Split This Rock Poetry Festival is pleased to announce the winners and finalists of the first annual Split This Rock Poetry Contest, judged by Kyle G. Dargan:
It is an uncertainty that many of us face in this age of moral underachieving. Thus I thank all the poets who submitted to the contest and all those who will attend Split This Rock Poetry Festival for rising to transform this uncertainty into an energy (renewable and clean, even) that can begin to illuminate our way through the challenges of the twenty-first century world."
The winning poets received cash prizes and free registration for the festival. Jeffrey Thomson read his winning poem at the festival.
Special thanks to the contest judge, Kyle G. Dargan, and to Mary Morris and James Honaberger for their role as first readers. We are grateful to all the poets who submitted poems to the contest, helping to support the festival while sharing with us their powerful poems for a more peaceful and just future.
The Winning Poems:
Achilles in Jasper, Texas
I know this: a man walked home drunk
along the corduroy of pines
in west Texas, the bronze duff and
the dust and the late light that fell
on him. Three men gave him a lift
that afternoon and raised him
with their fists and lowered
him with their nigger this and
nigger that and after a while,
when all the fun they could have
with him leaked out into
the ruts of a logging cut,
they tied him to the boat
hitch of their truck and pulled
away. I know he kept his head up
awhile because his elbows were
ground to the bone; I know enough
was finally enough, and his head
left his body behind,
but I don’t know what to do
with this, America, this rage
like Achilles twitching
Hector behind his chariot
for 12 days until even
the gods were ashamed.
Jeffrey Thomson’s fourth collection of poems, Birdwatching in Wartime, is forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2009. Also forthcoming is Many Ways to Dig a Tunnel, acollection of translations from the Spanish of Cuban poet Juan Carlos Flores and From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great, co-edited with Camille Dungy and Matt O’Donnell from Persea Books. An assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Maine Farmington, he has a recent chapbook, The Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, from RopeWalk Press. His website is www.jeffreythomson.com.
Ways to Count the Dead
“Keeping track of the Iraqi death toll isn’t the job of the United States,” a student said,“and besides, how would we count the dead?”
Take their limbs strewn about the streets—
multiply by a thousand and one.
Ask everyone in Baghdad who has lost
a brother. Cousin. Sister. Child—to speak
their name in a recorder.
Go to every school, stand
at the front of the class, take roll;
for every empty desk, at least two dead.
Find every shop that sells cigarettes—
ask how many more cartons they’ve sold this year.
Go to the bus station and buy ten tickets—
offer them free to anyone who wants to leave.
Go see the coffin-maker. Ask how much
cedar and pine he’s ordered this month.
The dead don’t require much. They don’t speak
in numbers or tongues, they lie silent
waiting—to be counted.
--Persis M. Karim
Persis M. Karim lives in the People's Republic of Berkeley, CA, and teaches literature and creative writing at San Jose State University. She is the editor and contributing poet to Let Me Tell You Where I've Been: New Writing by Women of the Iranian Diaspora (2006). Her poetry has appeared in numerous literary journals including Caesura, Alimentum, Di-verse-city, HeartLodge, and Ravingdove.org. She is grateful for the way poetry can bring us to our senses and to our humanity. She can be reached at www.persiskarim.com.
I remember the rhythm at night:
Your hips wanting mine,
to grind our street-smart
lust into the crush of summer
heat. The beat of lives
never fulfilled. In the dark you say,
“Keep it on
the QT, down low. Slow, go slow.
Just like that, baby. Yeah.” I say,
“When you hit it,
I’m yours siempre, chulo.”
Our love is different during the day:
The tattooed thug boys
in the park with their sparks,
ankle holsters, packing. They pick
up on the bad girls with halter
tops, hair spray, razor tongues.
I get sliced with fear as you present
me to your neighborhood, your
surrogate familia. They suspect
that the whole affair is a white
joke. I try to laugh off their eyes, claims
of their tongue and territory. I sip from
a stolen bottle of O.E. aware that I am
out of my element, zone. My intrusion
is forgotten when I share a common love
for the music bumpin’ from your sound
system. It makes us dance at Southside, makes us
forget about zip codes, colors, rivals. Makes us pound
and throb like the concrete threat of imagined guns
to our heads, knives to our throats. We know that
when the song is over, we will bleed
for each other. Slowly.
-- David-Matthew Barnes
David-Matthew Barnes’ stage plays have been performed in three languages in seven countries and include Are You All Right In There?, Johnny Ramirez Really Wants To Kiss Me, Pensacola, Sloe Gin Fizz and the acclaimed Threnody. He is the winner of numerous awards for his writing, including the 2008 World AIDS Day Writing Contest for both stage play and poetry and the 2007 Carrie McCray Literary award in recognition of his play, Bracelets and Boyfriends. His latest projects include the poetry collection, Roadside Attractions and The Common Bond, a literary suspense novel. Today, he is a literary reviewer for Main Street Rag and is the school director of a performing arts academy. For more info visit www.davidmatthewbarnes.com.