2017 Poetry Contest, Honorable Mention: “Ornithology Lessons” by Rob Carney

We’re pleased to announce “Orinthology Lessons” as an Honorable Mention in our 2017 Poetry Contest! A very special thank you to our poetry staff for their hard work!


Because she loves a good rock slide,
a little geologic fanfare,

the blue jay taps at boulders with her beak,
quick chisels to get things rolling.

She turns her Screek! into a thunderclap
and lets the echo start the show: a cliff face

sheared away, a river

a headache given to a mountain goat, and more—
the whole sky made to take notice. . . .

What do we learn from this story?
Who thinks, “The color of the bird”?

You’re right. And she looks fantastic with the sunlight
fitted around her like a dress.

The trees below rustle leaves in admiration.
Even their acorns are impressed.

Rob Carney is the author of four previous books of poems, most recently 88 Maps (Lost Horse Press, 2015), which was named a finalist for the Washington State Book Award, as well as the forthcoming collection The Book of Sharks (Black Lawrence Press). In 2014 he received the Robinson Jeffers/Tor House Foundation Award for Poetry. His work has appeared widely in journals such as Cave Wall, Cascadia Review, Pacifica Literary Review, Poecology, and others, and he writes a regularly featured series called ‘Old Roads, New Stories’ for Terrain: A Journal of the Built and Natural Environments.

2017 Poetry Contest, Honorable Mention: “Trillium” by Melissa Jean

We’re excited to announce “Trillium” by Melissa Jean as an Honorable Mention in our 2017 Poetry Contest! A special thank you to our hard-working poetry staff!


In the woods there are velvety black flowers; someone calls them trillium. I thought trillium was a white flower. This one is elegant and dark as a shroud. There is a nursery rhyme or a poem about trillium—a hymn, even? I can’t remember. It floats at the edge of my consciousness, the word in the voice of a father. I think if I ate this trillium maybe I would remember. If I licked it. But you can’t just lick things that you find in the forest. You can’t just lick things.

Melissa Jean: “I am an Assistant Professor in the Mindfulness Studies masters’ program at Lesley University in Massachusetts. In addition to earning a PhD in Human Dimensions of Ecosystem Science and Management at Utah State University, I also earned an MFA in Creative Writing at Lesley University, where I was a recipient of the Jacob K. Javits Fellowship from the Department of Education. My story “When the Rains Came” was a winner in the AWP Intro Journals Project competition, and was published in The Colorado Review. I have also published creative non-fiction and poetry in a number of print and online journals, including, most recently, Junoesq. I currently live in Nashville.”

2017 Poetry Contest, Honorable Mention: “My Ancestors” by Ron Reikki

We’re happy to announce “My Ancestors” by Ron Riekki as an Honorable Mention in our 2017 Poetry Contest! A special shout-out to our hard-working poetry staff for this round!

.                My Ancestors

My grandmother’s grandmother hid,
buried herself under handfuls of history,

and now I am discovering—through the thaw
of genocide—the glaciers of bravery

in my Arctic blood, my Jewish blood,
my Muslim blood, my multiracial story.


Ron Riekki‘s books include U.P.: a novel (Sewanee Writers Series and Great Michigan Read nominated), The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (2014 Michigan Notable Book from the Library of Michigan and finalist for the Eric Hoffer Book Award/Grand Prize shortlist, Midwest Book Award, Foreword Book of the Year, and Next Generation Indie Book Award), Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (2016 IPPY/Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal Great Lakes—Best Regional Fiction and Next Generation Indie Book Award—Short Story finalist), and And Here: 100 Years of Upper Peninsula Writing, 1917-2017 (Michigan State University Press, 2017).

2017 Poetry Contest, Honorable Mention: “Rorschach Test” by Charles Kell

We’re excited to announce “Rorschach Test” by Charles Kell as an Honorable Mention in our 2017 Poetry Contest! A special thank you to our hard-working poetry staff for their work this time around!

