We were so fortunate to have accomplished writer and spoken word poet Joshua Bennett as our Poetry Competition Guest Judge. Joshua was given the task of choosing three outstanding entries from a pool of exceptional work. Though it was no easy feat, Joshua landed on a few favorites describing them as ‘vivid,’ ‘courageous’ and ‘imaginative.’ Read on for more of Joshua’s reflections on the top entries. Congratulations to all of the winners!
‘wool’ is a fantastic poem, with breathtaking moments throughout. Each image is a delightful surprise, and the way Gibbs utilizes the same constellation of objects—natural and otherwise—in order to set a vivid scene, constantly adding layer upon layer to the poem’s central action, was a wonder to watch unfold. Every line is a world you want to spend time in. Lines like “we are pollution, we are almost home” reads almost like mantra. At one point, the speaker asserts “I cover my eyes and pretend I'm a star, home/ grows closer and my assent is merely a breath, or a sketch - /which is to say, I never agreed to this pain” and the emotion behind the line is palpable, you can almost feel it leaping off of the page.
The contrast between the language and pacing of the two sections in ‘Jackrabbit Father’ struck me as an especially interesting choice. The poet moves deftly between a kind of plain description, and poignant, unsettling images that I found myself lingering with long after the poem was over. The walkman, the living room war, all throughout this poem we are wrestling with the presence of the familiar made utterly unfamiliar, the domestic space turned battlefield, the age-old fable transformed into a conflict between parent and child that remains unresolved by poem’s end. Soria does difficult, courageous work here, and I applaud the poet’s choice to inhabit the surreal while always keeping us grounded in terms of the primary conflict at hand. At every juncture, we as readers know where we are, and why we have come. Indeed, we cannot turn away.
BEST PEER REVIEW
I found Duck’s review of Demory's poem, “Backspace,” to be both thoughtful and especially imaginative. Towards the end, Duck seems to offer us a theory of poetics that I found rather compelling: “I think that's the sign of a good poem -- something that makes you want to change something, whether in your own life or in the speaker's.” This gesture towards the sort of exchange that takes place between a reader and the speaker of a given poem feels not only precise, but generative for thinking about what coheres one’s interest in a text, what keeps us returning to certain poems or works of fiction over and over. One imagines it’s something akin to what Duck asks us to think about the here, that is, the sense that we are being ever transformed by what encounter on the page, that the connection between ourselves and the world the work gives us is so strong, there are times we yearn to change the speaker’s situation, to use the insight granted us to re-arrange things on their end. I found this review to be exceedingly helpful as it pertains to my own thinking, and am thankful for it. It reflects the sort of patient, careful approach to reading that oft times makes all the difference when it comes to the life of a poem.