Winona Poet Laureate Emilio DeGrazia along with contest organizer Ted Haaland named the 2013 winners for the Maria W. 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 of past and present Winona Poets Laureate (Emilio DeGrazia, Ken McCullough, and Jim Armstrong) with assistance from the Minnesota Poet Laureate Joyce Sutphen, who chose the winning entry from the Teenager category. A record number of entries (110 people submitted 284 sonnets!) were received this year from all over the United States and abroad.
Category: TOP CHOICES (3 Winners)
Tintern Church of England School for Girls
With plaits and dresses neat, we stand
To see the sheep and shearer meet.
We have our cotton gloves in hand
To fan away November’s heat,
And we pull our stockings to our knees
While Third Form herds its project in.
The black-faced ewe weights down the breeze;
Her rank coat makes the shearer grin.
“Stand and deliver!” He grabs the ewe,
Wrapping her legs in one strong hand.
His shears are rough and bite a fold
Of clumsy skin. As bright as dew
The blood drops bead, then scatter on the sand.
Despite the heat, I shiver, shorn and cold.
–Leslie Schultz, Northfield, MN
A Sonnet for Old Glory
The flag was Uncle Lee’s. He fought in France
in World War I, inhaling gas that rolled
like fog along his trench—a ghostly dance
of chemicals that seared his lungs and told
his heart the bitter truth. No medicine
could make him whole, and so he spent his years
in V.A. hospitals, a veteran
of circumstance, the last of all his peers
to muster up and out. In Arlington
they buried him with gun salute and flag-
draped box, as if he’d actually won
that war because he missed the body bag.
Aunt Vera claimed the flag in ’53,
And when she died, it somehow came to me.
–Claude Clayton Smith, Madison, WI
Only the tired guard shows no surprise.
With folded arms he leans against a wall
and notes one woman moving through the queue,
a blonde with ample breasts and slender thighs.
The best today, he thinks. Well built and tall.
He stutter taps a foot against the floor,
and checks the time, and yawns a little sigh.
To him you’re like some criminal of war
condemned and placed on permanent display,
encased in sturdy glass for all to view.
You’ll never be released and cannot die.
He stands at ease. He rarely looks your way,
accustomed to the smirk behind his back
and numb to eyes that slice across his neck.
–Richard Meyer, Mankato, MN
Category: LAUREATES’ CHOICES (10 Winners)
My Great Uncle Hap
The timbre of his voice was the dust stirred
To life by his father’s footsteps as we
Walked over their acres after harvest;
Thin but rich, dry but deep, rising in time
With labored breath, clinging to his work boot,
Leathered skin, and faded denim tenor.
But when he laughed he became a combine:
Reaping, threshing, winnowing the ripe crop
Of bored boyhood sweater-and-tie visits,
Offering the richness of existence.
How I wish I could hear that voice again,
See his broad hands, flat as the horizon,
Wavering through the heat of his wonder,
And walk with him again through timelessness.
–Michael Ady, Denver, CO
Listening to the Rachmaninov All-Night Vigil
The choir leads me to the nave and leaves me
Alone. There is something I must say to God,
If only I could remember what it is.
I have lost the holy name. It lies
Beyond the fetch and carry of my tongue,
As far past my ken as the edge of the sky.
The choir calls me to the narthex: Hear
The word of the Lord. There is text,
To be sure, in the susurrus that rolls
Down the vaults and over my empty ears.
What does He say? The grammar that construed
Divine immensity has disappeared.
Step by step, the basses descend to the bones
Of this house, where stone cries out to stone.
–Heidi Annexstad, Golden Valley, MN
Shakespeare’s Sonnets: The Dark Lady Replies
What’s it to me? This fitch-pen’s shaky bleat,
This lambkin boy? All wooly bumpkin yap,
He praises raven hair; with lover’s heat
He prizes most the bright gold in my lap.
All men in fever woo me: How they burn!