Rorschach Test

Blink if you see a pain-devil.
Make a left fist if you notice your ma
slicing bread.
Wipe the wet when you make out your dead
.       father.
Black morphs into blue shadows who ring
themselves around your heart handle.
Your first girl’s red hair.
Third boy’s bruise.
There, see a football softly floating off
the edge of a cliff.
Tap your right toe twice if you catch
the river swallowing a lost boy.
Your childhood dog, Bear, wagging its black
.     tail.
The Amish man who cut his finger off behind
you in the sawmill.
Close your eyes if you can see your jail cell.
Sit up straight if you see the unlocking gait.
Open your eyes if you can see inside
your still-locked cell


Charles Kell is a PhD student at The University of Rhode Island and editor of The Ocean State Review. His poetry and fiction have appeared in The New Orleans Review, The Saint Ann’s Review, IthacaLit, and elsewhere. He teaches in Rhode Island and Connecticut.

2017 Poetry Contest, Honorable Mention: “The ONE” by Claire Scott

We’re excited to announce “The ONE” by Claire Scott as an Honorable Mention in our 2017 Poetry Contest. A special thank you to our poetry staff for their hard work this season! 




a different woman to marry he’d met 
a hazed gauze of gin or bourbon or both
at Sam’s or was it Saul’s or Whiskey Thieves
last night last week last month
just knew god-dammit he knew
she was the One
critical tell Marci urgent at once must
he must end of the line finita la commedia or is it tragedia
no more nagging carping dirty dishes
or drifting home past two am
because here she is
the very One right next to him right now
head spinning perfume heart stopping
Gilbeys whirling with Wild Turkey
in a wavering two-three stumble
so smart discussing entropy & black holes
while he looked down her shirt
fractals & force fields
his hand on her thigh
she was from Scarsdale Sacramento Scranton
spines making music caduceus or is it cadacious
he left Marci so sorry a message
a dead road dead ended road block no going back
staggered to the men’s
spiffed up a bit, hair pushed off blurred face
finally on track he was sprinting
around spinning spiraling around
a straight shot to paradise


her stool empty  
the One poof! abracadabra
only a faint waft of Guerlain
an untouched glass
home lurched crash landed
into a house full of echoes
keys on kitchen table
clothes cut into neat squares


Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize. Her work has been accepted by the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Enzagam and Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and the co-author of Unfolding in Light: A Sisters’ Journey in Photography and Poetry.

2017 Poetry Contest, Honorable Mention: “A Sailor’s Language” by Taunja Thomson

We’re proud to announce “A Sailor’s Language” by Taunja Thomson as an honorable mention for a 2017 Spring Poetry Contest! A specials thanks to our poetry staff for all of their hard work!

A Sailor’s Language

I am a music box
only I can wind up—
no pirouetting
but a sharp unfolding.
I don pink eye shadow
blow mauve bubbles
put a rose collar
on my lucky cat
yet my frown is grey
my wallpaper storm clouds
and the inside of my box
once velvet
is creased and stained.
I can wind up toy mice
release thin-skinned
balloons and watch the sun
rise. I can also pick
at wounds
keen for the moon
wear heavy curves
and jagged knuckles.
I am Girl
the one you thought was soft
ripe and yours.
Now you know I am not
apple or apron my mother’s eyes
my father’s fawn—
I release myself across fields
and into mountains
cross rivers
navigate oceans
wear a sailor’s language.


Taunja Thomson’s poetry has most recently appeared in Peacock Journal and Zingara. Two of her poems have been nominated for Pushcart Awards: “Seahorse and Moon” in 2005 and “I Walked Out in January” in 2016. She has co-authored a chapbook of ekphrastic poetry which has recently been accepted for publication and has a writer’s page at https://www.facebook.com/TaunjaThomsonWriter. A worshiper of nature, her summers are filled with water gardening, and her winters are spent obsessively feeding the birds and other wildlife that appear in her one-acre slice of heaven, a field.

Poetry Spring 2017, Honorable Mention: “On Your Wedding Day” by Stephen Barichko

On Your Wedding Day
a toast
.     when i was seventeen i still lived or perished by the promise
.     so when you twined my ring finger knotted it tight and said this means
 .    we’re married now I believed you because that day in the morning
.     down in the brook we sloshed up to our knees in cold then dampened
      our steps as we neared the resting trout your hands swirling the wet
river dust
.     part of the spell to calm the slow gulping column of muscle sleeping
in the dirt
.     that let you raise it to the world of no suspension while it held its breath 
.     and you placed my hand along yours along the body and stilled me 
.     and taught me that pulses and heartbeats could be felt if you dimmed all
.     else to the singularity in front of you
Stephen Barichko is a writer from Terryville, CT. He lives on his farm in Terryville with his wife.