Nearly 1,000 poets from all over the United States entered Common Good Books' annual spring poetry contest. The winners were announced at noon today by Garrison Keillor in a ceremony at Macalester College.

Minneapolis poets Lisa Kundrat and Ethna McKiernan, along with Kari Castor of Illinois, were the three top winners. Each won $1,000.

There were also four $500 winners--three of whom are from Minnesota. They are Heidi Annexstad of Golden Valley, Cynthia Orange of St. Paul, Sharon Dardis of St. Paul, and Elizabeth Twiddy of Syracuse, N.Y.

The three top poems are posted below. The competition was judged by Keillor, the owner of Common Good Books.

Lisa Kundrat, "Dear You"

Dear you

If we had met ten years earlier, would we have had ten more years?

Or, meeting too soon, would we have rejected the alien and had no

time at all? You the responsible, hard-working corporate guy, me a

hippie vagabond, living in a trailer adjacent a rooster coop. For me to

wander into the corporation took a while. How lucky to find you in

that tiny window of time, grinding out PowerPoints and yearning

toward bumdom. Once I wandered in, we left together. Driving our

rented Camry through the West, driving that straight-line highway

toward Albuquerque, the land scrabbled with petrified trees and

ringed with a 360-degree rainbow. We stopped at a cave-like

restaurant in Taos for Thanksgiving fajitas, chili-pepper lights

dangling like calcite.  Driving north through the pitch black, we knew

we were surrounded by beauty. Opening the window to breathe the

cold pine air of the forest we knew was there, but couldn’t see.

Gripping the dash, saying, “stop stop stop,” as a bull elk stepped into

the headlights. You slowed, we watched him saunter across. You

wanted a photo, but could only stare, heart pounding. Why do we

always have to know what we’re traveling through or toward and

when we’ll find it? What matters is we’re wandering together. As our

hearts slow enough to take a picture, he disappears into the black on

the other side.

----

Ethna McKiernan, "Leaving"

         For Conor

                    I turned around tonight to say—

And then I missed you so hard

at that instant, the wry smile of you

absent, every atom of you flown,

not a particle hovering in the house.

I left too, young as you

craving wind-shifts of change,

hitching through Europe in the 70’s,

camping rough, picking grapes in France,

bleaching the stain off down in Spain,

five months of glory on the road.

Now the same winds have pushed you

to Mexico, a silver jet seam visible as stars

in the sky last night, that long curl

dissipating into cloud.

Remember how I knew you at five

in that Ninja costume?

I knew you skate-boarding

with an attitude at Brackett Park,

and sensed for certain when

you first fell in love. I knew you

as a heartbeat beneath my ribs

at nine months, almost born.

And know you now,

gone.

----

Kari Castor, "Dear Roger"

Dear Roger,

I think sometimes about

that night in college when I

sat on your lap in your room

and the way we tried to devour

each other when we

realized we were alone for a moment--

         Aaron graduated and in

         Chicago waiting

         for me to join him,

         our friends returned

         to the living room--

the way your thick stubble

burned my cheek

the way I was terrified

to make this mistake

and also terrified

to not make it

the way I made you drive me

home and leant my

still-burning cheek

against the cool car window

and fantasized

the whole way about asking

you into my empty apartment

the way we carefully

avoided touching each other

for fear of striking a spark that might

set the whole fragile veneer ablaze

and I wonder sometimes if you

all these years later

ever think about that night

the way I do

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Encores for three Minnesota Book Award winners

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