The Bardic Bills and actors seeking fame,
The giddy gamblers that will never learn,
Yes, all men woo me; Lady Luck’s my name!
And what to me who dwells where stars carouse
That word-crammed Will and other hedgerow bores
Make fusseball-fabricated verse unhouse
Their plaintive sighs like antic rocket spores?
It’s gambling, ill-rolled dice, brings on a sweat,
Fires sheepish sonnets praising hair of jet.
–Sheila K. Barksdale, Gainesville, FL
Revealing the Great Pyramid
In 1798 Edme-Francois Jombard climbed the Great Pyramid to determine its measurement.
Viewing the endless scene in front of him,
his breaths coming faster at the apex,
imagining the slanting apothem,
his brain on fire like the risen Phoenix.
He found his theories in the ancient texts:
Herodotus, Pythagoras, Plato.
He saw the truths the ancient tomb reflects,
the laws that Europe claimed were hers to know.
Denying the astronomy of Egypt,
Europe wore her bias like a dress
kept with pride though it no longer fit,
displaying it with willful stubbornness.
Jomard tested theories of his time,
holding to truth, certain in his climb.
–Patricia Callan, Newton, MA
Where shrill cicadas hiss their Sunday hymns
And sanguine sumac dapples sedge and spruce
He drops the onyx berries from their stems
Into a bulging bag stained red with juice
Where pools of shadow grow along the vale
She strokes her belly, eyes the sinking sun
His long arms reach through patches on the trail
They pluck and eat the berries one by one
He murmurs they could venture further in
But she has cast her eyes back to the gate
She passes him a napkin for his chin
“Too late for that,” she says. “It’s much too late”
She shudders at a cold September wind
They leave the berries growing at trail’s end.
–John Chernega, Winona, MN
I’ll not demand a recount, or complain
about low turnout, calculate the cost
of my long-shot, burnout, way-behind campaign.
Friends mutter, “Close, close finish,” but I’ve lost.
My rival hired consultants, spent big money,
talked up her “family values”, famous name,
bet that in politics and matrimony,
winners take all, losers depart the game.
Midway, I surged in the polls: good looks, wry wit,
a tired incumbent I might just dethrone.
Then came the night-oh, I’ll get over it-
you drew the curtains shut, and all alone
you cast your vote. So hesitant, so slow,
you stayed with her, my dear, and bade me go.
–Dolores Hayden, Guilford, CT
Mystic Women 2
The ancient women mystics dropped their robes,
And dancing naked, Your sweet praises sang.
Though clothed in silk with gold set in my lobes,
I bare the secret where my safety hangs:
My eyes in nakedness are danger’s lamp
That light raw truth for those who turn to see,
This woman on whose skin God’s lips are damp,
This wild one, snared in ecstasy.
What vivid visions do these eyes possess
That fearful faces greet their shining light?
What could my unclothed body threaten less
Than that which trembles here in love’s hot light?
Oh, Great One, draw away my every veil
That causes your true light in me to pale.
–Barbara McAfee, Minneapolis, MN
Do Not Abandon Your Angels
Even those priestly eaters of sins and moldy potatoes, even
chimney sweeps, keepers of basements, doubters who preach
to toadstools, uncles whose hearts limp to a small amount of soul shaking,
aunts who are holy and useless. The moment you tamed them
they took on your sorrows. Now they look for you to feed and caress them—
hungry ghosts every evening. When you sit alone in the unlit kitchen,
when the notes won’t come. When the bow flies around the room
one octave higher than the violin, it is because you are in love
with perfection, which is death, as every angel knows.
Do not abandon, make spaces for them, little shelters for the dead.
Tin roofs, red curtains in the windows—in such places the ancient ones
keep house—loaves of bread and candles laid out on the gravestones.
The beloved face and the enemy face in identical silver frames,
virgins, banks of marigolds, offerings along the road.
