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"
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"
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,
Kari Castor, "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
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
against the cool car window
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