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Poetry Contest

Submission guidelines

  • The contest is for people ages 50+ and adults with a disability.
  • Submission period: June 1-July 31, 2018
  • Participants may submit up to two poems of any length.
  • Poems must be typed.
  • Poems must be original and unpublished.
  • Poems may be written in either free verse or traditional forms.
  • No personal contact information on the poem itself. A separate cover sheet must be included with:
    • Poem tile
    • Author’s contact information.
    • A request if you wish to receive contest results by mail or email (winners will be notified).

Judges will look at such things as how the poet uses a variety of poetic devices, mastery of the poetic form being used, universality, significance of topic, and understandability of the poem.

Submit poems to: HumanServices@BloomingtonMN.gov or mail to: Creekside Community Center, 9801 Penn Avenue S, Bloomington, MN 55431

Please join us at the Poetry Contest Reception.

2018 Winners

First Place
“Istanbul, the end of Ramadan” — Nancy Cook

The sun traces
patterns of colorful head scarves and trailing hijabs,
follows fine silk threads to imported Nikes and leather sandals
(crafted up north in Bursa), shrouds the bodies within that are rippling
with private thoughts.

The sun massages
first the white-pink dome of Hagia Sophia, then the spires
of the great Blue Mosque, then the carmelized stone of Topkapi
which once sheltered the Sultan’s harem, the Sultan’s armies, and all
the Sultan’s jewels.

The sun fires
the canvas roof of the Grand Bazaar, heats the oils and spices
trapped inside, illumines the blue-white tiles, brazen with tulips and
scarlet carnations, symbols of faithfulness and desire, that say welcome
at a hammam door.

The sun glazes
gentle swells of the Golden Horn, drifting tides of the Marmara Sea and
the Bosphorus Straits; a bright umbrella high above Galata Bridge, breathing
and swaying, it dazzles and distracts and deceives, while scammers tell flattering tales to unwise tourists.

The sun rises
early and late, the sun is a call to devotion, it holds the echoes of chants
softly rendered as they pass through warm still air, from minaret to minaret,
skimming over rivers, sweeping past traffic, entering the shaded windows of every
stuccoed home.

The sun bursts
from the chambers of terrorist guns,
explodes from suicide bombs at the airport,
burns through the bodies of victims and innocents,
brings hell to earth.

The sun is
the city’s prayer as it skips over cobbles on narrow city streets,
as it floats on a just wind from mosque to mosque, as it counsels patience
at every public park and green space where, this year, as for centuries before,
on this last dusk of Ramadan, fasting families with their lovingly prepared picnics
are waiting.

Second Place
“Twist & Shout” — Mary Fran Heitzman

A volcano in a headstand swirls and spirals in the sky...rise dip
churn twist dance prance shriek shout eat everything in
sight and bump grind spin stomp tear chew swallow
whole. Then like a gluttonness dancer who has
inhaled too much too fast is caught in a
dizzying spin and bleches and vomits
and heaves and roils until it is
lulled, and then yields
its strength, and 
is one with
the air
of
no
thi
ng
n
e
s
s

Third Place
"Two Couples" — Pete Skarman

You can see the muscle bulge in my Father’s arm
Just below the hem of his t-shirt, sleek, svelte, his fingers
Linger gently on the cool wet slick wood of the oar he travelled with,
Shining in youth and cool confidence.

My mother in the other end of the canoe tilts her head coyly,
Her hair full of curls, her smile buoyant, generous
And her eyes,
those brilliant emerald eyes,
Sparkling like the lights of a thousand summer mornings
Confident and beautiful this young couple on a summers day
So much life ahead of them sitting in this canoe
My father captained along the crystal surface of the lake

This photo the egg arched shape entrance of a long abandoned
Monastery on the West Coast of Ireland, my father’s fingertips
Touch his glasses, he seems
Overwhelmed by the sad beauty of this place,
Of the sad beauty of the woman, a crumbling step above and behind him,
My mother stands thus, her arms crossed stiffly,
Her hair grey straw abandoned to the wind
Her lips pursued, and her eyes.
Her eyes,
One sees the distance, the emptiness
She is not now, nor will ever be again
In any place familiar to her

& I wonder which couple I love more,
The strong beautiful confidant couple of the lake,
With all of time in front of them
Or the fragile two, literally on the edge of an island
Staring out into the great, swelling sea before them

First Honorable Mention
"The Yellow Flowers" — Judith B Miller

I live by the house with the yellow flowers.
I have forgotten your name.
Years have come and gone.
What is fishing?
I used to know.
Is today Monday or Saturday?
Am I coming or going?

