Tuesday, March 28, 2023

March 2023 Winning Poems: Colors

White Roses by Henri Fantin-Latour

In the public domain


Colors turned out to be a popular prompt. The judge, Jocelyn Ajami, said there were numerous excellent poems, making it difficult to decide on the winners.


Fragments of White

Silk cloth cradled her silver hair
arms gently crossing the polka-dot dress
hands clasping white rosary beads, filigreed.

I could almost hear the echo of her cotton-soft
whispers, the Hail Marys and Our Fathers
resounding in the white mahogany casket
with the same lips that death had sutured shut

while Time Square confetti fell as paper snow.
It all blends to the same quiet blur of hospital
static, the blank white walls, the TV hiss.

I traded them for the living
room in the house where she was born,
still with white clapboard and batten,

but without the antiseptic air that couldn’t kill
the cancer. The floor creaked by the bed
under the nurse’s white shoes. Momma winced,
even with the morphine, her eyes half-hid

behind the pallor of worn eyelids,
creased, as her skin, yet soft, waxing
albescent with a final smile —
a white rose blushed in scarlet light.

~John C. Mannone

“Fragments of White” first appeared in Static Movement, 3rd print edition, edited by Chris Bartholomew (Oct 2010).

Ajami said, “I love the specificity of this poem and the ironic significance of “white" which contains the presence of all color while denoting absence. This is a moving, well- constructed poem full of pathos.” 


Second place goes to poem with a very different mood>

Funky Fuchsia

Friday nights at my mother-in-law’s
I follow the exquisite nails
of my Armenian sister-in-law from Iran.
Pale blue sometimes like her mohair sweater,
or yellow, pushing back a strand of dark hair.
Burgundy on the white bread she raises
to her lips at the evening meal,
funky fuchsia under the water in the kitchen sink.
Five cool kiwis hold a glass of tea.
Classic reds flirt with the tip of a cigarette.
Fingernails like castanets that click behind her words,
like sparks that fly beside her stories of Tehran.
Nails that give a shape to laughter,
come alive like drops of Jasmine,
who dyes T-shirts in America—
teal green, ruby red, juniper berry.

~ Lori Levy

“Funky Fuchsia” was previously published in International Poetry Review (Spring, 2001) and in Jewish Journal (Jan. 30-Feb. 5, 2015).

Ajami’s comment: “I appreciate the humor, originality and descriptiveness of this poem, bringing us a Friday moment with family through the kaleidoscope of colored nails.”


The third place poem takes the prompt in a different direction, bringing back memories of elementary school days.

Finger Painting

Remember how pliable your hands
were back then, plump as plums?
Remember how bright the yellow,
how true the red before stubby
fingers smacked slammed slid
into the paints like a belly flop,
how you curled your fingers up
and let the palms do all the work
massaging blue into the red
until there was a new purple bruise
on the paper, how you then used
the full force of your fingers
to swipe fat stripes of red
in slashing arcs across the yellow,
learning the violence of orange?
Remember how everything
became mud if you mixed it too
long, how fingers became slick
with the colors of your play
Remember how the paper, thick
with tempera would warp and curl
as it dried? I remember the water
in the big sink running red then blue
then clear as hands became innocent

~Laura L. Hansen

This poem appeared on Laura L. Hansen, Poet Facebook Page in March of 2022.

“This poem recalls our earliest experience with colors,” says Ajami. “The imagery has a vibrant, tactile quality reminding us of the uninhibited, carefree play of childhood.” Indeed, the images are a colorful as the finger paints!


Winning poets retain copyright on their own poems.


Honorable Mentions:

“A Study in Scarlet” by Philip Kennett

“Homefires” by MW Flannery

“Blue is my Bias” by Kristen Jewel 

“Yellow” by Erna Kelly

“Interrogations on Red” by Shei Sanchez

“Frida” by Caroline Johnson



Jocelyn Ajami is an award-winning painter, filmmaker and poet. Jocelyn has been the recipient of major grants from the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, The Leadership Foundation, International Women's Forum, and the Goethe Institute. She has received several awards for her films, Oasis of Peace, Gypsy Heart and Queen of the Gypsies. She turned to writing poetry in 2014 as a way of connecting more intimately with issues of social conscience and cultural awareness. She has been published in several anthologies of prize-winning poems. Born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela, she speaks five languages and resides in Chicago, Illinois.

MW Flannery lives a simple life with her husband and dogs on a small farm in the Georgia foothills. She has been writing poetry for more than 50 years, honing her craft in relative isolation. Now seeking publication, she believes her work speaks from a lifelong observance of inner motivation and the emotional self expressed in snapshot moments expounding on their meaning and effect.

Laura Hansen is a member of The League of MN Poets and the author of five volumes of poetry. Her most recent collection, The Night Journey; Stories and Poems, was published by River Place Press in Dec. 2019. Laura, an avid reader, opened and operated Bookin’ It, an independent bookstore for twenty years. Laura is currently working on a chapbook about her journey through breast cancer.  www.laurahansenbooks.com www.riverpoethansen.com

Kristen Jewel is a grant writer for an openly queer nonprofit organization fighting homelessness. She sometimes competes in spoken word poetry events, and you can find two of her poems on Button Poetry's YouTube page. She enjoys being mysterious about glitter, is almost positive she might be a bubblegum-emo, and cannot make a paper airplane to save her life. 

Caroline Johnson has two illustrated poetry chapbooks, Where the Street Ends and My Mother’s Artwork, and more than 400 poems in print.  Nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, she won 1st place in the Chicago Tribune’s Printers Row 2012 Poetry Contest, and her poetry has been featured on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. Her full-length collection, The Caregiver (Holy Cow! Press, 2018) was inspired by years of family caregiving. She is part of the P2 Collective, a Chicago-area group of poets and photographers who present at area galleries, and online. Visit her at www.caroline-johnson.com.

Erna Kelly, who lives in Eau Claire, WI, won a newspaper-sponsored coloring contest when she was seven. You can find her poems in Blue Heron, Bramble, Poetry Hall, Halfway Down the Stairs, The Aurorean. She was co-editor of the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets 2020 Calendar.

Philip Kennett, a Welsh poet living in the south of the Netherlands with his wife and two children. A beat enthusiast, a modernist who transpires across the globe by pen, crossing social boundaries by his words, and a true explorer of the prose. He has published in Artists Responding To…, Lockdown: an Amsterdam Anthology 2021, Outcast Press, Pine Cone Review, and California Poppy Times Newspaper.

Lori Levy's poems have appeared in numerous print and online literary journals in the U.S., the U.K., and Israel.  Her chapbook, What Do You Mean When You Say Green? and Other Poems of Color, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books in Fall, 2023.  Lori lives with her extended family in Los Angeles, but "home" has also been Vermont and Israel and, for several months, Panama.

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, 2022), Sacred Flute (Iris Press, 2023), and Song of the Mountains (Middle Creek Publishing, 2023). He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex and other journals. An Assistant Professor of Physics and Chemistry at Alice Lloyd College, John lives in southeast Kentucky.

Shei Sanchez lives in the colorful hills and hollers of Appalachian Ohio where she and her partner venture with their goats and dogs. Her poems have appeared in many print and online journals and anthologies, including Still: The Journal, One by Jacar Press, The Main Street Rag, and other places. A Best of the Net nominee, Shei is working on her first poetry collection.