Rattle is proud to announce the winner of the 2012 Rattle Poetry Prize Readers’ Choice Award:
For the first time in 2012, a $1,000 Readers’ Choice Award was selected from among the Rattle Poetry Prize Finalists by subscriber vote. Only those with subscriptions prior to the announcement of the finalists were eligible. Of roughly 3,000 possible voters, 448 cast ballots, and Evans’ poem earned 18.2%. Here is what some of those readers had to say about their choice:
“Zeitgeber” gets my vote. The poet’s attention to craft is meticulous; the poet’s attention to the maze of Alzheimer’s is remarkable. I believe there is a deft handling of this subject with a grace and subtlety here that is not often found elsewhere. The sonnet’s sequencing is effective in that it draws attention to what is left of a person who is “still here” as the epigraph points out, and the waning images in the courtyard suggests Iris’s ongoing plight and the journeys of those who love her as well. A poem that moves with its language and images all at once. Well done!
The content, tenor, pacing, vocabulary, images, rhythms, and slam-bang virtuosity of Evans’s sonnet sequence just blow me away. Its magical scenario lodged in my head and wouldn’t go away. Amazing—everything else in my head seems to flitter away freely at all times no matter what I do—except for a certain Chopin Ballade and my latest grocery list.
I like the form of the poem, in “tetralight” style; it has a flavor that is both current and nostalgic, just like the dramatic character, Iris. The tone of the words has the same effect on the reader—that is, to allow identification with the situation in parallel fashion—almost antithetical. There is a longing in us to age gracefully, but also to remain ageless. One favorite line is, “the sun can tweak her mechanism just right,” because of its truth and mega-meaning incorporating time, nature, and mortality. While “the day no one can postpone,” is reality, the method in which this occurs—whether in a pleasant courtyard or by lightning strike—remains unknown, and uncelebrated.
I took great pleasure in the “organic” quality of the poem. Creating a structured poem that can flow with a deep poetic voice without artifice, is an artistic accomplishment. The title, the setting of the garden, the nature of the patients’ disease, moving the content from the particular to the universal, the gentle, natural rhymes and rhythmns are beautifully rendered. All work together like carefully chosen threads in a treasured tapestry. The more traditional structure of the poem carries the weight of a very present human dilemma—one so many are experiencing and one that has been and will be with us for all time.
I’m not well-versed enough in poetry forms to know what type of structure was used, but the line repetition added a wonderful sense of rhythm. As did the skillful rhyming, which is not sing-song, but so smooth that I felt it subtly and was not distracted by it. Ms. Evans’ poem touched me with its matter-of-fact approach to a disease about which I have a phobia. I found the rust/dust analogy interesting and apt, and I read this piece repeatedly, just to savor the flow.
“Zeitgeber” is refreshing and beautiful: “For Iris fidgets there, among the blooms/ She says, Is this a maze? I think I’m lost.” Wow! What a powerful, and true, description of Alzheimer’s. These lines draw me right into the poem, and it never lets me go. What a treat it is to be swept off my feet by a poem!
To read the poem, pick up a copy of Rattle #38, or wait to read it when it appears online this summer. In the meantime, here is an excerpt, just the first section:
One hour in sunshine every morning is the best zeitgeber. Residential group settings for people living with Alzheimer’s…often include access to a garden designed for safety, way-finding and place-awareness.
—John Zeisel, I’m Still Here
The courtyard’s small, but pleasant in its way:
young birches, laurel, and a bed of roses,
a winding path, picked out in red and gray,
the painted wrought iron chairs where, one supposes
two residents could sit and play at chess
upon the table, basking in the sun,
while sipping tea…but here I must confess
such fantasy breaks down as soon begun.
For Iris fidgets there, among the blooms.
She says, Is this a maze? I think I’m lost.
The single door leads back into the rooms,
which keep her warm and safe, despite the cost.
Still, sitting in the rich September light,
I think she knows how far she is from night.
