Warde wins Bugle’s 10th Annual  Poetry Contest

By Scott Carlson

Susan Warde, a St. Anthony Park resident and writer, is the winner of the Bugle’s 10th annual poetry contest.

This is the third time that Warde has won our annual contest that is held in April during National Poetry month. She also won in 2016 with her poem “Ashes to Ashes” and in 2013 with “The Seven Months That Aren’t Winter.”

This year, we asked our lyricists to draw their inspiration from these words: stress, contentment and/or peace. All entries were judged anonymously by former Bugle editor David Healy, also a longtime writer and poet from St. Anthony Park whose writings have appeared in the Turtle Quarterly, Dash, Elysian Fields Quarterly, and the Minneapolis Review of Baseball.

Healy chose what he considered the top three entries. As our first-place winner, Warde will receive $50.

Second- and third-place finishers this year are Betty Wheeler and Marilynne Thomas Walton, respectively. Here are our top three poems:


Departure (By Susan Warde)
If you’d stayed another week
you’d have witnessed the abrupt retreat
of winter. But there you are with your
freeways and palm trees and ocean,
your neon bougainvillea, your In-N-
Out Burger, and you missed it.
You propped the snow shovel
by the door and left me with a bag
of ArcticThaw and the number of the
guy who plows the driveway. Then
winter said what the hell, enough,
and took off too. Just up and left.
Some snow still lies like rags
in shadowed hollows, though less and
less. The season’s dissolution drips
and gurgles toward the storm drains.
The silver maple’s buds have turned
to fluff. The soil is pierced with green.
If you’d stayed another week
you’d have seen these skies, benign
blue wisped with white, furrowed
by returning geese, nothing like
winter’s hard cerulean, nothing like
L.A.’s smudged air, that’s for sure.
You may be partial to the static
swell and settle of the sea, but I’ll take
our river any day. It’s going places.
In its brown determined hustle toward
the Gulf, it sweeps the ice away and
plants along its banks a muddy spring.

Healy’s review: There are some wonderful images here: geese furrowing the skies, an anticipation, perhaps, of the furrows that will result from certain green piercings of the soil; the Mississippi’s brown determined hustle toward the Gulf. I like impending spring described as winter’s “dissolution,” that word connoting both a chemical process—ice and snow dissolving to water—and the idea of termination. John Steinbeck, though he lived in California, asserted, “I’ve lived in a good climate, and it bores the hell out of me. I like weather rather than climate.” Obviously, this writer does too.

Second Place:

Exquisite Essence (By Betty Wheeler)
The elegance of a lily’s petals.
Petals spread as the wings of an eagle
Soaring on an updraft in early morning,
Rising effortlessly, in ever-widening loops,
Alternately, diving for prey,
Talons outstretched at last minute,
Scooping for target, then swooping up away,
Ascending on helium wings,
Plunging again, until nestlings fed,
Or fishing from ice edge, midstream
Along river bluffs.
Bluffs, vertical at cliff edge,
Fractures swallowing water,
Dripping through summer,
In winter freezing at nodes,
Along the cliff, as waterfalls.
Silky, translucent,
Thick overlapping layers
Bending to gravity
As the petals of gypsum flowers,
In a cave candelabra,
Hanging above the calcite rimstone dam.
Silently flowing by, clear liquidity
Turns back down,
Alternately threading horizontal along
Walls polished by eons of rain, then
Finding the next fracture,
And continuing the journey
Ever downward, commanded by gravity.
Upflowing, by pressure gradient
Into the lake bottom.
A lake that isn’t.
Only a wider, deeper link of
The River.
Flowing high and fast in flood stage.
Quiet above, strong currents deep.
Strong currents
Reflected in the clouds,
Forming. Reforming.
Clouds, fluffy and soft some days,
Dark and powerful on others,
Giving way their load,
Gently moistening each petal, or
Pouring down life-giving vitality in sheets.
Pouring down on Bluff Country’s
Own native ditch lily.
Along the journey,
What is not Exquisite in its Essence here?
Where is Peace, if not here?

Healy’s review: Where is peace? It is evocatively bodied forth in this poet’s lyrical descriptions of the natural world. It’s even found in a ditch, where lilies bloom. I like the references to gravity, both explicit—water falling—and ­implicit—the eagle, defying gravity as it ascends on helium wings.

Third Place

My Fair Home (By Marilynne Thomas Walton)
I want to go home
to my red house by the Fair;
where syrup and corn dogs
paint the viscous air.
Hoofed animals call
from an old barn while
chickens answer with waving wing-arms,
flap-dancing their full-beaked alarum.
Skyride hovers in the intense blue sky;
with people like pigeons flying
over the magical Giant Slide.
I wish I could always stay
in my little house by the Fair.
See my lace curtains sway
to beat of Grandstand song.
And each night fire works
giant roses and peonies implode
in the soft end of summer air
Oh, where did we go?

Healy’s review: Ah, the Fair. Indeed, its air is viscous, thick with the scent of culinary temptations. And those flap-dancing chickens: Ya gotta love ’em. To paraphrase Paul Simon, “Something tells me it’s all happening at the Fair.”

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