2010 Rattle Poetry Prize Winner

Patricia Smith, photo by Peter Dressell

Patricia Smith
Howell, NJ

Tavern. Tavern. Church. Shuttered Tavern,

When Thomas Gray said, “Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn,” he may have had Patricia Smith in mind. With stunningly vivid images and effortless momentum, Smith takes readers by the hand and leads them, spellbound, through the gritty bustle of Chicago’s Madison Street in its pre-1968 heyday. The descriptions are so tangible they practically boogie off the page—we can almost taste the pickles, smell the peppered wings of the chicken shack, and feel the vibrations of the girls stomping doubledutch. Eventually we realize that we’re not only on a journey but also stagnant, frozen on that crowded bus in a broken city, both going nowhere and lurching irrepressibly forward in a skillfully woven and surprising paradox, the last stop on a tour we didn’t want to end. We’re proud to introduce “Tavern. Tavern…” as one of those rare poems that breathes and burns, and as winner of the 2010 Rattle Poetry Prize.

Honorable Mentions


Michele Battiste
Boulder, CO
Once More, With Feeling

Heidi Garnett
Kelowna, BC
Sin of Unrequited Love

Valentina Gnup
Portland, OR
We Speak of August

francine j. harris
Ann Arbor, MI
Katherine with the lazy eye. short. and not a good poet.

Courtney Kampa
Oak Hill, VA

Courtney Kampa
Oak Hill, VA
The Miscarriage

Devon Miller-Duggan
Newark, DE
Old Blue

Andrew Nurkin
Highstown, NJ
The Contest

Laura Read
Spokane, WA
This Time We’ll Go to Kentucky Fried Chicken

Scott Withiam
Cambridge, MA
The Petty Snow