Evans’ “Zeitgeber” was the clear winner, but all ten of the finalist poems received a significant number of votes, and each had their own enthusiastic fans. No one received less than 5.5% — 1 in 19 readers would have selected any of the poems a winner. That might be the best lesson to take away from any readers’ choice award in poetry: tastes are subjective. As a testament to that, here are just a few comments we received about the other finalists:
On “Janes Heartbreak Yard Sale” by Lytton Bell:
Precise writing, clean lines, no side trips, no convoluted layout. Just a simple story that, once read, unfolds what isn’t said. All poems should be as considerate of a reader’s attention.
On “Time Out” by John Brehm:
It seems like I spend most days bearing witness to the damage done to children by parents who would have been better suited to caring for pet rocks. And there’s hardly ever a time and place to take a stand (two or three times in all my years). I love that this poem captures this awareness of damage, the momentary advocacy of a small child; I love that it captures the child’s defiance (and also the knowledge that she’s just too small, and the father and mother too big for that defiance to be enough). And I most love that the poem captures the insanity and obliviousness of some parents and the murk of their own histories lurking … never knowing, for sure, whether insanity, obliviousness, or cruelty (or some ghastly combination) explain the behavior. It’s a necessary poem.
On “My 1930 Model A Ford” by Norma Chapman:
First reading I nearly audibly inhaled. The last line is lasting in its brevity, directness, and simplicity. It is nearly a logistical, actuarial line, but it is not cold or numeric. I find a sadness and a matter-of-factness, a clear-eyed acknowledgement of the way things are. There is a command and a restrain about the piece. It spans a few generations, and a time bygone, with such thrift. It leaves lasting images of the car (of another era), especially the car painted a flat, home interior green, the two dancing to music of another era, recalling a Norman Rockwell moment, and allows the reader’s imagination to conger the circumstances of two friends from a distant past reviving a friendship. All very deft and masterful, and unexpected. And it ages well.
On “How Was Your Weekend?” by Kim Dower:
Kim Dower’s poem has an almost delicate turn at the end and manages to feel simultaneously strange and familiar. An elegant bluntness gives it an interesting contrast with the weirdness of the normal. Also, it mentions mint chip ice cream lovingly.
On “The Robbery” by Catherine Freeling:
There’s something so compelling about “The Robbery” and its obsessions. I find it a wonderful example of the particular being made universal since I think anybody who frets over having not locked the door could easily be caught in such an interior monologue. I admire the way this poem-story (I wish somebody would invent a word) pulls me in, the way it refuses to relinquish its hold even for a second, and the way it builds toward a conclusion that seems inevitable once I’ve read it but that still delighted me with its rushing release from the very obsessiveness that had led me so skillfully through the narrative.
On “Dear Proofreader” by David Hernandez:
Well that image of “each period/ a lone figure in the snow” is so compelling I stopped in my tracks to admire it. Also he’s simply written a very clever poem. I like the way he weaves the reader into the poem, first via a mirror, where we’re invited to imagine “a caveman encased in ice”—and somehow we’re staring back at ourselves too “with icy precision” in that section—and then in the center of the poem WE enter again, ”Godlike,” to judge the quality of his punctuation and work. The whole package works for me: it’s entertaining, many-layered, self-aware, and clever.
On “Patio Tomatos” by Krista Lukas:
This is the poem that I found myself thinking of days later. An excellent and engrossing situation fully developed, with a surprise twist and a great sense of humor. Who have have thought a failed metaphor could make such a great metaphor for everything.
On “For Those Who Never Know What to Say to Widows” by M:
I chose this because of its immediacy and its descriptive power- M quietly exposed something none of us ever want to face, but inevitably will. The poem put me right inside the situation, and her economic fluidity of language rings beautiful and true.
On “The Return” by Kenny Williams:
A profoundly elegant and truly haunting poem. It leaves us with more questions than answers, as all poems should. A “return” to what from what? What would have the speaker flee for 40,000 years? And what does the striking image of the birdcage symbolize? I keep returning to this piece again and again looking for clues.
Rattle is proud to announce the winner of the 2012 Rattle Poetry Prize:
“Trials of a Teenage Transvestite’s Single Mother”
“Jane’s Heartbreak Yard Sale”
“My 1930 Model A Ford”
“How Was Your Weekend?”