–Mary Kay Rummel, Fridley, MN
She searches for caesuras in his speech,
The pendulum’s slight lift before it swings
The other way. And the way laundry clings
Shirt to shirt, immaculate with bleach,
Abides in his private breath before the reach
Toward secret talk of trivial, timeless things.
His voice and hers, like old porch swings,
Lift and drop; once in a while, the hinges screech.
There is only one truth she will never say.
Nights, when his speech has segued into breath,
And breath itself suspends, she’s sure his death
Has come and gone. When did she look away?
Each night he fools her, sleeps so still
It’s years before she hears the great lungs fill.
–Miranda Stinson, Bloomington, Indiana
No one can cry forever, and the world
we live in thinks our grief should be discreet,
not violent, like a pitcher’s fast-ball hurled
into the stands. Our culture favors neat
solutions—counseling, group therapy,
physical workouts—nothing from the gut,
all head-work—lacking the simplicity
of cures for cancer: poison, burn, and cut.
I wouldn’t disappoint my friends, who care
what happens next, whose expectations are
that I’ll move forward, more or less the same.
I give no trouble, having learned to bear
my loss of you well-covered, like the scar
that was a breast before the surgeons came.
–Gail White, Breaux Bridge, LA
Category: BEST LOVE SONNET
We’re falling in your dream. No parachutes.
You shout into the roar to hold your hands.
Our clasping slows and comforts us. We’re mute
as we descend, released of fear. We land
unbruised, a field in bloom, but obstacles
crop up, decisions must be made—your dream
veers off, away from lupine, grass grown tall,
birdsong. I think I’ll stay. This meadow seems
too lush to leave just yet, too shimmering.
I want to know our cushion well, adorn
my wrists with flecks of dew, revere hawk wings
at home in sky we hurtled through. Don’t mourn.
While you resolve dream puzzles on your own,
I’ll linger, praising earth and where we’ve flown.
–Kathleen McClung, San Francisco, CA
Category: BEST HUMOROUS SONNET
June’s truck comes up the road—she honks the horn
and says, “Hop in.” I do. She pops the clutch
and peels away, the stick through gears, her touch
so light and yet so firm, her fingers worn
and calloused hard from building fence, her hair
barretted but loose, controlled, the window down,
a hint—Chanel, I think. We head to town
and cruise the square, the courthouse; rednecks stare.
The Ferris wheel, some cotton candy sticks,
her lips, I kiss the flavor at the top.
The lights this late at night, the mermaid moon,
the skin beneath her blouse. The carney clicks
his lever, down we come, gondola stops.
And in her truck I spend the night with June.
–Charlie Southerland, Viola, AR
Winona Finalist: BEST HUMOROUS SONNET
A Dog Confesses
I like to stop to smell the yellow snow.
I do a sniffing dance with dogs I meet.
My nose brings pleasures you will never know.
I love the smell of turds and stinky feet.
I sometimes lick myself, then lick your face.
I leave my mark on hydrants, posts and trees,
I love it when there’s cars or cats to chase,
If these are faults, I beg forgiveness please.
For I have traits that far outweigh these flaws.
I give my owner endless, perfect love.
I live to brighten days and that’s because
I’ve come here as a gift from God above.
If People all were half as nice as me,
Oh what a better place this world would be.
–Ken Mogren, Winona, MN
Category: BEST SONNET BY A TEENAGER
Soft stripes of sunlight coat the forest floor
Dead leaves begin to crackle as we walk
Your gait is slightly slower than before
But I’m content to ease my stride and talk
You stop to ask a chickadee its name
It answers with a movement of its beak
I can’t perceive the purpose of this game
Or why you have such faith in it to speak
Although we walk in close proximity
We grow more distant as we saunter on
And though you share this Autumn view with me
I realize that you’ve already gone
A love, at once so present and so far
I love you still for everything you are
–Rachel Horner, Voorhees, NJ
Finalist: BEST SONNET BY A TEENAGER
She lays her head down, eyelids flutter closed
Alluring shadows: Back and forth they creep
Her thoughts—her very consciousness—exposed
Her breathing slows and then she falls asleep.
