Monday, July 28, 2014

July 2014 Poetry Challenge Winners: That Special Place


Patrick Dunn, the judge for the July poetry challenge, is an associate professor of English at Aurora University, where he teaches linguistics, stylistics, and creative writing.  He is the author of three books on esoteric spirituality and a book of poetry, Second Person.  His poetry has appeared in Fifth Wednesday, Poetry Sky, and Edgz.  His work has been translated into several languages, including Czech, Russian, and Chinese.  His poetry has won the NWG Founders Prize, and his second book won the COVR award. He selected first, second and third place poems. We’ll begin with the first place poem:

Illinois Fragment

one April Sunday
we hiked a mile
over fences and
across a fallow field

splashed  through
a pebbled brook
to a spot you’d found
while hunting

your old lab
ran in zigzags
through the woods
bewitched by spring

deep inside
an old woodlot
a pool of bluebells
in a hollow curve

a quiet cup of ocean
a scrap of fallen sky
so blue even the air
above was blue

a place so still
we felt the bluebells
bend and blow
inside us.

~ Joan Peronto

Professor Dunn's comments:  "Illinois Fragment" stands in the tradition of American Imagism without being an imitation of it.  There's a lot to enjoy in this poem, and it's the sort of poem that I need to read over and over.  There's a sense of love, companionship, in that ‘we’" but then why is the speaker speaking?  There's a wistfulness, as if the persona is reminding another of a happier time.  In the second half of the poem, the bluebells take over, as they've taken over the hollow, to the point where they even color the air itself.  We're reminded of the past, and then moved back to dwell in it and see this special place from the eyes of the persona and the person to whom he or she speaks.  And then, surprisingly, our point of view is pushed even farther, and instead of seeing the bluebells we experience becoming them as the persona did when she first saw them.  There's a lot going on in this seemingly simple poem, which makes it a deep and engaging read.  Thank you for the opportunity to enjoy it.”

Dresbach Rest Area

It’s called a thin spot—
where I sit beneath
a blue washed sky
beside the Mississippi
and feel the power of God
through the warm sunshine
caressing my back
and the blades of grass
running between my fingers.

The ebb and flow of small town life
meanders through the lock and damn
releasing fishermen in to the hope
of a better catch on the other side
and I watch her beauty
and remember the cautions
of her deadly current
that spins water snakes
around beaches
that have no lifeguards.

She cuts through
two states here
and spits Eagles into the wind
soaring like guardian angels
here, over my thin spot,
perhaps protecting God
from the sight of empty Coke cans
and cigarette butts.
~ Pamela Larson

The judge’s comments on the second place poem:  "’Dresbach Rest Area’ deftly paints a picture of the Mississippi as we Midwesterners know her.  I was particularly struck by the triple juxtaposition of dangerous but beautiful nature, the corruption and detritus of humanity, and the silent gaze of the divine.”

Remembering Puck

Grandma’d placed the bench at orchard’s edge
behind the big farmhouse,
pungent apples fallen at my feet
heady liqueur for the sucking bees.

There sat I, deep into July,
With A Midsummer Night’s Dream 
in my lap. Virginal at sweet sixteen,
Shakespeare’s magic belonged to me.
Mine, too, Grammy’s garden on that glowing, sweet,
summer night. Greater my 
wish for puckish pranks, and reading more 
into the five acts: my high delight.

~ Carole Mertz

About this, the third-place poem, Professor Dunn wrote:  “Having spent time myself as a teenager reading out in the woods (although, for me, it was Keats), I really enjoyed ‘Remembering Puck.’  I thought it worked well, engaging the senses and creating a firm image of the bench, the orchard, and the growing fascinating with literature and nature in a young mind.”

Congratulations to the three winners! The winning poems are property of the poets who wrote them. Please do not reproduce them without their consent.

A new challenge will be posted on August 1, and the winner of the January challenge, which was extended, will be announced soon thereafter.

About the Winners:

Joan Peronto lives and writes poetry in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts. She is a transplanted mid-westerner, having spent the first 22 years life in Central Illinois . She is a graduate from the U. of Wisconsin , Madison in history and science. Joan worked in the reference department of the Berkshire Athenaeum for 34 years and, with her husband, raised seven children, now educated and thrust upon the world.

Her  poetry has appeared in Crossing Paths, an anthology of Western New England poets, The Berkshire Review, The Berkshire Sampler, Hummingbird, The P.E.O.Record
and The Rockford Review.  Her children’s poetry has appeared in Ladybug and Spider.

Pamela Larson lives in Arlington Heights, IL. Pam has been published in the Daily Herald, Karitos, Cram Poetry Series, Journal of Modern Poetry, bottle rockets haiku journal and on and She has won many awards from Highland Park Poetry and a Pushcart Prize Nomination from

Carole Mertz studied in Salzburg, Austria and received her Mus. B from Oberlin College. She began writing poetry in 2008. Her work is published in Mature Years, With Painted Word, The Copperfield Review, Conium Review, Rockford Review, at Tiny Lights, Page & Spine, and at The Write Place at the Write Time. Her chapter on tips for writers is included in Writing After Retirement: Tips by Successful Retired Writers, Smallwood and Redman-Waldeyer, Eds. (Scarecrow Press) forthcoming 2014. 


© Wilda Morris