I live by the house with the yellow flowers.

How did I get here?
I see people here and there.
The faces seem strange to me.
I may have eaten, I do not know.
Is this coat mine?
Or is it yours?

I live by the house with the yellow flowers.

A friend planted them.
I do not know his name.
He tilled the soil.
With what? I do not know.
He pruned and watered them.
Was it yesterday or today?

I live by the house with the yellow flowers.

A woman sits next to me.
Where did she come from?
Do I know her name?
Have I seen her before?
Why is she smiling?
Who does she see?

I live by the house with the yellow flowers.

They have not left me.
Why? I do not know.
My eyes are wet.
Is it raining?
I must leave now.
Why? I do not know, only where.

I love by the house with the yellow flowers.

Second Honorable Mention
"One Night" — Francine Marie Tolf

The stain spread across blue-striped ticking
as if it had a life of its own. My sister sobbed in a corner.
It felt strange to have our bedroom light shining brightly
that dark, buried hour of the night,
but my mother’s voice was soothing and low
and my father’s, which grew tense with irritation daily,
held only kindness. Neither of them, woken from dead-deep sleep
after long hours of work and six kids to care for,
was the least bit angry. They turned over the mattress,
laid down clean rough sheets, tucked us back into our beds.

Let me dwell on this scene when I’m tempted to finger some distant
hurt they caused, for even in middle age, pain from childhood
thrives greedily if given nourishment.
Let me cradle the seed of this long-ago night to remember
the goodness of these two people, and to tell them out loud
across time and death and the imperfect understanding
that stains every human relationship:
I thank you, I honor you, I love you.

Third Honorable Mention
"War" — Margaret M. Swanson

The Moving Wall comes
to the Rosebud,
stands hot and still
in Ghost Hawk Park.
No ghosts
no hawks
only names
row on row
on row

Fourth Honorable Mention
"Pharaoh's wife speaks up" — Margaret M. Swanson

Pharaoh did not consult
his wife about the plagues.
Would she let the "Life-blood of Egypt" gush
red-clotted and sticky
past the tombs of her father
and grandfather?
Would she tolerate frogs
in the palace pools, gnats
in the royal bedding, flies
in Pharaoh's kitchen?
Would she have said no
when she would end dust and hail,
dying cattle and festering boils?
When the locust came to devour
what was left
wouldn't she have given up, given in
to this god she did not know--praying
in the dark which covered Egypt--
let those people go--
before that impossible night? Yes.
And yes.
But Pharaoh didn't consult his wife.
So she cradled their firstborn--terrified,
dying--in her boil-blistered arms.
From her dust-washed throat comes
a mother's sea-spitting cry to a demon
god
NO.

Fifth Honorable Mention
"Miss Nelson" — Francine Marie Tolf

By the time I got Miss Nelson for fifth period freshman English,
she had taught at our public high school for nearly forty years.
Proud Republican, conservative Baptist,
Miss Nelson wore pumps and mid-calf pleated skirts
as she guided fourteen-year-olds through the unfamiliar waters
of Dickens and Longfellow and Shakespeare.
Easy to think of this trim gray woman
as a figurine one could place inside a box
and write on its lid in neat letters: no surprises.
But what book were we studying when a boy in class
mentioned “the Battle of Wounded Knee”
and our teacher’s reaction snapped sleepy afternoon air
into something electric?
That was no battle, Daniel. It was a massacre.
Make no mistake, class. A massacre.

This in 1972, when we still swallowed
our history books whole, and were in awe of John Wayne’s West.
Who knows what mighty currents rippled beneath the surface
of Ada Nelson’s steady blue gaze.