Literary Hook: Poetry contest runners-up announced

The Rock River Times is pleased to present two runners-up in poetry from this year’s contest:

“I Spoke to the Wind This Afternoon” was written by John Fitzpatrick of Red Hook, N.J. His literary accomplishments read:

John Fitzpatrick was awarded 2002 and 2004 poetry residencies at Vermont Studio Center. Since 2003, his poems have received the Hackney Literary Award in Poetry, Birmingham-Southern College, Ala., and honors in City Works, Mad Poets Review, Confluence, Taproot Literary Review and Clark College 2004 Writers. Other poems appeared or will be forthcoming in The Mid-America Poetry Review, The Cape Rock, Asphodel, Plainsongs, California Quarterly, Kennesaw Review, Yalobusha Review, Luna Negra, SLAB, Out of Line and others.

We liked his poem for its tightly woven couplets, its interesting turn of phrases such as “No rosetta/rubric to learn by.” The poem is quietly lyrical and wistful.

I Spoke To The Wind This Afternoon

It replied with a flock of birds,

branches full of them

chirping in lyric dialogue,

flitting here and there

as if to get a good vantage

from which to talk to me.

I listened intently. Thought

about what they said

and remembered the code

I learned as a child

sitting under oak tree

when wind sent words

of leaves tumbling

down on me. No rosetta

rubric to learn by.

Only a summoning

within to hear their

garish tinctured voices,

understand them too,

each a sounding gift

of language used

by wind to speak to me.

Another runner-up we found hauntingly lyrical, dense and rich, is Ryan G. Van Cleave’s poem. It is written in response to a piece by Dali, the great surreal artist. Concrete imagery and abstraction balance delicately in the poem, which is difficult and intriguing, like interpreting a work by Dali. The poem begins with “The white curl of music” and ends brilliantly with “the white robes of unforgiving air.”

Inarticulate Skeletons: After Dali’s Average Atmospherocephalic Bureaucrat in the Act of Milking a Cranial Harp

The white curl of music,

halting and imperfect,

suspended in the air

might be anything: breath,

a brush-slap to canvas,

iridescent dragonfly wings,

a bird unfolding from sky.

Like heat off a road,

the bureaucrat’s shape wavers,

the granular moon of his head

now the exact same contour

of the town he grew up in,

and now egg-shaped,

his last chance for freedom.

Questioned about the true

nature of melancholy,

why its lines are shadow-drawn

deep upon his chin, his brow,

he would deny it all,

the harp, his spiked crown,

the white robes of unforgiving air.

Who is Ryan G. Van Cleave?

Ryan G. Van Cleave’s most recent books include a poetry collection, The Magical Breasts of Britney Spears (Red Hen Press, 2006), and a creative writing textbook, Behind the Short Story: From First to Final Draft (Allyn & Bacon/Longman, 2006). He teaches creative writing and literature at Clemson University.

We are pleased to present both excellent poems in this week’s Literary Hook.

Christine Swanberg is a local author and poet who has written several books of poetry and formerly wrote a column called “The Writer’s Garret” for this newspaper.

From the July 26-Aug. 1, 2006, issue

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