The first ever Cultural Weekly Open Submissions Period was a huge success. We received over three hundred and fifty poems from one hundred and twenty poets, poets from Malaysia, Ireland, Europe, Africa and Japan. Poets from all over the US and Canada. They sent haiku, free verse, elegies, political poems; one or two poets defiantly sent poems that rhymed.
All poems were read “blind,” i.e., all identifying information about the poet was stripped from the entries before they were read. All poems were read in their entirety.
In the end, we choose ten poetry contest finalists, what we considered to be the best of the best. Last week we published five of them: the poem we liked best, and the first four of nine finalists, in no particular order. Today we are publishing the remaining five poems .
The first place poet and nine finalists are:
Fatimah Zainal (first place, pictured above)
Doireann Ni Ghriofa
Peter Neil Carroll
I hope you enjoy reading these poems as much as I did. Comments welcome.
Alexis Rhone Fancher
Valise of Memories by Doireann Ni Ghriofa
In memory of Margaret Maher, housemaid & confidante of Emily Dickinson
My mistress filled my valise with her vowels —
the battered trunk that journeyed with me
from the shadow of Slievenamon.
Now she is dead.
She made me promise to feed them to flames.
I cannot yet bring myself to do the deed.
I try to dismiss their wild whispers
but they bang their fists against the walls
and stamp their syllables.
They long to live in the mouths and minds of strangers.
When I should be scrubbing, cooking, sweeping, cleaning,
I am tormented by the quarrel between the promise
to my mistress and the bequest she left behind.
The soft grey wool of my mind is marked by dropped stitches.
All day, I mumble and fumble, spill soup on my apron,
catch my fingers in the mangle.
Though I keep my chest clasped shut,
I cannot quieten their pleading.
Their stifled screams shake me from sleep.
I stumble to the chest, raise the lid, scratch a match.
The flame stares at her scribbled papers.
Pinching the spark between finger and thumb,
I quench it and lift the papers from darkness, one by one.
Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s poems have appeared in literary journals in Ireland and internationally. The Arts Council has twice awarded her literature bursaries. Her Irish language collections Résheoid and Dúlasair are both published by Coiscéim. Her pamphlet Ouroboros was longlisted for The Venture Award (UK). She was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Mangoes in Early Fall by Shauna Osborn
There’s no civilized way to eat some fruits–
just savage sucking & ripping of flesh,
the large white seed in the center
waiting to be exposed. Bite into it
like an apple or a peach–such sweetness
drips down the throat, blonde fibers
much like corn silk & just as uneatable.
This exotic tropical fruit–only seen in
romantic comedies located in some
exotic place–never grown amongst
the pear trees & grape vines. & when
the large white seed with yellow orange
troll hair is put on the plate with the
toughened shaved skin (read rind)
that couldn’t be chewed, the poem is done
gone, left in the space of time that can only
be broken with teeth marks through inviting
Shauna Osborn is a Comanche/German mestiza who works as an instructor, wordsmith, and community organizer in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Recently, she received a National Poetry Award from the New York Public Library and the Native Writer Award from Taos Summer Writers’ Conference.
Happy Endings by Stewart Mintzer
All month long
I think I’m a bad kisser
cause I use too much teeth
cause sometimes I urgently want to know
the beloved or whoever it is
morphing by my lips
but suddenly by some grace I can’t figure out
I’m Love again
and that story of how I probably need
ten thousand workshops to start to fix me
leaves to go whisper in a far off land.
I want endings like that
where the beast is beauty
where the old wizard stumbles
on his scraggly beard
right before he becomes a bridge
a fire in the dark.
I can’t shake the notion that I am blessed.
Make me a diviner of the veins up my ankle.
Are they the tree of life? The burning bush?
The tributaries of a wellspring reaching for the dusty towns?
If I had known how sweet this music was
I’d have joined the band
practiced smooth transitions
from C to G
to blue to wet.
And it’s rainy out and
the crumbling white tool shed
still waits for visitors
welcomes rich loam sweaty hands blisters
It doesn’t care about sentences that rhyme
or the proper way to kiss.
It wants the story where all of us move closer to the ground
and still love the sky
and how you could be a grizzled hiker
in a black cut-off shirt
or a refrigerated princess
waiting by the coconut milk and the parsnips
for some loving hands
to take you to the table.
Stewart Mintzer lives in Los Angeles and is moving north at glacial speed. His poems have appeared in various publications including ONTHEBUS, Solo Novo, The Pedestal Magazine,Portland Review, Rattle. He has worked as a lawyer in the public defenders office and is presently at work on the ‘Permission Slip Project.’
The Woman Next Door by Peter Neil Carroll
We speak the same language, my trees
and me. More fluently
than I talk to the woman next door.
Scrub oak, cherry plum, lemons, dwarf
pine, olives, willow, redwood—whatever
seeds the birds drop I adopt.
Now she’s added a porch
that gives her height, a perch
to watch from. So I walk in my backyard half-
naked, watering pots of cactus, rosemary, dill.
We know each other, living close
for forty years and smile
when our cars pass on the hill.
In summer, windows open, I notice
a shared taste in the tunes we play.
We’re lazy about pruning ivy that overgrows.
But she keeps a cruel eye on my redwood.
Its brother and sister stood tall on her side
until she turned the grove
into firewood. More sunlight, she crows.
Next she’ll be saying, more clothes.
Peter Neil Carroll is the author of a new collection, A Child Turns Back to Wave: Poetry of Lost Places (Hollywood: Press Americana, 2012) which won the Prize Americana. A previous volume is Riverborne: A Mississippi Requiem (2008). He lives in northern California with the writer/photographer Jeannette Ferrary.
House Poet Wanted by Anita Pulier
Job requires weaving
the strands of household matter
and daily routines into the examined life.
Must explain the dagger through the heart,
the nail piercing the skull,
memories triggered by the scent
of Mama’s over salted soup.
Applicant must define the life worth living,
identify unknown ancestors stuck together
in the box of sepia photos,
be plain spoken, persistent,
willing to be misunderstood,
interpreted to death.
Anita S. Pulier practiced law in NY and NJ. For several years she served as US representative to the UN for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. She is a director of the Jane Adams Peace Association. Her chapbooks Perfect Diet and The Lovely Mundane were
published by Finishing Line Press.
Top image: Chalk poem detail, suburban Heathridge backyard, Western Australia. Photo by elliot k, used with permission under a Creative Commons license.