PRINCEMERE POETRY PRIZE

Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry. 
- W.B. Yeats

2014 PRINCEMERE POETRY PRIZE

Phillip Aijian

 

Mythelectric


I know batteries work, but have no idea how.
They fit so easily in the palm, like an egg or rock

with a cross and a dash at either end. The cross
and the dash, my old foes from algebra,

calling into question whether or not a number
could exist. In the offing, Ben Franklin sends out

more line for his kite, drifting it toward a thunderhead
like a fly toward a certain trout in a certain river,

perhaps the Merrimack. One day I will sit
in a bedside darkness, with a son or daughter asking

the kinds of questions that invariably come after a day
of playing outside, after a washing behind the ears.

Where do lightning bolts come from? What are they made of,
and why are they so loud?
By that time, perhaps my shelf

will be equipped with manuals containing warnings
about circuit breakers in the event I hazard

the devil's territory of home repair.
Consider the vocabulary—electron, conductivity

charge, current. I may as well talk about gods—
deities in a pantheon with ever invisible qualities.


ii.

Sitting in a wicker chair next to the bed, I will I raise my arms
in the glow of a nightlight. An angel's education I explain

begins with watching and listening. How they watched at the garden
as Adam tried words for the first time, tasting each sound, savoring

the name of his wife. He spoke and left 'rose,' 'pelican,' 'lamb' in his path.
God said, 'Go and do likewise.' The angels tend a new garden

to make up for Eden, caring for flowers and trees only they and God know.
Once a day, the Spirit takes the finest of flowers and fruits, dropping them ablaze

into the sun
sweetening the light the way song sweetens a word. A cloud
may trap some light, storing it weeks, even months, until it grows so full

and hot the light breaks out, cracking the cloud and striking the earth like a spear...

and here I will pray that sleep has finally set in—what do I know

about gathering light? I am all practice and no understanding,
my shadow my alibi—I do not lie, but trade one ineffable

for another. Where does the light go? Who gathers it and how? I return
to the knowledge in my hands cradling my dad's guitar,

full of its own darkness. What was that tune he sang the fall
I charged through my high school physics class, ever baffled

by those crosses and dashes, so secure in the textbook, but falling
from the pages of my homework and tests like ashes, like loosed glitter?


__

 

With Heaven as a Roof

Brenda Yates


        Nu sculon herigean     heofonrices weard
        meotodes meahte     ond his modgeþanc,



Sing me the shaping,     the angel said
of a sudden,     emerging out of ether.

Caedmon,     who was caught off guard,
could only counter:     I can’t—
God’s not granted me     the gleeman gift.

But being used to     unbelieving ears and eyes,
angels are not     easily offended:

Yet you will     and yes, you,
herdsman honored by Him     who is Grace

and by whose     holy hand
this hymn thickening     in your throat
will live long     beyond the language

of its making… which is a miracle—     the miracle
after all,     of any song.

Attentive then,     and against all reason
he sang,     spirit-sweet, unstoppable
flame,     flung first-hand from

the tongues of apparitions     and angels
throbbing with joy,     to thaw the
ever-after ears     of English.

It is, isn’t it,     all we’ve ever had?
the world welling up,     whispering like angels:

now should we praise,     say me,
sing me,     sing me the shaping.


__

 

Phillip Aijian of Fullerton, California, has won the 2014 Princemere Poetry Prize for his poem "Mythelectric."  The prize comes with a $300 award.

Runners-up are James Heflin of South Deerfield, Massachusetts, and Brenda Yates of Los Angeles, California.

Monty Joynes of Boone, North Carolina, and Kerry Trautman of Findlay, Ohio, merit honorable mention.

Finalists are Joris Soeding (Chicago, Illinois), Michael Campagnoli (Rockland, Maine), A.M. Thompson (Silver Spring, Maryland), and Caitlan Mitchell (Shepherdstown, West Virginia).

We are grateful to all who submitted.

The 2015 Princemere Poetry Prize deadline will be in mid-September.

 

 

Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry. 
- W.B. Yeats