Imagination sparks and come slight
Night’s depth sets in as dreams augment her mind
She’s soaring up to reach the highest height
She’s floating, flying, leaving earth behind
When vivid storm clouds send her crashing down
And darkness ravages her peaceful trance
And thunder threatens to sweep in and drown
Her in a dark and ghastly nighttime dance
She wakens to the sound of her own scream
And softly whispers, “It was just a dream”.
–Claire Lehnert, Eugene, OR
Category: BEST WINONA AREA SONNET
If you’re of mind to sail the flowing Nile,
See fair Verona, ancient Roman square
Or fairyland or some enchanted isle
Let Shakespeare’s magic verses fly you there,
Where characters, born of his brain and heart,
May speak in gentle tones or shout in rage,
Where tyrant, lover, king so plays his part
As if to prove that ‘all the world’s a stage’
And where the author treats the audience
That’s come to view the acting of his play
To language, famous for its eloquence
To stunning lines that take your breath away.
‘Lend me your ears’ and come, come one and all
to the Great River Shakespeare Festival.
–Robert Libera, Winona, MN
Finalists: BEST WINONA AREA SONNET
Lancaster County Spring Cleaning
“Those old Swiss farm wives, they knew how to clean,”
My husband’s aunt would say approvingly.
“Barn windows even sparkled with a sheen!”
Then she’d cast glances clearly meant for me.
My first Spring as a wife she’d often ask,
“Finished your cleaning yet, rett up the house?”
[Her Pennsylvania Dutch term for the task]
I felt duty-bound to ritual and to spouse.
“Bless her heart,” my husband said, “But stop.
Don’t let this yearly custom cause a fuss.”
So I stowed away resentment, bucket, mop,
And then reserved the warming weeks for us.
Tradition urges us to hold its view,
Yet Spring insists on making some things new.
–Gordon Hoffert, Winona, MN
Your pages gently unfurl beneath my hand
Mine to caress or turn on command
Black writing on white or brown on cream
Powerful images to color any dream
Leather bound or with a paper cover
Purchased myself or a gift from my lover
You create memories to fill my mind
I am forever in love with your kind
But, digital bytes coalesce and offer me
Easy back-lit reading and cord free
A slim soft shape with great capacity
Satisfies my bibliophilic voracity
My love of reading remains, dear book
The written words stay true but not your look
–Carol Borzykowski, Winona, MN
Defending the Town Drunk;
Victor Peckham, 1920-1983
Most people stayed away from Vic Peckham.
He killed a four-year old girl in fifty-two.
He ran her down leaving only her shoes
and her brother crying where she had been.
My dad said the accident made Vic drink.
But it might have been his time in the war,
the killing he did, reliving the horror,
taking German lives without time to think.
The trial’s mental exam showed he wasn’t right,
so he spent years in the state hospital
before coming back to our town and all
the memories he cried to stop each night.
Especially innocent Linda Lee Leich,
A mistaken enemy in his sights.
–Mark Metzler, Winona, MN
Pre-Festival Old Professor
That time of year for him again comes round
when stout perennials spring up in the room,
like phone calls from old friends he can’t put down,
Bevington, Riverside, Folger and Bloom.
Carves cipher in margins at umpteenth view
As silent music strikes up and scenes sing,
Or some old rogue’s voice sparks delight anew:
the moor, fat jack, sweet prince, false thane, ripe king.
But why traverse so late this old bard’s map?
The daily stone now rolls so slow uphill,
he goes gentle to that afternoon nap,
and defense prescribes an army of pills.
While head knows Frost was right, nothing gold stays,
heart trusts Holly’s truth—love’s real, not fade away.
–Mike Costello, Winona, MN
Mother Nature’s Crown
I cannot grasp the whole of it in dreams
or brush this canvas surface with His plan
nor barely can I touch it, so it seems
perhaps I’ll live each moment as I can.
A year of sweet transitions end to end
that no one really captures or conceives;
the breadth of life much like a new best friend
who comes when called, you always can believe.
As visitors we measure dusk to dawn
the moments of our lives alas are clear,
but knowingly we sit back, stretch and yawn
to settle in alone with what is near.
Yet how much can we say ‘bout anything,
to compliment the early buds of Spring?
To compliment the early buds of Spring
the crocus stems peek out to greet the day.
Creation breathes new life upon each wing,
‘awake, arise, alight- come out to play!
An ‘Ode to Joy’ tapped out in simple time
of thunder claps or gently falling rain;
a symphony of nature’s perfect rhyme
to soothe my soul and ease away my pain.
Oh April dawn of warming sun so gold
a color palette ‘tween the earth and sky,
gives birth to every wonder we behold
a beauty God shall never us deny!
Oh Springtime speaks to all the world around,
soliloquies of every sight and sound.
Soliloquies of every sight and sound
are silenced by the heat of Summer’s eve.
Upon the lakeshore footprints can be found
where cool, clear water gives my toes reprieve.
My sunburnt face of red and tender skin,
spies puffy clouds of ice-cream silhouettes.
The citrus juice drips down upon my chin
the hammock sways and peaceful sleep begets.
A bumble-bee sips nectar in the field
and clover tops bounce lightly in the breeze
a bumper crop of corn shall surely yield,
such sunlit grace now finds me on my knees.
Though lazy days of Summer seem to fly
no memory shall ever pass me by.
No memory shall ever pass me by,
like Autumn’s glances drifting from each bough
the crimson shades against the placid sky
slow down the pace of everything somehow.
Sweet sap and burning embers fill the air
while copper penny colors mix with gold;
the grain bins overflowing everywhere
the chilly nights that make my joints feel old.
Oh quiet days of harvest coax me on
to walk amidst the heavy morning dew
before the branch is bare and leaves are gone
earth’s plants will barren lie where once they grew.
This glimpse of brilliant wonder is now done,
I fear the frost of Winter has begun.
I fear the frost of Winter has begun
when evergreens are powdered light with snow.
The moon-glow mist blocks out the warming sun
thermometers are dipping extra low.
Wind whistles, whips and whines around the hills
and sleds whirr past all bundled up with grins.
The thought of cold and ice gives me the chills
as children laugh, each time their saucer spins.
But solace comes with all this frozen ground.
The hurry up of life seems to decrease;
snowflakes will float dissolving without sound
and all the lawns are blissfully at peace.
The daylight slips so low beyond our fence
it will again be gone forever hence.
It will again be gone forever hence
the sadness that I once felt very near
I have no need for any recompense
at last, regret is simply what I fear.
For visions I will find when I awake
or close again my eyes when twilight moves;
the sights once held in heart one cannot take
the landscapes fill my soul my spirit proves.
The colors known to me from near or far
take residence within my mind’s abode
it matters not wherein the seasons are
they shall repeat and never shall erode.
Yes, pieces of life’s pathway I shall save
I can’t explain this power that God gave.
I can’t explain this power that God gave
restoring deep inside the calm I need
to breathe the freshness I’ll forever crave
whene’er He plants a tiny fragile seed.
Restoring to a wholeness I can feel
my hopes are reaffirmed in what I know,
the months pass on and each one does reveal
the sight of Mother Nature’s grandest show.
So differently they each announce their time
to catapult each aspect to be known
into a burst of fragrance so sublime
or inch by inch to chart whate’er is grown.
How wonderful His spirit shares these themes
I cannot grasp the whole of it in dreams.
–PJ Thompson, Winona, MN
Watch for the Maria W. Faust Sonnet Contest 2014. Winners receive cash prizes.