Saturday, December 28, 2019

December 2019 Winning Poems - Letters

Eugène Delacroix, The Song of Ophelia (Act IV, Scene V)
1834 (lithograph) National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

There were a quite a few excellent poems this month. There are two winners. I addition, three poems earned honorable mention: “Dear Vincent,” by Mary Jo Balistreri, “Dear Gizmo,” by Shelly Blankman, and “Dear Poetry,” by Kali Lightfoot.

The first place poem gives a nod to William Shakespeare’s play, “Hamlet.”

The Love Letter Ophelia Wrote in Reply

“Doubt that the stars are fire…”
Beneath the stars the skater knelt
upon the ice before Your Majesty.
In the fold of your cloak, still I felt
the cold and how far the stars must be.
“Doubt that the sun doth move…”
Have you not read Copernicus
who masterly doth prove
the planets skate like those of us
who ‘round a monarch move?
“Doubt truth to be a liar…”
As soon as doubt my dream of you
as actor on a starry stage,
where you, bright hero, are most true,
though speaking lines upon a page.
“But never doubt I love…”
‘Trust an actor as your dreams,’
my father chides this loving daughter,
‘to learn what is from what it seems—‘
The sun melts ice; I drown in water

~ L.Shapley Bassen

“The Love Letter Ophelia Wrote in Reply” was first published by the  California State Poetry Quarterly.

Second place goes to a longer, unrhymed poem, which creates a very different mood. The poet’s particular use of repetition creates a kind of melancholy.

Dear Father Time

Is it summer again, is it hot again,
didn't Mr Schmidt just now, sit in his gazebo,
didn't he smile, weren't his hedges trimmed

didn't the rain flood his narrow gutters
didn't the summer end

wasn't his body birdlike,
wasn't it tanned

didn't his best friend waddle through the door too,
old and blind, didn't they just—

wasn't the back garden
harrowed and planted—

I remember how he turned dirt
in wobbly rows

weren't his seeds planted,
didn't his vines climb the south trellis—
I blink and sniffle back the salt
I have studied the vines planted close to his house

He is the gardener to his autumn crocus
the wind to his birdwing butterflies— (tightrope walkers
dodging cracks in the air, curators of white and red
licking sweet balls of liquid, one drop at a time)

I can't hear his voice
I cry, wetting the bare ground

I no longer care how loud the sound I make
why do I need to

when was he silenced, when did it first seem pointless—
(that what is held in the silences, silences
that what it sounds like can't change what it is—)

didn't the winter end,
wasn't the earth warm when he planted

didn't he plant the seeds,
wasn’t he necessary, wasn’t he a tiller of the earth—

the vines, spilling from their stems
were they harvested

where do his birdwings go

do I imagine their existence
on this day embalmed by the sun

~Donna Best)

Thank you to everyone who sent a poem this month. It was a pleasure to read them. Please watch for next month’s challenge and enter again.

L. Shapley Bassen is a native New Yorker now in Rhode Island. Her collected poems were indie-published this year: What Suits a Nudist, by . She was First Place winner in the 2015 Austin Chronicle Short Story Contest for "Portrait of a Giant Squid" and now is s a poetry/fiction reviewer for The Rumpus, etc. and Fiction Editor at, a prizewinning, produced, published playwright:, and three-times indie-published author novel/story collections. You can check out her Facebook page at and website at

Donna Best is an aspiring poetry creator who revels in the sounds words make especially when they cluster together. She has left her indulgence in poetry until almost too late and is trying to catch up now, writing poems in their patterns every day. A few of her pieces have been broadcast on radio, published in small literary magazines and revealed at spoken word events  Spoken word is a big influence on how she writes.