Kierstin Bridger!

Congratulations, she wins publication of her poem on this blog, and £140 to be paid immediately via PayPal.

There are two runners up this time, tied for second place:

P.C. Vandall for 'Wintering'

Greer Gurland for 'That tree is empty, my son tells me'

All the rest listed below were very good poems also.

Bridger is a Colorado writer and author of 20117 Women Writing The West's Willa Award for Demimonde (Lithic Press 2016). Her full collection is All Ember (Urban Farmhouse Press). Winner of the Mark Fischer Poetry Prize, the 2015 ACC Writer’s Studio award, an Anne LaBastille Poetry residency and short-listed for the Manchester Poetry Competition in the UK, Bridger is both editor of Ridgway Alley Poems and Co-Director of Open Bard Poetry Series. She co-hosts Poetry Voice with poet Uche Ogbuji. Find her current work in December, Prairie Schooner and Painted Bride Quarterly. She earned her MFA at Pacific University.


Of Arc

Stepping across the threshold
I take a long, smoky pull
from the August dark, 
try to memorize dirt and water
all that holds me on this blue orb 
every boy I met at midnight 
every car I pushed down the road 
revved like thunder
leaned into bend and turn
to escape the rearview 
bridges snapping
rope and board 
peripheral flickers of constellation 
bigger than the small grip of control
it took to shut out the lights
lock the door, 
secure the privacy settings. 

In this brittle haze of nostalgia 
I remember another mad man is in charge
but this time I have a child asleep 
while I secret this drag. 
my curated walls are enflamed
my zip code could be nuked
just like that it could be gone.
I have to take off my specs--what you do before a fight--
My opponent will blur
the way they did for Artemisia
and for Joan.

This is how to stand like a knight 
only a slim blade against the dragon
of this time:
Hold my light 
I'll whisper into the legacy of stars
to the wind and crescent moon
handover my glowing ash and lick of flame.
Every uprising takes a curve of trajectory
and a practice run.
Every revolution starts with one woman
turning inward, holding court with herself.

copyright Kierstin Bridger, 2017, published with permission of the author

Judges's comments (by Todd Swift)

This was an impressive field of poems... I read through over 350 poems to select 16 that stood out. To generalise, never too wise with poetry, the poems were either heartfelt and evocative of a looking back to childhood, or ahead to death; or they were anti-Trump in nature (and good for them); or, zanily surrealist. I would gladly publish any of these poets, based on this quality of writing. McColl and Finnegan, for instance, both presented powerful and moving variations on the theme of childhood remembered.

The three that finally emerged as top managed to somehow combine wit, feeling, and some sense of politics, in very human and humane ways, that seemed resonant with the Thanksgiving and wintry mood.

Vandall's poem is deliriously bold and feminist, with her celebration of a woman's body, self-reflected upon in a bathtub. In fact it is mostly a celebration of her "beaver" - and one of the funniest poems I have read.  I include it in full below.

Gurland's untitled poem seems  perhaps slight, at first... it is certainly traditional, and gentle. She studied with Heaney at Harvard, and it shows.  The poem's crafted subtleties yield to a sense of a deep sense of what poetry's more modest phrasings can achieve, and I found myself returning to its humane depths. I also include it below.

The winning poem seemed to me brilliant. It explores nostalgia, revolution, feminism, the current political crisis facing America, but also includes funny, and sometimes lovely, moments and images, as well, and ends with a surprisingly well-turned metaphor, as it were - the arcing power of Arc, potential in each person - each woman, at least, as the poem says.


I’m crouched in the bath, a sinking feeling
much like the slow drain of pigment dripping
off the landscape into clean sheets of snow.
Under the skylight I glimpse a twinkling

strand beneath folds of water like tinsel
tangled in the scrub brush. I'm mortified.
My beaver doesn't give a good gawd damn,
has high-tailed it out of there and has left

a badger to burrow in the dark roots.
Do I pillage the village, torch the fields
in hopes of a better crop? Who'll dine
downtown if there's too much salt and pepper

on the table? Who'll choose shepherd’s pie
when there's cherries left to pluck? I don't want
my fair lady in waiting to fold up
like an accordion box, a windbag

croaking refrains of —Roll out the Barrel.
What I need is a fur trapper to hunt
this silver fox that trots the snowy
tundra of my crotch. I'm hunched in the claw

footed tub watching my camel-toe turn
pigeon-toed. In the unfurling twilight
an old crone comes from the mouth of the cave,
chipping away at my clitography.

copyright 2017 PC Vandall

'That tree is empty, my son tells me.'

That tree is empty, my son tells me.
It is October. Where do I begin explaining
just how wrong and right he is,
and then how little right I have to tell him
what a full life is? I am shocked every year
at how bright the world appears
and for such a short time.
I am the opposite of a child
in this one way: what I see, I have
a hard time believing ever fully goes away.
Yes, the tree is empty of its leaves,
but it is also fully changed by having
shed them, and fully ready for an answer,
ready to receive the snow, your question,
ready to be seen-- and prepared to hide again
in beauty, come Spring—just wait with me.

copyright 2017 Greer Gurland

The full 16-strong shortlist is here:

1.     Audrey Malloy – ‘Getting out of here’
2.     Greer Gurland – ‘That tree is empty, my son tells me’
3.     Henry Stanton – ‘I Forgot Who Told Me This’
4.     James Finnegan – ‘I was in Lanesborough today’
5.     Jane Burn – ‘Leith Harbour’
6.     Joe Lines –‘Interior’
7.     K. Faust –‘ The Eccentric French Song and Dance Man of Grand Rapids’
8.     Kierstin Bridger – ‘Of Arc’
9.     Laura Seymour – ‘Smile house’
10. Marisa Silva-Dunbar – ‘Discordia’
11. P.C. Vandall – ‘Wintering’
12. Rennie Ament – ‘In America’
13. Serge Neptune – ‘Cathedral’
14. Stephanie Roberts – ‘I imagine’
15. Susan Baller-Shepard – ‘He did what I told him to do’
16. Thomas McColl –‘Guess Which Hand’



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