Friday, April 30, 2010

The winning poem, a Q&A with the author, and the five "honorable mention" poems!

And the winner of the National Poetry Month Contest is . . . Joshua Diehl!

His incredible poem is reposted below. I've included a little bit about why I chose this piece as the winner. There's also a Q&A with the Joshua about his inspirations.

Here are the five wonderful poets who received "honorable mentions!" Their poems are reposted at the at the end of this entry.

HG, age 17, “A Villanelle”

Allie Marie Birch, age 14, “White Rose”

James William Cowan, age 21, “Untitled”

Libby, age 20, “Rest in Peace”

Maryann H., age 20, “Skin Deep”

Congratulations to all the winners . . . and to all who had the courage to submit their work!

Untitled, Joshua Diehl, age 17

The man across the room

is bending a silver spoon

With his mind

The only thing that flexes is sorrow when I use mine

I take a breath through my ears and the ambiance fills my brain

For a moment it is enough

To convince me that I am not insane

I love you, mid-morning rain

You give me the amnesia to forget away

The struggle of loneliness, the uncomforts of a twin-sized bed

Because only one woman falls asleep here in my head

Call it hopeless or call it foreshadowing

I can’t tell now where I am because my eyes are rattling

There are padded rooms for dangerous people

Holy books in sacred steeples

I remember the faces but I forgot the beautiful people

I have friends here

Around their necks they hang bells

They call this place home

I call this prison hell

It is likely that I am in a mental hospital

But the drugs make it difficult to tell

Why did I pick this poem? There are so many things about this poem that work well…and here are a few that stand out to me. First, is how well the rhyming suits the poem. Rhyming is often very hard to pull off, but there is something about the inconsistent rhythm that fits with the subject matter. Second, the dark humor at the end is really effective. You don’t know whether or not you can trust what the speaker is saying. That was a nice twist. Third, I loved that the author created his own word: “uncomforts.” Finally, and most importantly, I thought that imagery was beautiful and very thought provoking. The image I was most struck with was “around their necks they hang bells.” I spent some time wondering what the author was referring to here. The only thing I could think of was a cow wearing a bell around its neck while it’s out to pasture or being herded. For me, those images connected well to the theme of being in an institutional setting.

I wanted to ask the author what he was envisioning there…and that inspired me to do a short Q&A with him.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

My name is Joshua Diehl. I am a seventeen-year-old living in northern Texas with my mother and two sisters. Nothing means more to me than the written word, and writing helps to alleviate my anxiety.

What inspired you to write this poem?

What little meaningful inspiration I manage to acquire is a result of my inner toils, the relentless aching that boils and floods the corners of my mind and hangs from my heart with the weight of a thousand vampire bats. It inspires me to recognize that I am not alone in that grueling condition. If you are reading this, you inspire me. I care for you.

What’s the last thing you read that really blew you away?

“Did the hospital specialize in poets and singers, or was it that poets and singers specialized in madness? ... What is it about meter and cadence and rhythm that makes their makers mad?” --Susanna Kaysen

Who are you favorite writers? Has reading their work influenced you? If so, how?

Dave Eggers is most certainly among my favorite writers. I particularly enjoy his very personal literary style and tremendous knack for dialogue. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius is a beautiful read, and I would recommend it to anyone. I have very recently taken interest in the work of the 13th-century Persian poet, Rumi. A quote of his that I am considerably fond of is: “This is how you slip into your infinite home: Close your eyes and surrender.”

Here are the five poems that received honorable mentions.

HG, age 17

A Villanelle

Breathe in and think, "Everything will stay,"

Lying alone on a summer night,

Exhale and convince myself, "okay."

Struggling to keep emotions at bay,

Anxious that all I love's taking flight,

Breathe in and think, "Everything will stay."

Foreseeing the fees that will be payed,

Trying to keep my eye on the light,

Exhale and convince myself, "okay."

Squeeze my eyes shut, wish it all away;

Too often these battles are tense and trite,

Breathe in and think, "Everything will stay."

Morose when happiness goes astray,

White-hot flames we should seldom ignite.

Exhale and convince myself, "okay."

Sitting in bed, I plead as I pray

For sanctity, only for a day.

Breathe in and think "Everything will stay,"

Exhale and convince myself, "okay."

Allie Marie Birch, age 14

White Rose

My heart is gray, but it still beats with a white rose laced between my fingertips.

It wraps around my heart as the petals fall into my soul.

As the vines grow my love expands even more.

The thorns sometimes prick but I understand.

The petals whither and decay over time.

They disappear as if they weren't there.

My heart absorbed the color of the petals,

Now its pure white.

But the thorns keep pricking me.

Then I begin to bleed.

My heart turns red.

The deadly vines dissolve and die.

My heart is then alive.

All because of a little,

White Rose...

James William Cowan, age 21

I wake to the smell of rain

Each one dies in vain

The cement has no need

For the water that feeds

Libby, age 20

Rest in Peace

Little girl there's no need to fear

I'm going to heal from these horrifying years

but in order for me to move forward

you have to listen to these words with courage

the abuse was not your fault

here was no way for you to scream for help

Little girl I need you to understand

he can no longer hurt you with the touch of his hand

he's far away from you

I know what he did makes you feel very, very blue

but a better life awaits

so you can stop planning your escape

Little girl you have to stop blaming yourself

it's okay to let go and get up

you don't need to haunt me anymore

I'm dealing with your memories hard core

one day I'll sew up these broken wings

so let go of all your hatred and be free

Little girl you have to stop playing your tricks

you're holding me hostage at the wrists

you have to let go for good this time

so I can get myself together and be fine

you have to stop pretending you're okay

our paths have crossed and I know you're in a broken state

Little girl it's not too late

our soul can come back from the grave

but your shadow is holding me back

I need you to lay down and relax

I promise this nightmare will come to an end

I'm no longer afraid of myself or him

Little girl I'm not trying to forget you

you've done an incredible job holding on to this as I grew

so lay down your head and rest

I'm going to take this painful load off your chest

the healing is coming but not in one piece

but don't worry, I promise it's coming please believe

Little girl it's time for you to rest in peace

so put the past behind you and breathe

go back and play on the swing

remember the days before you had broken wings

we may never get justice for this crime

but finally, you can now rest until the end of time

Maryann H., age 20

Skin Deep

My mom falls back a few steps

to match my pace,

and we continue walking on

side by side

in silence.

She reaches for my hand

and I let her take it,

feeling the gentle caress of her hand

as she runs her finger along the curve

from forefinger to thumb

and back again,

reading the nail marks on my hand

like Braille beneath her fingertips.

She wants to understand

and so do I

as I look down at my hand in hers,

see the bright pink scratches

that I had created,

scattered along the arch of my hand

like fallen needles off an old pine.

She pulls me close

and tells me she has known me my whole life

tells me she has known me for the nine months

before I was born

and that she doesn’t want me

to hurt myself,

that it hurts her too.

I allow myself to fall deeper into her embrace,

fall back into a warm world of

my own heartbeat

and gentle kicks felt from above.

I want to tell her that I’ll be okay,

but instead I close my eyes

and let the world around me be darkness

for a few moments longer.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. These are all so amazing! I can see why you picked Joshua's, but it must've been so hard to choose! Great job, everyone.