Los Angeles, CA
Long Beach, CA
“For Those Who Never Know…”
These eleven poems will be published in the Winter issue of Rattle this December. Each of the Finalists are also eligible for the $1,000 Readers’ Choice Award, to be selected by entrant and subscriber vote (the voting period is December 1, 2012 – February 15, 2013).
Another nine poems were selected for standard publication, and offered a space in the open section of a future issue. These poets will be notified individually about details, but they are: Patricia Callan, Sage Cohen, Deborah P. Kolodji, Alison Luterman, Julie Price Pinkerton, Diane Seuss, Lolita Stewart-White, Sarah Pemberton Strong, and Emma Torzs.
Thank you to everyone who participated in the competition, which would not have been a success without your diverse and inspiring poems. We received a record 1,855 entries and well over 6,500 poems, and it was an honor to read each of them.
Maya Jewell Zeller
It’s true I drove an SUV once
through Fresno with a backseat full
of college boys to whom I found myself
having to explain you could still catch herpes
even while wearing a condom. One of them
in particular was incredulous, he was listening to his iPod
and he removed his headphones and said he had
a few more questions. These were my husband’s
varsity runners, and I was a volunteer, so I was awarded
the new rental with only four miles on it when we left
the lot. I’m not going to lie—
I liked driving it. It was nothing
like riding coach or making love
with protection. There were so many buttons
to push, and they all did something satisfying,
like drop from the ceiling a DVD player
for passengers or warm the driver’s legs
in just the right places. The seats were leather,
the kind you feel guilty just sitting on,
the good kind of guilty when you can’t help
but imagine parking somewhere with someone
so you can watch the stars rise over the city,
take time to check out all the automatic features.
The boy you’re with will want to know
how things work, and you’ll end up showing him,
because he is young, because he has a bag of sour apple
or peach fruit rings he’s willing to share, because his face
can look so becoming in the streetlights.
But mostly it’s because you can no longer remember
where you were going. Was it to dinner?
Were you taking him back to his hotel, where
he’ll sleep, dream of winning?
Or maybe it was a nighttime snack
run. The SUV is black
and the night is blacker. You can feel it
closing, like a fist around a steering wheel.
You’re not the fist. You’re the wheel.
–from Rattle #36, Winter 2011
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist
Anna Lowe Weber
SPRING BREAK 2011
I know this street.
In New Orleans, they call it Bourbon,
but here, it’s Duval.
Key West in March might have been
a bad idea.
The first night, we make our way
down to Duval,
push through the masses to find a restaurant,
some semblance of quiet.
I just want a glass of wine, I tell my husband.
Key West in March
might have been a bad idea. So many
bodies in one place.
So many legs and arms and breasts exposed,
slivers of ass
hanging out from under shorts
like crescent moons.
Maybe I’m just jealous—these girls are
only ten years younger
than me, but my ass never looked like that.
Their nubile forms glisten
and from their belly-buttons, tiny rhinestones
glitter and wink. I shudder
to think of one day having children of our own.
I’m already plotting
the ways I’ll tuck them away for months, years.
I just want a glass of wine.
A girl stumbles into me, presses her sweaty chest
to mine. Her mouth
is stained red with some alcoholic berry slush,
but she doesn’t spill
a drop from her cup. Whoa, she cries. Sorry!
For the moment that
our bodies tangle, I’ve never felt so old.
Spring Break 2011!
she shouts and moves back into the flow
of the ocean of people,
disappearing down the street’s pulsing horde,
a trail of whoop whoops
emitting from her throat like a never-ending
magician’s scarf. Early
the next morning, I am back on Duval, running.
As I count foot strikes,
the street is being hosed down, all evidence
of last night’s revelry
disappearing in a stream of water mixed with
urine, vomit, and beer.
Other streets are perfumed with jasmine,
the sprawling, heady vines
carpeting entire trees. On these streets,
people are gently rising
in pastel bungalows, waking through
a slow series of stretches
and blinks, creamy morning sun filtering in
from bedroom windows.
