It’s been a privilege and delight for Wilderness Interface Zone to host a spectacular flourish of spring poetry during this year’s Spring Poetry Runoff. In the kick-off post, I called for a show of green language, of creative Ã©lan and prospect-opening words. I asked for poetry that contained the recombinant stuff of fertile, world-making expression that gets into others’ consciousness and gives rise to new thoughts or that perhaps resurrects a memory. This year’s Spring Poetry Runoff Contest entries did all that and more. Among the poets’ overall accomplishments is the intertwining of song and dance that erupted on WIZ in response to the call for spring verse €”a sight that not only was worth seeing but also that was my deep pleasure to join. It was a good crowd to work with and reminds me of a recent experience watching violet-green swallows mixing it up over beaver ponds. Not only do the birds snatch up insects, each bird for itself, but obviously, they’re flying together and enjoying it, tumbling above and below each other, every bird forming its flight off its comrades’, wheeling, barrel rolling, one bird drawing up short of collision to let another flyer pass under then swooping out of its hover into a long, twinkling glide that weaves right back into a living fabric of free-flight.
I found choosing a winner agonizing. I feel I can’t award enough people enough prizes. Sean Watson’s cheering section €”vast as the sea and, apparently, nearly as relentless €”delivered his poem €œProvo € to Winner’s Circle for the Most Popular Poem Award. Well done, Sean €”you played the game with a strong hand. Congratulations!
Now for the Admin Award. The high level of skill and pastoral prowess that many of the poems displayed impressed me deeply and will affect me for a long time to come. There were so many head-turners that I have cognitive whiplash. But I did choose, and here’s the outcome:
1st Place: A tie between Judith Curtis for €œConversion € and Jonathon Penny for €œSprung Rhythm (A Pagan Hymn). €
Honorable Mention: David Passey, for his poem €œMarch Morning, New York City. €
These are more prizes than I counted on awarding, but I couldn’t decide whether I liked Judith’s €œConversion € better or Jonathon’s €œSprung Rhythm (A Pagan Hymn), € so I didn’t decide. And David’s poem wouldn’t let go of me. So I stretched as far as I could.
Judith’s €œConversion € accurately and effectually recalls the experience many of us have had (including me) of €œconverting € to a place €”taking root in a new home €”as well as portrays compellingly that piquant condition of mind that comprises conversion, when head and heart release their hold on the expected and familiar and open to the unimagined, reconfiguring, and seemingly repugnant unknown. I find her image of surrender at the end of the poem especially moving, invoking, as it does, classical-brand surrender of and to love. Love’s surrender is passionate business, and Judith does a stunning job of recreating in words the depths of that passion. Congratulations, Judith, and thanks for bringing us this poem.
I liked both of Jonathon’s poems, €œThorns and Thistles and Briars (An Easter Poem) € and €œSprung Rhythm (A Pagan Hymn) € very much. I chose €œSprung Rhythm € to share 1st Place with Judith’s poem because every time I read €œSprung Rhythm, € I find it great fun. Jonathon mixes the formalistic control of the sonnet delightfully with the occasional letting-down-of-the-schematic hair to give the reading mind a wild and satisfying ride. The poem is as tightly packed with images and energies of spring as a Jack-in-theBox is locked down inside its container on its compressed coils. At the poem’s end, instead of Jack’s springing out in startling fashion, we get the release of a softened and lyrical couplet that ties the poem off neatly. €œSprung Rhythm’s € musical composition is especially intriguing. All lines in each quatrain rhyme or near-rhyme, with all three quatrains carrying the long €œi € sound through €˜til the couplet, when the poet introduces a new rhyme scheme, almost sigh-like in effect. Very classical, requiring of skill and an ear tuned to the musical possibilities of the English language. Impressive, Jonathon €”I look forward to seeing where you go from here.
David Passey’s €œMarch Morning, New York City € is a finely tuned, imagistic poem displaying a different side of the city €”charming, elegant, marked with gems of natural beauty, where turns of light really are just as native as they are in the open vistas of the West. That’s one of the aspects of this poem that I really like: It opens my mind, allowing me to place rites of spring familiar to me from where I live in rural Utah €” €œsparrows / flickering and dancing so quick € €”within the unfamiliar cityscape of New York City. The poem’s music is quite good, too: €œ €¦ a scaffolding of glad candles, € €œToday a bustling bright parade. € The poem’s last stanza turns my mind a different direction every time I read it. Thanks so much, David, for adding €œMarch Morning, New York City € to the Spring Poetry Runoff.
Sean, Judith, and Jonathon will each receive her or his choice of Mark Bennion’s Psalm and Selah: A Poetic Journey Through the Book of Mormon (Bentley Enterprises 2009) or Kimberly Johnson’s A Metaphorical God (Persea, 2008) or Philip White’s The Clearing (Texas Tech University Press 2007). David will receive a $10 Amazon gift certificate.
Many other poems in the Runoff deserve high praise and acknowledgement. I hope in the future to be able to offer a collection of Runoff poems to all participants. Thanks so much, everyone €”readers and writers, both. This was an especially enjoyable and inspiring Spring Runoff, and I’m deeply grateful for everyone’s participation. Good fun, all, and such beautiful language all around. What a great vernal bash.