Winona Poet Laureate Emilio DeGrazia along with contest organizer Mark Metzler named the 2012 winners for the Maria Faust Sonnet Contest. This year’s contest was sponsored by Ted Haaland in memory of his wife, Maria Faust. Winners were chosen by a committee out of 85 entries from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Best Sonnet: Patricia Callam. Newton, Massachussetts.
Note: Peggy Lee recorded Fever in 1958.
Teenage hips felt steady brushes against
the drum, the pulse of the bass so luscious
I had to move in that way. I sensed
the fever, didn’t care about the fuss
over the dark, insinuating beat,
the words that promised to love and treat me right.
Her voice sizzled, climbed, turned up the heat,
pushing me to be Miss Fahrenheit,
waiting for the one who would anoint
me with the cure, some skinny, acned boy
snapping his fingers in eager counterpoint.
After Fever no point in being coy;
too late, they banned her from the radio.
The music, those words were all we needed to know.
Laureates’ Choice: Ed Minus of Dunellen, New Jersey
On Leyte Daddy took a scrap of shrapnel
in the mouth. Severed his tongue, knocked out half
his teeth, tore open one cheek. He scrambled
home hardly recognizable, a much older man
who might have suffered a maiming stroke—
Still, ecstatic to be alive, talking a blue streak.
No one could understand him. Tough. He couldn’t
stop. So learn by God.
I was nine, and frightened,
for he sounded like an animal desperate to speak
a human tongue. Yet he profanely refused to hear
of an operation or therapy, stuck to his conviction
that no one should be allowed to forget. A year
or so later I heard him confound a VFA convention.
when applause exploded I saw him shudder and stare.
Laureates’ Choice: B.E. Stock, Brooklyn, New York
It is absurd to struggle with the world
Wring out some meaning at the cost of bliss
Play trumpets for the great ideal unfurled
Compare another better life to this.
It is absurd, when stormy bolts are hurled,
To huddle in the doorway in a kiss,
Or warn the ones prosperity has pearled,
“The rat has died and something is amiss.”
Alone you count your fingers and your toes
And all are there, and yes your ticker throbs.
You patch the wounds of solitude and doubt,
Notice the dawn, the osprey and the rose,
And carefully allot your tears and sobs,
In light of how your strength is running out.
Humor: Ken Mogren, Winona
Just found amongst some Sixteenth Century crap,
This Shakespeare poem reveals the roots of rap:
“I’m Will. I write the plays and, dude, I’m good!
So say the knaves and varlets from the hood.
Cheap laughs, a bit of raunch, a little gore,
Are all it takes to make my homies roar.
Some dukes and lords show up but aren’t as loud,
They’re doubtlessly outnumbered in the crowd.”
But somewhere through the years the fan base changed.
The lowlife, highbrow mix was rearranged.
The audience of ordinary slobs,
Was crowded out by snooty, cultured snobs.
Except Winona somehow got it right,
You’ll find all types on any given night.
Contemporary Relevance: Joan Schnabel, Fountain City
Jordanian sandstone, gift of ancient seas,
The aquifer that keeps our water clear
Has nurtured prairie, flowers, eagles, trees—
Foundation stone, for all we hold most dear.
But now, fists clenched, the hardened hands of greed
Crush rock and sand, destroying age-old bluff
In name of profit, gas and oil’s need.
Aesthetic claims alone have not enough
Validity to halt destruction’s pace.
O round pure sands they mine and wash and toss
And load and truck and ship some other place.
While we, still grieving contemplate the loss
Of hills. Once gone you cannot bring them back,
Our way of life now sacrificed for frac.
Pastoral: Gordon Hoffert, Winona
When shadows stretch, she’s lost in steady toil,
Wllile bending low ‘neath twilight’s softened ceiling;
Her nimble fingers, stained by sand-flecked soil,
Are weeding, thinning, grooming as she’s kneeling.
A growing season counts but rarely days
That fail to catch her careful, measured walk
With eyes cast down in artist’ s searching gaze.
Her hands extend to help a slender stalk.
Each quiet moment spent with rooted friends
Is nourishment for her and these fine neighbors,
To whom she ever faithfully attends.
Bright blossoms burst forth thanks for all her labors.
Fair petals frame her face at day’ s best hour,
A grateful garden’s most exquisite flower.
Teenage: Elizabeth Ann Brown, Birmingham, Alabama
“As lovers sway”
As lovers sway in sacred courtship’s dance,
All vow, then coyly feign disinterest,
I shadow their steps in a half-romance
My partner in another heart’s conquest.
Hapless I wade though love’s celestial seas,
Soft bathed in the brilliant North Star’s light,
Thou, dear Polaris, keep deaf to my pleas–
Your thoughtless scorn is my eternal night.
So darkling I wait, darkling watch thee flit
From true love’s perch to some far weaker bow’r,
And catch thee glance with shining eyes love-lit
Upon the tawdry beauty of the hour.
My love, toward your light would I gladly sail
Though all my efforts were to no avail.
Parenting: Jason Zevenberger, Fredonia, N.J.
