Artillery Hell by Capt. James
Hope who served at the Battle of Antietam
This is the second consecutive
year in which the poetry challenge was for a “November poem.” You can see last year’s winning
poems at https://wildamorris.blogspot.com/2021/11/winning-poems-about-november.html,
and click at the bottom of that post to see the prompt poems.). I have been surprised by how few of the poems were primarily about Thanksgiving. Both poets whose poems were used as prompt poems this month - June Nirschl and Elizabeth Harmatys Park agreed to judge the submissions.
The winning poem this year is grimmer than anything submitted last year. but it is beautifully written.
On the way home from Sharpsburg, MD
as I march through the woods, wish
the ground to swallow me. Musket smoke
still hangs in my nostrils.
Away from there,
my eyes to pray, air crisp with sweet
pawpaw leaves and syrup-colored maples,
tanager in the pines, hear the oriole’s
pure, liquid whistles, rich flute and piccolo,
flutter-drums of passion, beating of wings.
buzz around those carcasses
maggot my thoughts. I am running now,
away from there,
from cornfields scattered with ears
pressed to the ground, hair silked with blood,
bodies husked in gray and blue;
from the fields littered with death.
I feel my own reaper close behind
swinging his scythe. My arm severed
bone; my limb thrown
among other arms and legs onto piles,
only its ghost remains to taunt me.
But today, I am coming home.
Away from there.
~John C. Mannone
In a note attached to his poem, Mannone said that the Battle of Antietam fought in Sharpsburg, MD [Sept 17, 1862], was the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War with 28000 American casualties. He also metntioned that this poem is part of the 2nd place winning set in the 2014 Knoxville Writers’ Guild Poetry Contest. "November 1862" first appeared in Blood and Spades (Horror Writers Association Newsletter, November 2017).
Nirschl chose this poem for first place. She said, “This poem captured the significance of the Battle of Antietam and the effect it had on its survivors. It succeeded in relaying the effect of the war on the individual with a melodic grace. The poem embodies the senses and the poet's ability to relay them.”
Park awarded it an honorable mention, saying, “This poem is so well written it is both beautiful and dreadful at the same time. It tells a story, is a narrative poem with a lyrical quality.”
Park selected a different poem for first place:
Silver Sun on A November Morning
A polished silver disc appeared
through the mist this morning--
sun disguised as a full moon,
a luminous gray circle,
rolling across the sky,
following me as I walked.
I heard him laughing
at those who think he is
moon gone mad because
his face is covered with a silver veil.
Gradually, sun parts fog’s
gossamer and all see
him radiating in his
golden splendor against a blue sky.
Restored to his own appearance,
he smiles his light down—
not much warmth,
but then again,
it is November.
~ Joan Leotta
Park explained her decision: “This poem makes good use of a charming and unique metaphor, the sun as moon. The sun is often overlooked as the focus of attention in November. There is that wonderful contrast of fog and gossamer light and the surprising warmth of a November sun."
The following poem is the only one other than “November 1962” that was selected by both judges.
Pay Attention to the Prophets
The sun shines through
the trees the color of honey.
Leaves dripping, drop down to the ground.
With each step, sweet stickiness cleaves to my soles.
Pink geraniums stand faithful, despite the frost overnight.
As the light softens, the shadow of the sunflower
wears its soul on its face, offering inner sanctum
white pines unveil their brown needles in abundance
ushering in devotion beneath their contemplative silence.
The day folds its hands in ritual, making itself smaller.
The inevitable lurks amid Fall's change.
Cloistered in this moment lies the sacred text
belonging to both heaven and earth.
Geese in their faithful formation beg that I look up, listen.
They ask that I join, pay attention.
~ Angela Hoffman
Park selected this poem as 2nd place. She said, “This poem has worldly sensual references to sound, touch and color. With the consistent use of metaphors such as soul, sanctum, ritual and cloistered, it also includes the transcendent. That is skillfully done in a complex poem where nothing is wasted.”
Nirschl selected it as third place. Her comments: “Without mentioning the month, the poet provides more than enough to illustrate November. Two lines that struck me are: Cloistered in this moment lies the sacred text/belonging to both heaven and earth.”
The next poem was chosen for 2nd place by Nirschl:
I had grown taller
confused of swell and itch I felt at
the swirl of Judy's red skirt’s pleats.
Too the earth change mauled me after the sugar high
and soaped windows of Samhain
riding to Saint Michael's mass of All Saints' Day obligation.
Choking in the too tight neck button of last year's white shirt
I caught the crimson, yellow, and orange swirl
under the jet stream bow
denuding maple, oak, and sassafras.
I ground sad spice with the stones of mother's sorrow
a special All Souls' Day prayer
for the soul and spirits shattered body of Grandpa Pete.
His fine tenor now she swore sings with choirs of seraphim.
November became an unseen woman, organza dress winking
her long legged strides in shadow and desire.
Whisps and tension lurked in spirals and snowstorms
spicing dark days and depression to Thanksgiving.
Mother's martinet menuing of homemade pies and casseroles
assigning roles to spouse and sons and daughters
directed our theater of the absurd feast.
