Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sonnet Contest Winners

Signing in, I discovered it has been a month and a half since I last blogged! Time has been flying at an even faster clip than usual. Between end-of-year grading and last-minute wedding planning, the days barely have time to be noticed before they slip by.

But, since I said I would announce the winners "a little after Easter," I will announce them today, on Pentecost. It's close enough, I suppose.

Unfortunately, there were fewer entries than usual. On the bright side, all of the entries were quite good.

Here they are: the top poems from the contest.

First place: Embrethiel

How Many Sunsets

How many sunsets have there ever been?
How many banners of defiant light
Before the pyrrhic victories of night?
How many sunsets have you ever seen
And have remembered? Glory does not stay
Long in the mem'ry if short in the day,
And splendour loses beauty when spread thin,
Like many colours running down to grey.
There is one sunset I will not forget,
When no one else was there with me and yet
I felt the world was watching with my eyes
And that my heart was beating for each one
Whose thousandth sunset moved him so to rise
And silently salute a dying sun.

An excellent poem, one I identify strongly with. Note the volta, at "There is one sunset..." That is a perfect example of what a volta can be. Embrethiel's use of questions is also very good; it draws you in, doesn't it? And all her word-painting ("banners of defiant light," "many colours running down to grey") paints a sunset in my mind.

Second place: Dylan


Their cloaks lay piled before him as they stoned
One of those wild blasphemers. He looked on
Approvingly as the business was done:
Limbs blood-stained and a brain mortally stunned.
Stopping those upstarts, that hot-headed band
Who placed faith in a cross-killed Nazarene,
This was his duty as a citizen.
So, to Damascus, where more could be found.

Struck by a fearsome flash, he fell prostrate
And felt the full voice of divinity:
"Why do you persecute Jesus the Christ?"
For three days, Saul was blind; scales kept the light
From entering his eyes. Love's mystery
Involved his heart, restored the sight he'd lost.

I like this one. It peers a little into Saul's head, with language suggesting his practical disdain of the Christians. My favorite line: "One of those wild blasphemers." It sounds right. Also, it's a nice break in the rhythm when you run a sentence across a line, because so many lines in sonnets naturally tend to be end-stopped.

Third place: Dr. Thursday

All of the Above

"Any topic will do -- romantic, religious, philosophical, funny. All four would be great. " --Sheila of Enchiridion, March 9, 2009

Adventuresome, I hack through verbal vines
And word mounds melt, to forge the chain of love,
I scan the stars, yet look for One above,
And drop the plumb-bob down the deepest mines.
With compass, integral, and high-speed lines
I seek solutions which fit like a glove,
And spend some moments laughing with the Dove
Who gives Wit sevenfold in hidden signs.

What joy to take up verbal tools to weave
A rhyme on cheese from spoons of chicken-gold;
The scented walnut from the Scrabble box
Deals pork or pyrotechnics - I believe -
All point to One Beauty (so new, so old)
Through keys which open Reason's many locks.

(Note: Dr. Thursday's poetry is always allusive and sometimes a little hard to get. The line which puzzled me was "spoons of chicken gold." He explained that he is speaking of alphabet soup. The rest I think you can puzzle out on your own.)

Honorable Mention: Paul Stilwell


As wide shores are rained with feeding dunlin,
so every place our drumming sin persists:
depot, hearth, school; our tenor-tide consists
so much of sin, needs we bury it in
a din, heirloomed from stranger, friend and kin;
while those appear upended that resist,
for by fulsome sin we make our sheen subsist:
we winnow, grind, knead digestible, sin.
Still the price of light's our stain's exposure;
but little demarked of our sins' bored tread,
spells some exposed, freely, on another:
as he who accepts light's light imposure
can no longer be the counterweight lead
that holds at mid-height, sister or brother.

Rather Hopkinsian, isn't it, with the swift repetitions of rhyming words? This one, like the previous one, took me a couple of readings. Don't slack off, but read it a few times yourself.

Congratulations, winners! I don't dare announce the next contest yet, because I know I'll be too busy getting married next month to judge them, but here's a hint: Don't worry, I will find a use for all those cheesy poems I was sent. ;) Turns out these poets aren't so mysteriously silent after all.


dylan said...

Congratulations, Enbrethiliel!

Am honored, Sheila, to see my effort in the company of these other fine sonnets!

Good job, all!

Enbrethiliel said...


Gasp! (Where are my smelling salts, when I need them?)

Thank you so much, Sheila! This is a truly unexpected honour!

Sheila said...

It was such a wonderful poem, I couldn't choose any other!

I hope you write many more like this... and that I get a chance to read them.

Warren said...

The winner is amazing (Yay for Embretheliel!), but all of those are quite good.

I'm puzzling about a few bits in Paul Stilwell's one. Hopkinsian, yes.
What do you think of "heirloomed from stranger, friend, and kin". A very odd kind of verbing-a-noun. Does it refer to the way people hand down their brokenness like an heirloom from one generation to the next, and then stranger/friend expands the thought beyond the usual meaning of heirloom, which would be exchanged only with descendants (thus, "kin").


Paul Stilwell said...

Thank you Sheila for the honourable mention!

Wow to Enbrethiliel's. Just what a sonnet should be; you cannot see the stitches.

And I'm in awe of the other sonnets. I also liked the opening lines of Dylan's. The sonnet has good narrative economy, like the break at 11/12:

""Why do you persecute Jesus the Christ?"
For three days, Saul was blind;"

Loved these lines from Dr. Thursday's (a sonnet loaded with gems):

"And spend some moments laughing with the Dove
Who gives Wit sevenfold in hidden signs."


"The scented walnut from the Scrabble box
Deals pork or pyrotechnics"


Thanks for your comment. That's exactly it. I try to be hesitant about turning nouns into verbs, but here it seemed right, mostly because of "loom", which can be a verb in two different senses, both figuring into how we weave (loom) a subjective world and how we project it (it looms) on others.