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


Emily Cole, Lee Nash, Florina Nastase, Janice Northerns, and Frederick Pollack won the 2019 Princemere Poetry Prize. Their poems appear below.

Emily Cole

To the Meek Girls

So much has been written of bravery. We are told
repeatedly to seize our own power, to be like Bey,
or Bader Ginsburg, to suffer no shit, carry ourselves
with the menace of a small girl holding a large owl, etc.

I've done it, too—I've written in imperatives, in grand,
unequivocal statements. I've borrowed voices from grimoires,
from lions, from men.
                                     Shy one, you don't need to perform
for me. I see you in my classroom, deer-eyed, feather-tongued.
Listen, you are precisely as brave as you need to be at this
very moment. I don't know what you've done, or what you want
undone. But I do know that any girl born with a babbling

heart and puncturable skin was born a living battlecry. Meek girl,
forget about the inheritance. You were always already enough.

Lee Nash

Collecting the Strands of Pele's Hair

In memory of Katia and Maurice Krafft

I would rather my child loved violins
than volcanoes.
I'd rather they tripped over Potstock
than tottered near molten rock.
I'd rather they didn't stumble
near a gurgling geyser of lava,
rather bite my lip red-raw
than them caper next to a crater.
I would rather ignore their pleas
to ride in a boat on a coulee,
tie them with ribbons and bows
than ring them with ribbon bombs.
I'd rather they slumbered in attics
than slept in a magma chamber.
I would rather not be the mother
of a volcanologist.
I would rather not know what is in
a pyroclastic flow,
or the speed it spews from the earth.
I would rather not anger Hephaestus—
thrown out of heaven's bliss.
I would rather not hear "instant death"
used a comforting maxim.
I'd rather not tempt the Fates,
and quip "if I die tomorrow."
I'd rather my smooth obsidian
were set in a statue's eyes,
rather faint at Stravinsky's airs
than swoon over vents at Stromboli.
I would rather remember her frame—
a slip, the half of his weight.
I'd rather not see a love so rare
sacrificed to flames.
I'd rather not watch a faithful match
die in passion's embrace.
I would rather retreat from an ancient caldera.
I would rather tuff than ashes and cinders.
I would rather not be fearless.
I would rather not live.

Florina Nastase

[my beloved history]

no hard work ever came as easy
as when I bathed the gout-ailing marchioness
in hot water with lots of suds and flesh-eating
beetles that nibbled on the beringed trunk of her
fat history cellar, filled with deer hunts and slave auctions,
crowned with sponge cakes the size of her headdress,
finished off with a cream of delicious still births,
an endless display of bloody neckerchiefs she stole from men
to wipe between her legs during parliamentary sessions.
this fat history woman, this ugly bloated nymph of Empire,
I take the ponce stone and I start rubbing against
the pustules of her lower back, as deviled honey runs between my fingers,
contaminating me too late, because I've already fallen in deep love
with the ordure, the perfume of her explorations into the
necrosis of men,
am irremediably seduced by the cavalcade of horrors she stuffs
under her lace nightcap, tucking disorder into disorder,
telling me a tall tale of her youth, a romance of falling teeth,
making it easier to bear the fact that one day,
someone else,
not in love,
not cogent,
not at all inclined to know her,
will be washing away
my beloved history.

Janice Northerns


I kept the Christmas village hidden high
on a shelf for years. White counted cross-stitch
kit my mother crafted for herself, then
handed down to me, the buildings—houses,
school, gazebo, a centerpiece steepled
church—all hollow, but heavy in my hands.

The year Mama died, I pulled the village
down, sliced slots in backs of buildings, slid in
tiny tea lights. A two-inch plastic creche,
last remnant of a string of Christmas bulbs,
I set within church doors, its glow bleeding
through the thin skin of Mary's faded face.

A corona cast the town as feeble shrine
to mothers everywhere, to mine. The star-
crowned creche, I charmed into prayer to ease
my mother's fret over her own girl's bolt
from the fold. The Holy Family held its
steady pose, the battery-powered glow
not quite a miracle, not quite a metaphor,
not quite anything       at all.

Frederick Pollack


At first she hardly notices
the women who treat her wounds,
calm child or children, record what facts
she can give, find her a shower and a room
(This is our room! she tells the kids,
her first new words): they are the state
of being helped. Then, often, panics
about the strength of door and windows
and must be shown each lock and alarm;
and only then may see
that some of her helpers are young and have not
been hurt. But they merge
with the older ones.

Somewhere outside, feigning
purpose, a man roams, thinking
that of course he was only meant to be
a loner; or raging because
he can't be comfortably home.
He imagines punishing, which entails, implies,
justice; is as close to him as his blood, his
hands. Fathers, brothers,
aunts, their cousin agents
also somewhere search and patrol,
alive to the outstanding debt
owed a whole clitoris, outraged wealthy
suitor, God or that nearer god,
honor: those ideas that need not be thought.

She, meanwhile, hearing every
security measure repeated,
learns them. The kids settle in; though the room
is small, it can be kept neat. She
meets and finds she can
be talked with, talk to, even suddenly pity
some of the others. They discuss what
they'll do more than what they suffered.
They discuss how rare
a place like this is, how lucky they are, how
one shouldn't have to be lucky.
Civilization is the kindness of strangers.

Emily Cole, Lee Nash, Florina Nastase, Janice Northerns, and Frederick Pollack have won the 2019 Princemere Poetry Prize. Each was awarded $100.

Runner-up is Diane Martin. Finalists are A. DeVilbiss, J. Hicks, H. Huff, A. Hunt, N. King, K. Konya, B. Kosik, A. Lerman, K. Machan, K.L. Merrifield, C. Rockwood-Rice, M. Royer, L. Sadler, V. Shipley, D. Sloan, A. Turski, and S. Voss.


Listed at Duotrope




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