September, red with wasps and spider mites
that nibble at decaying flesh, at bark,
now harvests apples full of worms or blight
to yellowed mourning sounds of meadowlarks.
Inside, he studies French: Ca va? J’ai soif!
We once would drive to opa’s apple trees
in fall and climb his ladders, silver rough
from age, and stretch our fingers far beyond our sleeves.
Now hornets fly around these cracking trunks
of mine. How nice to have my own orchard
more visited by the old lovely skunk
(who noses for grubs) than my own son: J’ai peur
des pommes you’ve grown! — In one picture he holds
opa’s apple, his hands all flushed from cold.
Maturity: Mark Metzler, Winona – in memory of John Edstrom
Now that the urgent has become less so
I finally hear music soft and low
as I marvel at Apollo’s morning ride
and the soft hues in the widening sky.
I can’t help but wonder where you’ve hidden.
At times, I know I hear you in the kitchen
jangling coffee cups, shuffling the paper
and easing back in the creaking chair.
I sneak around the corner to catch you
but only find two shared echoes in the room
singing like small birds too quick to be held,
still bubbling in our souls’ shared well.
I can’t help but think of the days ahead
and the answers to questions left unsaid.
Farewells: Joel Van Valin, Santa Monica, California
“The empty road”
She told him on a day that had no rain.
She was leaving – she had had enough of marriage.
She would not cook or clean or wash his clothes
Or brew the morning coffee, ever again.
And he, silent underneath her barrage
Said nothing of truth or loyalty or those
Times she’d been unfaithful, or call her things
Rhyming with rich, or mention his attorney
He went to the’grocery store for a cucumber
Some bread, a bottle of wine, and chicken wings
Feeling lighthearted, as at the start of a journey.
He asked the pretty checkout girl her number
For she’d always liked him. Her smile was beautiful.
Outside, the road was empty as his soul.
Music: Lois Fay Read, Wellington, Connecticut
The gallery blooms with colors of Matisse
Paintings dance in joyous arabesque.
Yet this one—his “Cubist phase” they say
arrests my wander through exuberance.
So much constraint: the straight, unyielding tone
of teacher-mother looming in her seat,
the stern, unforgiving metronome
panic should he stumble, miss a beat.
Why am I drawn to stark gray in a space
full of rainbows? Why does discipline freeze
me in prison with the boy’s round face
when I would flow with curves and gracious ease
of other works? Let practice move apace
and be absorbed. With mast’ry comes release.
Art: Jannett Highfill, Peoria, Illinois
Etching: The Card Player,
Copper, acid, and varnish in between,
etching was cutting edge technology.
Making his ground from the new recipe
Rembrandt registered what he wanted seen:
forty-four Christs and not a few beggars,
The beheading of St. John the Baptist,
innumerable pug-nosed self-portraits,
bulls, trees, a sleeping pup…and this gambler,
a statement of the transactions among
straightforward calculation, the laws
of chance, and the inexorable laws
of human nature. Disdaining sermons,
the artist let his work do the talking,
like this sly apostle of risk-taking.
Teenage: Dante Degrazia, Winona
Why must one fear the darkness of the night?
For out of dusk, my noble star shall shine.
All doubts are briskly swallowed by her light
When baffled gaze and blinding rays align.
A soothing silence blankets my domain
To shield the country from the arms of man,
And restless bird stand timid and restrain
Their voices, as they wait for her command.
When beams of light start peeking through the trees
The flustered birds arouse a cabaret.
The sun’s arrival warms the morning breeze
And sparkling dew precedes the dawn of day.
Her loyalties leave little for concern,
Never to break her promise of return.
Love: Diane Provost, Somerville, Mass.
“A Box of Rain”
“such a long, long time to be gone,
and a short time to be there.”
The Grateful Dead, Box of Rain
I nearly said, “I loved you for nine years,”
but realized that statement was naive.
In truth, I’ve never stopped. I now believe
love is persistent, once it first appears,
a habit of the heart, that perseveres,
whatever has become of its object.
It seems that we know love in retrospect,
by its endurance. That which disappears
is something else – infatuation’s spell.
But you have kept the pass key to my dreams;
for decades, wandered there. I’ll never tell
the catalogue of scenes played out between
us; although I can still remember well
an assignation in a hurricane;
fear and excitement beating down like rain,
and wind so strong, it blew away all fears.
Non-Traditional: Ted Haaland, Winona
I suppose it’s really very apt that day is dawning dark
It’s hard for me to see the “plus”, since rather than a lark
My life seems cold and barren, especially at the dawn -
When first awake, I feel I’m on life’s chessboard, just a pawn.
But as I rise I realize that in our drought-parched state
Imperatives conjoin – A storm, and earth’s deep thirst to slake.
And next I think of life – That out of bouts of vicious weather
May reemerge that growth and flowering that we’d shared together.
The storm was brief, and has passed through, until there comes another.
My task today, symbolically, is gird my loins, and smother
Those undermining impulses which work to break resolve,
And out of shards of memory and siege of grief, evolve.
I glance at Black-Eyed Susans, in water, on our sill;
They’re wilted now, they gave their all, to ease life’s bitter pill.
Watch for the Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest 2013. Winners receive cash prizes.