Wine sipping parents and aunts select this instant to feel gratitude for
my year of missed grades, detention, and ADD moments
railing the ultimate mystery of the universe
"Why do you do what you do?"
Defects of nature and my failure of pluck
eclipsed the mystery of the northwest winds.
Inward November’s last few days focused
on wooden desks with holes for inkwells we never used
our teachers chatter of basketball games
fluttering now red and white decorations to mask
her cold swirl and warm whispers in the forest
vowing reconciliation to my kink and quandary
once we breathe alone.
~ Tyson West
Nirschl said, “The title of this poem is perfect. So much happens in November or because of it, and the poet got it right. After any given amount of time, the events do ‘swirl.’ I felt as if I could have been part of these events.”
Park’s choice for 3rd Place is “Armistice Day.”
Somewhere poppies spring
from blood-soaked earth,
rain greens the fields of the dead,
smoke rises from fires unquenched.
We will never forget, people say.
While here on November 11
flowers have been mown to stubble,
graveyards are silent and deserted
and snow covers the path to the gate.
We forget why there’s no mail today.
~ Irene Alderson
Commenting on “Armistice Day,” Park said, “This poem is deceptively simple but it packs a punch. An unforgettable bloody history is marked by an unforgettable day that is easily forgotten. That contrast is shocking.”
Nirschl selected two poems for honorable mention:
1. “Forever Autumn” by Toastingfork. June’s comments: “The poem addresses the climate crisis directly. The rhyme scheme is subtle and effective.”
2. “November Revelation” by Elaine Sorrentino. June’s comment: “The poem is thoughtful and addresses the poet's own awareness of time's passage.”
Thank you to all who submitted poems this month. Congratulations to all the winners! Each poet retains copyright on his or her own poem.
For more about Capt. James Hope and his paintings, see https://www.nps.gov/anti/learn/photosmultimedia/hopepaintings.htm.
Irene Alderson performs regularly with the Bosso Poetry Company, a collective of writers and musicians based in Minneapolis. Her poetry has appeared online, on the Mankato Poetry Walk & Ride, and in her self-published chapbook, Flying Between the Snows. She lives with her husband and a loquacious super senior cat.
Angela Hoffman’s poetry collections include Resurrection Lily (Kelsay Books, 2022) and Olly Olly Oxen Free (forthcoming, Kelsay Books, 2023). She placed third in the WFOP Kay Saunders Memorial Emerging Poet, 2022. Her poetry has appeared in Solitary Plover, Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets’ Museletter and Calendar, Agape Review, Verse-Virtual, Visual Verse, Your Daily Poem, Writing In A Woman’s Voice, Moss Piglet, Amethyst Review, Orchards Poetry Journal, and Lothlorien Poetry Journal. She has written a poem a day since the start of the pandemic. Angela lives in Jefferson, Wisconsin.
Joan Leotta plays with words on page and stage. She performs tales featuring food, family, nature, and strong women. Her writings are in Synkroniciti, Ekphrastic Review, Pinesong, The Sun, Brass Bell, Verse Visual, anti-heroin chic, Gargoyle, Silver Birch, Ovunquesiamo, Verse Virtual, Poetry in Plain Sight, Red Eft, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Yellow Mama, Crimeucopia, and others. She’s a 2021 Pushcart nominee, received Best of Micro Fiction, 2021 (Haunted Waters), nominee for Best of the Net, 2023, and 2022 runner up in Frost Foundation Poetry Competition. Her second chapbook, Feathers on Stone, is coming in late 2022 from Main Street Rag.
John C. Mannone has poems in Windhover, North Dakota Quarterly, Poetry South, Baltimore Review, and others. He won the Impressions of Appalachia Creative Arts Contest in poetry (2020), the Carol Oen Memorial Fiction Prize (2020), and the Joy Margrave Award (2015, 2017) for creative nonfiction. He was awarded a Jean Ritchie Fellowship (2017) in Appalachian literature and served as the celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). His full-length collections are Disabled Monsters (Linnet’s Wings Press, 2015), Flux Lines: The Intersection of Science, Love, and Poetry (Linnet’s Wings Press, 2021), Sacred Flute (Iris Press, 2022), and Song of the Mountains (Middle Creek Publishing, 2023). He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex and other journals. A physics professor at Alice Lloyd College, John lives in southeast Kentucky.
June Nirschl has been a resident of Door County since 2000. She has been fortunate in finding a flourishing community of poets. Her career included teaching high school English and serving as a municipal clerk.
Elizabeth Harmatys Park is a past recipient of the Jade Ring First Poetry Prize awarded by the Wisconsin Writers Association. Her poetry has been published in journals, anthologies, and the Wisconsin Poetry Calendar. Park writes with Authors Echo in Burlington, WI.
Toastingfork is a reclusive poet favouring anonymity in out-of-date utensils, seeking the shadows while stoking the flames, and tarnishing our daily bread while loading us up with carbs."
Tyson West has published speculative fiction and poetry in free verse, form verse and haiku distilled from his mystical relationship with noxious weeds and magpies in Eastern Washington. He has no plans to quit his day job in real estate. He is currently the featured USA poet at Muse Pie Press.
Check back on December 1 for a new prompt.
© Wilda Morris