, ‘out of town’ – but the poem’s deceptively simple, steady rhythm (much more deft than is apparent) and crafted consonance give it a magic of its own.



 
The Seven Hundred Sights in a Horse
A wild horse ran through town.
It was always running.
Gospel was: something had
to be wrong with you to see it.
Everyone had seen it.
Those who said they didn't
saw it in their dreams,
started to stutter when they spoke.
Some saw only an eye,
usually when they were blind
to the bad side of a relationship.
Some saw its mane, a mangy sight,
while they took the bus
home from chemo.
Its tongue meant you should
spit the liquor back into the bottle.
The local bum saw its skeleton
as he burned from the hollows
of his eyes. He took up
the guitar again and bone by song
it disappeared. Its tail told secrets.
Those who heard the swish
knew what it meant
but could never put it into words.
They said it was like a higher
form of balance. A little girl
put out half an apple every evening.
The neighbor's dog ate it
and she took it as a sign
that she and the horse were friends.
Her mother died young
and she's the only one
who ever saw the horse’s heart.
(Or the only one who confessed.)
She married the man
she suspected had seen it too.
He kissed her when she asked.
She and the guitarist became
the resident horse interpreters.
They often disagreed: on its name,
its sex, what color it was,
why it had come to town,
whether it whinnied
when the church bells rang,
what a person ought
to do with what they saw.
Two things they always agreed on:
you only rode it out of town
and by out of town
they meant out of life,
and if you saw its hoof
you better duck.
 
copyright 2017 the author.

 
Ricky Ray was born in Florida and educated at Columbia University. His recent work can be found in The American Scholar (blog), Matador Review, Fugue, Concis, One and Chorus: A Literary Mixtape. His awards include the Ron McFarland Poetry Prize and Katexic's Cormac McCarthy Prize. He lives in Manhattan with his wife, three cats and a dog; their bed, like any good home of the heart, is frequently overcrowded.
 

 

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