2012 Poetry Contest Winners
Split This Rock is thrilled to announce the winners of our fifth annual poetry contest, judged by 2012 featured poet Naomi Shihab Nye.
This judge was dazzled by the subtlety and utter power of the poem "White." Worlds within and behind visible public worlds. Everything we don't see and hear—private, precious pulse of identities.
Reading all the finalists' poems felt like entering a potent kingdom of Mattering—topics/subjects of essential collective care, poems embodying deep witness, speaking up in hard places, not shuddering or seeking popular favor—poems of responsibility and elegantly shaped conviction.
It was a gift to read them. They are all winners.
—Naomi Shihab Nye
Naomi Shihab Nye will be featured at the 2012 Split This Rock Poetry Festival. She is the author and/or editor of more than 30 volumes. Her books of poetry include 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East, A Maze Me: Poems for Girls, Red Suitcase, Words Under the Words, Fuel, and You & Yours (a best-selling poetry book of 2006). She has been a Lannan Fellow, a Guggenheim Fellow, and a Witter Bynner Fellow. She has received a Lavan Award from the Academy of American Poets, the Isabella Gardner Poetry Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, four Pushcart Prizes, and numerous honors for her children’s literature, including two Jane Addams Children’s Book Awards. In 2010 she was elected to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.
- First Prize: White, by Leona Sevick, Keymar, Maryland. Leona receives $500, free festival registration, and an invitation to read the winning poem at Split This Rock Poetry Festival in March 2012.
- Second Prize: Làt-Kat, by Elizabeth Hoover, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Elizabeth receives $250 and free registration at the 2012 festival.
- Third Prize: A constellation of mint, by Kevin McLellan, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Kevin receives $250 and free registration at the 2012 festival.
- "Young Adults" by Victoria Rivas, Greenville, Tennessee
- "Packing to go to Haiti" by Margit Berman, Lebanon, New Hampshire
- "Operetta for the Fat Mexican Woman on the Bus" by Ariel Robello, New York, New York
- “To the Secret Society of United Nations Simultaneous Interpreters Admirers” by Karen L. Miller, Somerville, Massachusetts
- "Juarez: Sugar for the Narco-Saints” by Liz Ahl, Holderness, New Hampshire
- “A Grapple of Sparrows” by Marie-Elizabeth Mali, New York, New York
- “Cap-Hatien, Haiti” by Michele P. Randall
- "Operation Kodak Moment” by Melanie Graham
- “Reaching out across the airwaves” by Valerie Wallace
- “Going Down Down Down” by Clarinda Harriss
- "Anarchist” by Judy Neri
- “September 24, 1830: The Last Hanging in Michigan” by Sarah Zale
- “Remembering West Virginia While Stuck in East Germany” by Susan Brennan Zeizel
- “In a Jerusalem Market” by Naomi Benaron
- “The Librarians” by Elizabeth Hoover
- “How to write a poem, according to Souha Bechara” by Zein El-Amine
- “girl opens mouth for first time in almost a decade” by Ellen Hagan
We are grateful to Naomi Shihab Nye and all the poets for their submissions. We hope you will consider sharing your work with us in future years. Submission fees help support the mission of Split This Rock, integrating the poetry of provocation and witness into public life and supporting the poets who do this vital work.
Instead, I spotted our mother in a tiny
chair in the back row, her blue-black head
shining unnaturally. She was dressed in
clothes she’d laid out carefully in her
mind the day before, when her hands
were moving along spools of every color,
bright rainbow of threads flying through
air as loud as a train. It cost her half a day’s
piece-work to see her boy and girl out-read them all.
Her own English, bent and twisted still, even
after all those years, carried whiffs of garlic and
fish sauce. Secretly, we hoped she would be silent.
At home, where every night we waited for
the rice to steam, her chatter lulled us to sleep.
Leona Sevick serves as Associate Provost and faculty member in the department of English at Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. She earned a doctorate in literature from the University of Maryland and has written extensively on the work of the writer Willa Cather. Her most recent poems appear in Memoir Journal and are forthcoming in Bateau. She writes poems and stories about growing up in an ethnically mixed family in rural America.
Ñuul, the teacher says and smacks his knee to show
where the stress falls. Ñuul, the children repeat each
starting at a different time so they sing a sour chord.
Moths at the light sound like newspaper scraping
the pavement in the wind. Ñuul, smack. Ñuul, scrape.
The light pings dark then revives with a crackle.
Ñuul, smack. Ñuul, scrape. It’s late. The children want
to go, to scatter into soccer games or along the sea wall
with their poles and kites. Their voices want to scatter
into English, Arabic, French. Their parents’ language—
their teacher’s—evaporates like foam at the wall.
Findi, the teacher smacks his knee. The room darkens
as the moths gather. Findi, smack. Findi, scrape.
Blue and green, red and purple long vanished
into bleu and verde, rouge and violet so today they learn
the colors their language has left. Sea-foam white, salt white,
dry-skin white, mangrove black, sea black, bruise black,
the bright between the moths, the bright of a ship’s prow,
the dark of the wings, the dark language falls into— Xeesal
the teacher smacks twice. Xeesal the children chant the burn
of bleaching cream. Xeesal, the moths struggle to free
their bellies fused to the light as the children learn
the words for pale, paler, palest, dark, darker, darkest.
Weex, smack. But the X is a hook for the children’s tongues.
Wit, they say, lonely. Weex, the teacher repeats, white. Wit.
Weex. Wit. Weex. Wit. The sea spumes white at the wall
and lonely in the children’s mouths. Weex, smack. Wit, wings
are silk in a ballroom. Weex, smack. Wit, scrape. Wit, smack
and the children giggle at the teacher’s caught tongue.
He can barely see the moths are so thick so he dismisses the class,
and walks home down the French names as shells of burnt moths
fall to the ground in the little dark school.
Elizabeth Hoover is a poet, critic, and journalist. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry Northwest, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Natural Bridge, and The Massachusetts, among others. In 2011, she was a resident at the Virginia Colony of the Creative Arts and a nominee for Sundress Publications Best of the Net. She has contributed poetry reviews and author interviews to such publications as The Paris Review, The Los Angeles Times, and The Dallas Morning News. She recently completed a biography of Suzanne Collins and is currently working on a biography of Robert Hayden. You can see more of her work at www.ehooverink.com.
Because some browsers may not display this poem correctly, we are also providing a PDF version of Kevin McLellan's poem.
A constellation of mint
The blur of
the town center //
the obelisk and dust
and the curfew // the sound of
many other feet
and the barking
Under the sun
on the sides of homes
scent of mint
whisper (inquisitive boy
The young man
for his mother
at the public market// he leaves
Kevin McLellan is the author of the chapbook Round Trip (Seven Kitchens, 2010), a collaborative series of poems with numerous women poets. He has recent or forthcoming poems in journals including: Barrow Street, Colorado Review, failbetter, Horse Less Review, Kenyon Review Online, Versal, Western Humanities Review, Witness and numerous others. Kevin lives in Cambridge MA with Frankie (a canary), and sometimes teaches poetry workshops at the University of Rhode Island in Providence.
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