Published: April 29, 2005
|The New Discovery Poetry Award|
Sponsored by The Writer and Rosebud magazines
"How Time Works"
By Robert Russell
Every day around one o'clock time stops.
No one notices it but me,
the second hand of the clock above the whirlpool bath
at the Health Club jigging back and forth.
The whirlpool boils, the swimmers in the lap pool
behind me continue saving their own lives
from the pool that couldn't care less.
But we all stop aging for that indeterminate stretch
between 1:05 and 1:06, or some days 1:07.
This is when five-year-old Randy Deats returns
from beneath the azaleas beside my parents' porch
after slapping Jann Poling and making her cry.
The smell of first grade--Crayolas,
school lunch milk, pencil shavings,
and the corridor with the fire drill buzzer on the wall--
settles like a hen over the entire yard,
then lifts. The FedEx guy at the front desk of the gym
is handing the receptionist his ballpoint pen
and for now neither of them notice
it's clogged. The backs of my parents' heads
in the darkened old Pontiac turn to one another
as we drive through the night on vacation to Florida,
their whispers and the hum of the tires
and shadows pass over me in the back seat.
We are never there yet, I don't need
to stop at a gas station again, but wait,
I remember we left my little brother, Mike,
back there at the last one. He wanders out
of the Men's Room sleepily,
looks around the empty parking lot,
mosquitoes and giant moths swarm around the streetlight
and he begins to cry. We are pulling farther
and farther away, the shadows sweep through the car,
I can barely keep my eyes open. My mother
slowly opens a Thermos of coffee for my father,
murmurs his name, "Bob?"
The power lines throb past, "Where's Mike?"
But Bob is my name, too, and the second hand
carries us into 1:08.
Robert (Rusty) Russell is the coordinator and MC of the Poets Without Borders open-mike poetry series (www.poetswithoutborders.org) in Madison, Wis., where he lives. He led the Madison National Poetry Slam Teams in 1992-1994 and was an individual competitor in the National Poetry Slam in 1995 and 1996. He has performed poetry in venues around the country, including Boston, Chicago, Providence, R.I., and Ann Arbor, Mich.
His short fiction and poetry have been published in various literary magazines, and his poetry also appears in two anthologies, Poetry Slam: The Competitive Art of Performance Poetry and From Page to Stage and Back Again. He has published a spoken-word audiotape, Jungle of Roses, and is the producer/host of the public radio show Radio Literature. He also teaches poetry workshops at high schools and colleges.
He has taught workshops at the Universidad Autónoma de Chihuahua in Mexico and participated in La Semana de Poesia de San Miguel de Allende (Mexico) in 2003-2005. He was producer and host of the live poetry shows "Cheap at Any Price--Special Edition" at the Wisconsin Book Festivals in Madison in 2002 and 2003.
"Lilly Makes an A"
By Sandra Dorr
Grand Junction, Colo.
My daughter sits in the kitchen with a square of paper,
her big black shoes crossed tight under the chair.
When the teakettle whees, I tip it up
and watch her dark brown stare, intent as a sparrow's,
following the letter curving out of her gripped pencil.
In her eyes I see the black linoleum
of St. Helena's hallways, shining like urine
on a cloudy winter day. Water melting from black rubber boots
in a row, the cloakroom smelling of feet and snow.
In front of our desks Sister Mary Francis
outlines our first letters on a blackboard.
White flakes twirl down windows.
A tall, black robed woman against black--
nothing else showing of how she stood
nor how her long legs met her hips
or the smooth muscle of her arms shivered.
Instead the blazingly white chalk meets the hard board.
Her voice startlingly calm, sweet as a flower:
"Children, take out a piece of lined paper."
The acrid rubber nipple of a curved glue bottle
on the corner of my desk smelled orange like the wood,
perfume soaked into the room.
I put it in my mouth and sucked on it to stop
the excitement in my stomach that spurted up
when I put my pencil to the soft page
the way she touched the board with her stick of chalk.
