Wilderness Interface Zone’s poets came through once again to present a full field of colorful and mind-brightening spring poetry during this year’s Spring Poetry Runoff. Spring couldn’t find better heralds of its arrival or celebrants of its renewed greening of those parts of the world that are fortunate enough to get True Spring. The WIZ admin (that’s Jonathon and me) were thrilled with the participation. We’d like to express our profound gratitude to both writers and readers who picked up ribbons on our Maypole of vernal verse.
As usual, we had many strong contestants. And as usual, we feel that we can’t award enough people enough prizes. However, those who did not place sometimes receive consolation prizes as other publications rummage through WIZ’s Runoff poetry, come up with a handful of some Spring Runoff poems–winners and worthy contestants–and republish them. Dialogue did so last year and Sunstone is doing it this year. So don’t be surprised if you’re thumbing through Sunstone’s upcoming stewardship issue and discover WIZ poems among the sheaves. WIZ is pleased to be a gateway for both emerging and established writers to win wider attention for their work.
WILDERNESS INTERFACE ZONE’S 2012 SPRING POETRY RUNOFF WINNERS
The Most Popular Poem Award: Not to belabor the obvious, but James Goldberg’s crowd-pleasing and tender reflection on fathers and sons set against a warm spring background within which stirs snakes and memories managed to pull away from William Reger’s also quite skillful and intriguing “First Robins.” This was, hands down, the most exciting Most Popular Poem vote in WIZ’s three years of running the competition. Thanks to both Will and James for putting on a spectacular show and for drawing in a record number of 212 voters.
WIZ admin’s comments on “Since he was weaned”:
Jonathon: What’s not to like in James’ “Since he was weaned”? Spring may be delayed here, and when it comes the fever breaks quietly, cumulatively. It is never much more than implied in bones needing rest, and in the sullen, housebound winterwork the father does. But he is, from the start, infected with love and wonder, and the son for his part with that urgency to Go! we all have carried in our bones, carry still if we are blessed to: an impulse caught in winter worries (where there’s Winter) and released, uncoiled, where there is Spring.
Patricia: Relationships. The world needs more relationship poems as convincing as this one, and, of course, more poems advocating kindness toward snakes. And as a reader, thus a participant in James’ word-world, I felt the language welcome me to its story. Jonathon speaks of the father becoming “infected” with love and wonder; from “Since he was weaned” emanates simple, native magnetism that likewise draws in the reader affectionately. I have a powerful, sympathetic response to the boy’s whole-body hunger to launch himself (with Papa’s company and aid) into that wider world. An authentic poem, fully approachable yet artistically savvy.
The Admin Award: Every year since the Runoff competition began, WIZ administrators (that’d be me for the first 2 years; this year, Jonathon and myself) have dipped in and chosen their favorite poem from the Runoff. The overabundance of truly worthy poems always makes choosing at least somewhat painful; this year was no exception. This year, the Admin Award goes to Mark Penny for his lyrical, sprung sonnet, “I Miss That Time of Year I Know as Spring.”
WIZ admin’s comments on “I Miss That Time of Year I Know as Spring”:
Jonathon: The comment section on Mark’s “I Miss that Time of Year” bears out that “rain-chaffed ions” was an accident, but a happy one, reading Spring as a harvest of the dormant seed of Winter with its “white-robed monarchs” in their “white-leaved bower,” and its cold but coursing water. There’s something of Dylan Thomas at work here–“cloud-licked,” “herd-lord”–but restful, clean, and sober at a holy sonnet, at a sonnet as altar.
Patricia: When I read “I Miss That Time of Year I Know as Spring”, I thought, “That gets it for me–that longing for spring that makes the mind ache.” I find the poem a satisfying answer to WIZ’s call for poems to sing up the season. I loved that line, “Of white-robed monarchs in a white-leaved bower”–thrilling and chilling. As Jonathon points out, “I Miss” is a sonnet, yet the rhyme scheme dances about freely. And yes, there’s something holy about Mark’s poem–even in that reflection, ” … dream / Never quite shaken off, a dream of chills.” “I Miss” scratched my spring itch.
For your enjoyment, below you can read or re-read the two winning poems .
I Miss That Time of Year I Know as Spring by Mark Penny
I miss that time of year I know as Spring:
The rain-chaffed ions on the air, the air
Breathed by the shrew and hawk, the wheat and tare,
Stirred by the green-leafed lyre and the wing.
I miss the swift, infant quaking of the grass
In the first stumbling steps of cloud-licked wind,
The boastful lowing of the herd-lord sun,
The warbling riot of the wild morass.
I miss that setting forward of the hour,
That lunge of drowsy muscles from a dream
Never quite shaken off, a dream of chills,
Of white-robed monarchs in a white-leaved bower,
Of cold blood coursing in the veins and streams,
Of all that revels lying prone and still.
Since he was weaned by James Goldberg
Since he was weaned, my son’s been hungry for the open sky €”
so that now, at eighteen months, he’s a seeker and a maker of signs.
A simple knock at the air
It means: open this door
and let me ascend the concrete steps
to that greater bliss and those long lines of sight.
It means: let there be light!
Or, if the light is already waiting, let me rise to it.
Let me bask today.
Then there’s fetching the shoes;
that’s much more forceful.
To bring his own shoes is to say:
I am prepared! And don’t let this journey be withheld from me!
To bring my shoes €”yes,
to cradle the massive, worn load of each size fifteen ship
and to dump it abruptly, for emphasis, at my feet €”
the time has come, my father,
and can you deny your own destiny?
If all else fails,
there’s the incantation,
the syllable of power.
The hard €˜g’ means: pay attention!
(in the prophets’ terms: behold!)
And then the long €˜o’ either swells into a
bright sound of hope,
or else drags out long and plaintive:
an aching lament, the age-old burden
(the pain of separation the prophets once spoke).
Armed with this spell, he walks up to me like Moses to Pharaoh.
Go? he says. Go. Go!
When he asks, I am always busy.
When he asks, I have work to do. Feet to rest, and bones.
But when my son struggles for these signs
like a drowning man for air,
who am I to resist?
Who am I not to offer him the sweet relief
of knowing absolutely that he has been understood?
We go outside (I tell myself)
for two minutes. Just two minutes.
But soon spring is thawing my tundra-hard heart,
Soon, we cannot be contained even by the backyard.
Under the concrete of the driveway, garden snakes are stirring.
My son and I see one’s striped body from behind a leaning rock
and I remember my father, who taught me love and reverence
when he pulled our van over all at once and stepped out,
when he carried a snake away from the dangers of the road’s warm asphalt,
when he laid it down safe on the soft ground
one spring. Long ago.