The winning poems from the 2018 Source poetry contest—and a word about why they won, from the judges.
The 2nd annual Source poetry contest was, like last year, a collaboration between this publication and the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program at Oregon State University-Cascades. We received hundreds of submissions from writers in Central Oregon—a testament to the breadth of creativity and passion our corner of the world possesses.
From those submissions, the OSU-Cascades team of judges selected five winning poems, including first-place winner, a second-place tie, and two honorable mentions.
Thank you to all who submitted, and to the winners—who you can see reading from their work Sun., Nov. 18 at 5pm at Roundabout Books, along with our judges. See you there! - Nicole Vulcan, Editor
"The first function of poetry is to tell the truth, to learn how to do that, to find out what you really feel and what you really think."
—June Jordan, Caribbean-American activists, poet, essayist & teacher
Ghazal of Proximity
By Danielle Gosselin
grandma cannot pronounce t-h blends; keeps mother tongue held close.
in the name of god, she shapes words sharp—echoed off walls, yelled close.
when my grandfather's mind left speech behind, he sang—made music
a body bearing his eyes. in the melody he dwelled close.
a dead deer by the road has sagebrush bursting from its belly.
what will wombs birth after their end—in response, these blooms swelled close.
grown-up sister is someone i know and don't know. miss her till
missing takes up a pulse—ready these arms to be respelled close.
mom rebuilds the same old house, each project a gift to herself;
she works the pain in her hands till it is with strength melded close.
childhood: my dad and i in the yard, lifting binoculars
up to the stars. today when he called the memory welled close.
out here, there are no fireflies to summon east stardust-made eyes;
instead, taller pines rise up to whisper vanilla smelled close.
daughter, we set you free so that you'd return. how to explain—
i must travel on still, not from them, but toward life beheld close.
On the poem: The charm of this poem is also what causes us to want to take cover in its wake. We immediately recognize this family— at times close, at times closed— as our own, the associations all too familiar. The poem has undoubtedly, irrevocably, done its job. —Jenna Goldsmith
By Julie Naslund
low clouds, snow and cold accumulate
a thin window between drift and sky
white upon white, slashed by strokes
of branches black-green or bare
cold silences soil
white veil shoved forward on the wind
foreshortened, the world blurs
is a way out
On the poem: "COMPRESSION, RELEASE" delivers what is promised in the title of the poem: the poet applies pressure to language to create a spare dreamscape in which "nothing breathes" but the language itself, "a word." The inner music, the chattering c's and hissing s's give way to an ending full of human possibility. – Irene Cooper
By Hannah Paige
When I saw angry the pages
flew out of books. They hastily
too clumsy for the vacuum.
When I saw angry the clothes
sat and soured
in the washer. Wet
with my face, they waited
to be clean again.
When angry saw me it looked
in the windows, windblown it stayed
and I did not let it in.
Now it is clawing through
the screen door. Melting
the locks with its fire.
When I felt angry I said
And the silence
was all I ever learned to say back.
On the poem I started this poem and then had to start it over again. I kept starting and restarting the poem. I kept stalling. In a good way. And when I found myself at poem's end I sought to read it all over again. - Jenna Goldsmith
By Julie Naslund
Begin at the village wedged against the hill, riverside.
Cup your palm and gather the rain, extend your tongue
to taste, sweet and stony.
Breathe in deeply.
Follow the scent upstream as you amble along the draw,
attentive to the narrowing slickrock walls.
They are shaped by water.
Take off your footwear so you can feel
the sugary texture of sand against your soles.
Gather more rain, taste it again to sharpen your senses.
Notice that you are climbing slightly
as the walls rise higher and higher above you.
The sky narrows. Keep walking.
When the rain stops suddenly
it will reveal itself, a box canyon on your right,
little more than a slot.
Don't miss it.
Turn sideways and slip in,
pressing your gut against the curve of flame colored rock.
Feel the sandy grains against your cheek.
Sidle along until the interlocking walls turn and open.
Now you can proceed forward.
Continue in this manner.
You will need to turn sideways again
as the canyon walls weave and twine,
now narrowing, now opening.
Though you do not understand yet, you will.
This is how water walks.
On the poem: I just love where this poem ends, and I believe it because of there it ends: "though you do not understand... this is how water walks." Rarely do human instructions get us this deep inside the natural world; it's a brave move, and I applaud it. - Emily Carr
If I owned a wolf
By Ethan Barrons
If I owned a wolf, I'd fight crime.
I'm tired of carrying your name
On the poem: For all its brevity, "If I owned a wolf" introduces the reader to a distinct voice of great scope, with fantastic imagery into the bargain. In these five lines the reader senses heroism, ferocity, conflict, and a salivary gesture both onerous and impossibly gentle. – Irene Cooper
About the Judges:Emily Carr writes murder mysteries that turn into love poems that are sometimes (by her McSweeney's editors, for example) called divorce poems. After she got an MFA in poetry from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, she took a doctorate in ecopoetics at the University of Calgary. These days, she's the program director of the low-residency MFA in Creative Writing at Oregon State University-Cascades. Her newest book, whosoever has let a minotaur enter them, or a sonnet—, is available from McSweeney's. It inspired a beer of the same name, now available at the Ale Apothecary. Emily's first collection of fiction, Name Your Bird Without A Gun: a Tarot romance, is forthcoming from Spork in 2019. Visit Emily online at www.ifshedrawsadoor.com or on Instagram @ifshedrawsadoor.
Irene Cooper is a Bend-based poet, creative writing instructor with Blank Pages Workshops, and co-founder of The Stay Project (thestayproject.us) and the Writers Collective of Central Oregon (writerscollectiveofcentraloregon.com). She holds an MFA from OSU-Cascades.
Jenna Goldsmith, Ph.D., is an instructor of writing in the American Studies Program, School of Writing, Literature and Film at OSU-Cascades.