I am making a letter, a mark on the page
that grows out of my body like a root in a cage,
a tall black shape beautiful and strange.
It will tell everyone what I cannot say.
When I look up, she smiles at me.
We are speaking, the sister and I.
A hot wave begins carrying me out of the high
square windows, over the black upright piano,
beyond the rows of heads shining like brown pennies.
My body quivers:
my voice is louder than God's.
We put the pencil boxes away.
Look, Lilly says.
I made an A.
Sandra Dorr has worked as a writer for 30 years, starting in Minneapolis, where she graduated in journalism and French from the University of Minnesota. That led to an international fellowship in Paris, "Journalistes en Europe." She worked in New York City in the 1980s as an editor and freelance writer, getting her first short stories published and meeting other writers at Yaddo, the Edna St. Vincent Millay Colony and other retreats. A visit to the maps room of the New York Public Library convinced her to move to the high altitude of the Rockies to do an MA in creative writing.
In Wyoming, she met her husband, photographer Gary Poush. They have a son and a daughter, whom she often writes about. There she began working on poems, which she considers the hardest but most rewarding literary art. She and her husband became the first couple to simultaneously win Wyoming arts fellowships.
The family moved to Portland, Ore., where she directed a writing program at Washington State University--Vancouver, and wrote and voiced radio pieces for OPB, NPR and Monitoradio. Her poems, stories and essays appear in Village Voice, Ms., American Fiction, Northern Lights, the Salt Hill Review and others. In 1999, the family moved to western Colorado. She now teaches writing retreats in Oregon and Colorado. "Lilly Makes an A," written when her daughter was 6, is part of a forthcoming poetry collection, Desert Water.
By F.J. Bergmann
When I lost my soul,
I was doing what comes naturally,
rolling it between my finger and thumb,
watching its fine threads sparkle in my palm,
returning feathers of sunlight
from its cloudy prison,
hefting its glinting mass
gently from hand to hand,
when a wind took it into the cool bright sky.
I chased it for what seemed like miles
as it swooped down the sidewalk,
hovered momentarily above the forsythias,
shrank to a pinhead glittering
amid the swarm of angels
invisible against the blue.
It finally caught in the twigs
of a tree too tall to climb,
with branches years out of reach.
It faded and unraveled into the weather.
By summer, its last filaments
were an absence.
Sometimes I see a shimmer
in the weave of a nest that will not fall,
an iridescence on the wings
of a bird that seems to remember my name.
F.J. Bergmann studied psychology, biochemistry and fine arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and got a BS in 1979. She is currently a Web designer and used-bookseller, as well as the shadowy entity behind PoemFactotum, a poetry submission service; madpoetry.org, a local poetry Web site; and her own site, fibitz.com.
Her publication credits include the Beloit Poetry Journal, Blue Fifth Review, Margie, North American Review, Rosebud, Southern Poetry Review, Tattoo Highway and Wind. She received International Merit Awards from the Atlanta Review poetry competition in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2004. In 2003, she received the Rinehart National Poetry Award and was a co-winner in the Pavement Saw chapbook competition; Sauce Robert has been published by Pavement Saw Press. She was a finalist for the 2003 Joy Bale Boone and James Hearst poetry prizes. In 2004 she received the Pauline Ellis Prose Poetry Prize, was a finalist for the Violet Reed Haas Book Prize and the Winnow Press Open Book Award, and runner-up for the 2004 Stephen Dunn Poetry Award, and received second prize in the Wisconsin Fellowship of Poets Muse Prize.
Meet our New Discovery Award judge
Diane Wakoski is poet in residence at Michigan State University, where she teaches as a University Distinguished Professor. Her work has been published in more than 20 collections since her first book, Coins & Coffins. Her book of selected poems, Emerald Ice, won the William Carlos Williams prize from the Poetry Society of America. She is working on an epic poem, "The Archaeology of Movies and Books," of which four volumes have now been completed.