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Poetry Contest Winners

Tasked with a theme of "Reckoning," eight adult poets and two youth emerge as winners in our annual poetry competition


"The creative person is flexible; he is able to change as the situation changes, to break habits, to face indecision and changes in conditions without undue stress. He is not threatened by the unexpected as rigid, inflexible people are." -Frank Goble

"'There is no use trying," said Alice. 'One can't believe impossible things.' 'I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.'" — Lewis Carroll

  • Shannon Corey

Every year, the poets of Central Oregon come out in droves to enter their writings into the Source Poetry Contest. And this year, like last year, poets competed for cash prizes, courtesy of the Deschutes Public Library. This year's theme—so fitting for a year that's been turned upside down by so many calamities—poets were instructed to write with the theme of "Reckoning" in mind.

Our panel of judges—who hail from the Deschutes Public Library and Oregon State University-Cascades' Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program—selected two youth entries and six adult entries as winners in the contest. Join them for a special live Zoom event on Thu., Jan 28 from 7-8:30pm to hear them reading from their works!

Adult Winners


Hereditary Blues

for some years now, you lay out your pills & thank them for their flavor: the dilating seas that neatly occupy your bed with a living dream. the sky today is made of your lover's breath. you realize your love for him is like a city on fire: mother of all balm & each growing desire is a wing shaped by time. you dream of homeland only in your poems. this is always what you wanted: to hold your breath when no one else will. all day you watch for the mail—lost in the reverie for some news from a distant place. You are an un-happy thing—a grey country quietly waiting for the catastrophe of its own beauty. haven't you travelled enough—to end the chore, to be lost in a suspension of time. it may be the coldest month of the year—& you are an odd spot of calm misled by want, how your imprecise side stayed up to watch the sun eat the moon. this morning you woke up to snows & skies of laughter not enough—

-Ojo Taiye

Judge's note:

"Hereditary Blues" explores the quiet, radical potential of the addressive sentence, knitting metaphor and simile into the diasporic flesh of longing and regret—"and odd spot of calm misled by want." Carried by assonance framed in fragment, the poem is a reverie interrupted, a cold accumulation of loss. – Jennifer Reimer Recio


2015 Paris Agreement

after Gabrielle Bates & Tiana Clark

climate refugee is not poetic writing about climate refugee is not poetic.
this sole word weighs heavy as my father's name. & sleepless worry fold
a village of herders, the way fire ravages the wildflowers. my little sisters,
writes a note she hides beside her bed in the shack. it begins, dear El Niño.

another word for climate refugee is worry. another word for worry is food ration. another word for malnutrition is cholera. & sometimes my sister is both. my blood barrels' through my body until there is a border on her back—child labour, which is to say sometimes a girl's body is a dove's neck.

it's April & my brother has spent a year drinking from test tubes. if the past is just a parable for the future, then staying alive should be easier— a delicacy each day going rare— the symbolism which isn't lost on a refugee like me: there is no
balance here, cattle as a species are already dying. this heat wave, mother of our circling, the name we gave to the far side of the horizon—sealed with bruises. i am running back & forth between the house of silence & the house of greed shouting over & over with ink-stained fingers: isn't it only sensible to pull
the emergency break? shouldn't we abandon this dirty energy for now?

climate refugee is not poetic is the small brightness of my mother's shed. her arms filled with goat milk, each dark step of the way home. & my father is singing to his six-year old daughter, thick with longing, the forecast on the radio claimed it will rain, it didn't for so long I wanted to give the world my eyes—

-Ojo Taiye

Judges' notes:

"2015 Paris Agreement" asks what is the meaning and efficacy of poetry in world self-destructing in front of the speaker's own eyes. Part confessional, part political, the poem accounts for the overlooked victims of institutional and national neglect. In bearing witness to the futility of self-sacrifice, the poem is not so much a call to action as it is an elegy for a world on fire. – Jennifer Reimer Recio

Name a more timely topic than what this poem takes up. At the same time, the poet's reluctance to call the topic poetic cautions us to not relegate the climate crisis to the page, as "climate refugee is not poetic." Indeed, the crisis is as real as fire ravaging wildflowers, cholera and malnutrition, cattle dying— the arresting images of this poem. – Jenna Goldsmith


Driving Through Rock Arbor Villa on the Fourth of July

The trailer park rents to those 55 and over, never raises
charges until death exacts its toll. Known for aging pines,
rippling pond, abundant deer, brisk walk to Costco.

A friend lives there, enjoys the small swimming pool
open Memorial through Labor Day, except closed
due to covid, no grandkids belly-flopping this year.

I'm invited for the fireworks on Pilot Butte, splendid
display doubling in the pond's shimmering mirror,
best seat in town. I drive over plenty early, work my way

through single and double-wides, flamingo statues
and bird baths, long ramps and sun umbrellas,
each plot maxed out with Black-Eyed Susans, sprinklers

running. What I didn't figure: dozens of residents
already camped out in wheelchairs, lap blankets, tables
with lemonade, holiday cookies from Safeway,

all staunchly planted on the road, as if they own
the place. I guess they do. A woman shouts at me
to cut my lights. Another rises, hands on hips,

a third jots down my license plate. A man in ear muffs
shakes his head, while a volatile spray of children
dash about with sparklers, barely missing the car.

Celebratory sparks shower the coolness of dark
once we finally settle in folding chairs, sleeping bag
between us, bottled water. When at last the fiery finale

sizzles in the heavens, echoes below, I wait to be sure
the last starred and striped cookie has anointed sleep
before slipping through the remnants of the holiday,

potato chips the squirrels will argue over, grass
matted more than usual, triumphant ducks
reclaiming the pond. They know to wait their turn.

-Carol Barrett

Judges' notea:

A rhythmic poem about one experience on Fourth of July. The descriptions are a reminder of a celebration changed during COVID but also of the traditions that make us feel good.  – Paige Bentley-Flannery

This poem makes the familiar landscape of the 55-and-older mobile home park 3D. Both the glory and sadness of this environment is laid bare, most visible to those among us that were raised among the double-wides, Black Eyed Susan, and cookie tables. – Jenna Goldsmith



these poems aren't mine per se
they are my mother's, my mother's mother's
they are the battles of the woman who's been
told again and again, that her body is an empire
of pain & silence, they are the battles of the woman
who suffered at the hands of my father (whom she
adored & who somehow loses his temper & moral sense)
they are the battles of the woman walking barefooted over
cassava fields, with yam stems in her hand. i wish i wasn't
tired of her sadness. a door flung open with weak tea in
the steam—synapses of pretty chimera. the truth is i live too
close to the surface of my mother's body: a ghost in a collared shirt.
to see all the names a body can carry—my mother appears
in my dreams in a satin jacket. she becomes a flood,
swallows my father & calls it freedom.

-Ojo Taiye

Judge's notes:

"Chromosomes" interrogates the meaning of female genealogy, inheriting resistance through image and intent. In the poem, memory is "a door flung open with weak tea in the steam," where ghostly traces of the past are simultaneously vapor-thick and all consuming. An elusive/allusive reckoning with the past personal and collective, "Chromosomes" gestures toward freedom from the chromosomal chains of inheritance. – Jennifer Reimer Recio


Even As

nighthawks call out
the coordinates
of the precise spot
shadow will rush
from the earth to meet
the falling night

pines sip the sun's last
needling blue into color
that sews itself deep
into starlit black leaving
behind the divine
an indigo memory

of a day spent wide
in sage kissing the air
just before quick rain
that pocked the dust
as a reminder that answers
fall from above

now, forgotten light
hidden as we traverse
the dark and slow, slow
in this moment I know
I've never put together
a proper prayer

when night comes

follow the strung stars
feel the darkness rise
speak lightly of heaven
and let the coyotes sing
sing us home

-Meli Broderick Eaton

Judges' notes:

A sincere poem about nature and light.  The words move across the night sky capturing our attention and bringing us back home. -Paige Bentley-Flannery

The poem is a desert prayer in the key of sagebrush and coyote, dust and deep starlight.  It is coordinates to follow to home. – Jennifer Reimer Recio


The Reckoning

My cousin dies of covid. Grief's wildfire
consumes her husband, who tells their son
I have nothing more to teach you, then swallows
pills to smother flame. No more air, fire out.
Score two for covid.
Four of my students contract the virus.
Home from the hospital, one opens the door
to a friend with chicken soup. But he's vegetarian.
He invites the friend to stay on the porch and listen
to a poem he has written. My student asks:
will this count as my poetry reading? I say yes.
Long lines at Goodwill: cars and trucks laden with bins
and boxes to drop off. No one can go anywhere.
We sort our cluttered houses in the empty hours.
I prune dead limbs in my yard. Weeks, this goes on.
After branches, come needles, cones. Another year, I would
look past the fallen. They hound me like a sore tooth. Teeth.
Holiday tradition would have me choose a tag on a tree
with a child's wants, perhaps a fire truck, a ladder up, and down.
No tree with boy, ten, girl, six. I bring a large crinkly bag
to a homeless man camped on the sidewalk, cashews drenched
in dark chocolate. I can't eat those. I don't have any teeth.
When snow comes deer mingle in the backyard,
watchful, waiting. Even in this quiet, breath:
sudden beauty, fogging all our expectations.