They’re sitting down to breakfast in the garden,
the clink of silverware
tapping on plates and bowls just audible
through the terraced walls.
At 3 a.m. the night before, I was pulled from slumber
by a girl returning home.
In the shared courtyard of our condominium unit,
I listened to her
retch and retch into what I hoped
was the bushes.
Please not the walkway—at least
not the walkway.
I rose from bed to check from the window
and found her
completely naked. Breasts, ass,
tiny manicured patch of hair.
She was bent over into (thank god) the hedges,
but after a few seconds
she righted herself, body luminous, tan lines
like tiger stripes
across her chest and pelvis. I watched until
she staggered away.
Strange to call her beautiful, but she was.
–from Rattle #36, Winter 2011
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist
Start with a bird.
A petrel. No, a shearwater.
Whatever. You start with a shearwater,
then add a backdrop. An ocean, but not
too close, just close enough to hear it.
Not too much information, but a shearwater,
an ocean, and a house. Who’s in the house?
Two people. Well, one person. The other’s
on the deck, in a chair, writing a poem
about a shearwater, an ocean, a house,
and two people, one of whom is on the deck,
the other coming out to ask him what
he’s writing about. He explains about
the shearwater, the ocean, the house,
the man writing, the woman asking
this question, who is gone before he’s finished
the sentence, gone meaning her eyes are off
toward the ocean, which is fine because he
can get back to writing about a shearwater,
a woman looking out over the ocean at a boat
rising and falling on the surf, a fisherman
out alone under a hat, working in good faith
under a sun that shines in equal measure
on the ocean and house and the man writing
about a woman staring into the distance
of the past, thinking of someone important
she gave up for a house, an ocean,
and this man whom she can see now walking
down the path from the house to the ocean
to take a long run on the sand, as long as his body
will allow him, which is not the body it once was,
the body that drew her to a house near the ocean,
but what that body has become, a familiar
body, and though what is familiar can replace
youth and strength and mystery, it is no
substitute for it, and of course she’s thought
to leave, he thinks as his shoes slap the sand,
a hundred silent decisions in favor of
a commitment she made once to a house
near an ocean and the child that until
now was not going to be in the poem,
is not quite yet in this world, so
of course, she thinks, that explains the run,
and no doubt he’s thinking about the poem
on the pad he left on the chair on the deck
to take the run on the sand to chase a body
he is leaving, little by little, thinking
as he runs that it should be a petrel,
after all, can’t see her pick up the pad
to read about the house and the ocean
and the shearwater that might be a petrel
and the woman, who is not inclined to offer
an opinion on the matter because to live
with someone in a house by the ocean is
to take each suggestion as something more
than what it means, hence it occurs to her
to wonder why the bird at all, why
the fisherman, why alone, wonders as well
for the first time whether a fisherman thinks
about the necessary sacrifices the ocean makes
for his hunger, the generosity of it—she wonders
this as she comes out of the house to watch
the boat bob its way through another afternoon
at the noisy ocean and to listen for a bird
she could identify absent the shushing of the surf,
if the house were somewhere else, would wonder,
too, about the poem’s odd displacement—
she finds his choice of word interesting,
a Freudian word, and a literary one—
of their lives to an ocean, would wonder
this, too, were her mind not already on the dinner
she plans to prepare, a piece of something for herself
and a man walking the last bit up the sandy path
from the ocean to the house, curious
whether she picked up the pad as he’d planned,
whether she understood what he meant by the boat,
the fisherman, whether it might elicit from
the woman a revealing comment, something,
she thinks, they might have split along with
a nice white, were she allowed to drink it,
to open while he ices his knee, while the ice
does what it does, the boat does what it does,
as the house and the woman and the man
(and the wine she can’t drink) breathe
in the salty air wafting through the poem
in the hand of a woman on a deck watching
the fisherman wait patiently beneath his hat
for the fluid world to deliver itself up
as the bountiful flesh, that it might be divided
into equal parts mercy and remorse.
–from Rattle #36, Winter 2011
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist