~ 2010 ~
Kansas Poetry Month Contest

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Kansas Poet Laureate's, Weekly Contest, April 2010

View Winners, Contest  ► #1   #2   #3   #4


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Contest Winners #1 ...04-09-10,     Theme: Rivers of Our Lives


To celebrate April, 2010 as National Poetry Month, the Kansas Arts Commission hosted a weekly poetry contest featuring Kansas poets from To the Stars: The Ad Astra Poetry Project (located on this site).  There were two categories for each contest; one for professional writers (those who have published one or more books of poetry with an established press, not self-published) and one for amateur writers. --- The contests were judged by Poet Laureate of Kansas Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg and past Poet Laureate of Kansas Denise Low. --- Winning poems are published on the Kansas Arts Commission website, KansasPoets.com and in the blogs of Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg.

Contest #1 - Instructions


Rivers of Our Lives      ►  Read Hughes' poem

After reading Langston Hughes' “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” use the line “I've known rivers,” and write until you can say no more. Then repeat “I've known rivers” and launch another direction. Keep going until you've said everything you can about rivers. Or focus on one river you've known well, first writing a list of all your stories about that river (or experiences you had that involved the river), and then plucking one story off your list, and writing that story. Another option is to make a list-poem of all the vivid moments you experienced at this river.


Below - View Contest #1 Winners


Professional Poet Category Winners


by Serina Hearn - Lawrence, KS


Having fled too long
loaded with dress sizes too small,
memberships redundant,
points of reference obsolete.
Eventually, time’s river
swollen and greedy
took memory’s favorite doll,
names of friends, places;
forgetting made myself easier,
one breath at a time
was all I could


I've Know Rivers
        After Langston Hughes

by Susan Whitmore - Fairway, KS


I: Lehigh


The Lehigh River draped an apron of steam
Around Bethlehem Steel’s company mill,
Billowing white over black water, black factory.


Iron ore and coke fire, metallic on my tongue.


My father, steel-weary, took me to feed
Brown bread crusts to ducks, vapid in the vapor –
Ghosts disappearing as the workers would.


II: Maas


I was pregnant with my first child and new
To the Netherlands, both of us now alien.
I walked every day at dusk along the River Maas


Summer sweet, scent of sugar beets and soil


Turned over in the fields I tramped through in boots –
Everything outside and inside glimmering as the last
Light lay its face on the water and the baby turned.


III: Kaw


I did not plan to land in Kansas, but life’s wing
Banked east, west and then landed me here.
On my first country hike alongside the Kaw


Spring dew damp on my face, nestled in my hair


A hundred cottonwoods dropped white filaments
Through blue air. Then the wind wrote my name
On the water and the Kaw and Kansas claimed me.

Nonprofessional Poet Category Winners

(no title)

by Tayler Klein -  Pittsburg, KS


I thought I knew rivers
when I was small, and watched the Missouri fade
to an undetermined point on the horizon.
I knew it would slowly course into the belly
of the Mississippi
and its waters
would become the Mississippi’s waters.

In the presence of the Gateway Arch
it would disappear into nothing,
all signs of the untamed west forgotten
within the long blue strands
destined for the ocean.

I was sorry for it, the Missouri,
sorry for its muddy mess,
its dirty floodplains,
its shape held together by rusty bridges
that whistled and creaked in the wind.

But now I think of my mother,
and how if I’d truly known rivers
I would have understood as she held me to her stomach
and let me dip my toes in,
and wet my head with cupped hands -
This muddy mess of a river
still courses through the body of the land,
and its fibers are braided into my hair.



Under Current

by Canese Linn Jarboe


I've known rivers to hide dark secrets in muddy,
tangled roots of virgin Dogwood trees,
stopping their sap-choked hearts.


The Lethe cut through our back pasture
like a 17-year-old girl cutting class to
lean against the rotting fence and smoke cigarettes,
rubbing the cheap Salem ash on her face like
war paint.


We stood barefoot in the stagnant creek,
christening each other with the earth-warmed
water and I let it trail down my back, carrying my
sins with it.


I envied the sun-dapple tattoo across her shoulders
as she watched our brother wash the
blood from his face and the crimson ribboned down
the stream like a bright flash from
a Molotov cocktail.


I've known rivers to carry things away.


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