-Carol Barrett

Judges' notes:

A personal poem, sharing experiences about death, contracting the virus and what happens when we can't go anywhere.  Written in five sections, "The Reckoning" is a reminder of the pain all around us. – Paige Bentley-Flannery

In the coming years, we are likely to see a new genre of pandemic poetry. "The Reckoning" earns its place amongst this emerging canon with its earnest observations on our ethical obligations as citizens in catastrophe. – Jennifer Reimer Recio


Winter Poem

I feel the cold of this place
the same way I shivered

in my mother's house
Thermostat set to 64,

like it was a magic number.
Clicking the dial

until the rumble of heat,
the warm, acrid smell

of dust burning
on the white electric grille—

a comfort, a soothe.
But in this house

I pay the utilities
I keep the rooms cold,

layer my sweaters
Shove cracking toes

into wool-blend socks,
holes in the heels.

Thick blankets on the couch,
padding for the empty bed.

Cat hairs tickle
my dripping nose.

He always paid for power.
I am learning what it cost to say

I need you to go.
I was his wife only in name.

Soon that too will be resolved.
I feel the cold, but no regret.

- Amelia Turner


Self-portrait as a paddock animal in Sydney

the bushfire is one thing & one thing for reckoning.
the bushfire is one thing, making this home built over
the years a wreckage filled with skeletons of trees.

of things broken, of mud, of ghost felons.
it's hard to say we did not see this coming.
it's hard to say we did not hear its voice.

here's what it's like if it's hard to tell ourselves the truth:
what have we done with the blue, beautiful world given to us?
in my used country the water keeps rising & rising.

this is the hardest scene: motherland, a wilderness.
yet i believe against all evidence: drought has eaten
three-quarter of my mother's goats & sheep.

call it a taste for ceremony— or something like it.
I don't sing or dance... a daughter watching her mother
open her mouth like time. the water flattened her hair
& began burying her tongue.

the children here are salt-less, a waning. floating embers
in my mouth. we had a home, once. the sound of wrecks.
being chased through a small ghost town, even now i
i close my eyes & hear cyclone Idia.

-Ojo Taiye

Youth Winners (Tie)

The Year Everything Went Wrong (mostly)

Ruined. The year I thought would be great because I turned twelve was ruined.
Everything's weird. The world has turned upside down.
Claiming that the virus doesn't exist isn't helping the situation.
Knowing this will take time is the hardest part. Waiting.
Open hearted. That's the way to live these days.
Never again will I do this.
I find it hard to believe that I am in history. A story that will be passed down forever.
New friends are hard to make. But this year, friendships are harder to break.
Grateful for science and love in these hard times.

-Piedra S. Jones

Judges' notes:

I cannot tell a lie; I love a well-done acrostic poem. This is that. Everybody living through this pandemic needs to read this truth poem." - Jenna Goldsmith

A compelling, short, acrostic poem from a 12-year-old voice expressing what happened over one year." - Paige Bentley-Flannery

(only pause at the commas)

aRe we still connected through this,
Events we can't control, it's
Kindness, when we're
Overworked through the roughest of times
Not feeling safe right down inside your hearts,
Intelligence is needed now and
Now more than ever, but what we need the most is

-Mason Brang

Judges' notes:

An acrostic poem expressing ways to focus, connect and feel.  Simple words, including kindness, intelligence and gratitude create a thoughtful poem. - Paige Bentley-Flannery

From the jump, this poem hits you with line breaks that make you think: "Events we can't control. It's / Crushing / Kindness, when we're / Overworked." I'm still sitting here trying to figure out what "Crushing" and "Kindness" are doing together. Yet, in my gut, I know. – Jenna Goldsmith

A big thanks to our judges, Paige Bentley-Flannery, Jenna Goldsmith, Jennifer Reimer Recio and the MFA students of OSU-Cascades—and to our co-sponsors, the Deschutes Public Library and OSU-Cascades.

Writers Reading: The Source Weekly Annual Poetry Contest Winners
Thu., Jan 28. 7-8:30pm
Zoom event
Find the link at: deschuteslibrary.org/calendar/

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story listed one of the judges as Paige Ferro. The judge's name is Paige Bentley-Flannery. We regret the error.

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