2017 Jack Grapes Poetry Prize Contest: Winners

The 5th annual Jack Grapes Poetry Prize Contest was the toughest ever to judge. We received over 600 poems from all over the U.S.A. and abroad! So many truly fine poems; we were hard-pressed to decide on the winners.

Here they are:

$250/First Prize: Lee Rossi “Pastures”
$150/Second Prize: Kelly Grace Thomas “The Polite Bird of Story”
$100/Third Prize: Meg Eden “Her Arms Are Calendars”

$50/each 5 Finalists:
(in alphabetical order)

Steve Henn “A Melody”
Tony Gloeggler “About Time”
Natasha Moni “We have all been that woman on the bottom of the pool”
Beate Sigriddaughter “Emily Watches Her Husband Bring Kate A Glass Of Water”
Rebecca Schumejda “Anniversary Poem”

Additionally, we wanted to include these ten, Honorable Mentions:
(in alphabetical order)

Elaine Alarcon “An Absence”
John Bellinger “Whither”
Olivia Collins “Blood Orange”
Peggy Dobreer “Is There A Doctor In The House?”
Evelyn Duboff “Smoke”
Debra Franco “I Will Not Die In Paris”
Peter M. Gordon “My Therapist Told Me to Change My Socks”
Arminé Iknadossian “Ossuary”
Tanya Ko Hong “Confronting My Father’s Mistress”
Janaya Martin “Long-term Relationship”

The 6th Annual Jack Grapes’ Poetry Prize Contest opens on July 1st, 2018 and runs through August 31st, 2018. We eagerly look forward to reading your poems!

Alexis Rhone Fancher
Poetry Editor
Cultural Weekly

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We come with the dust and we go with the wind
Woody Guthrie


A friend calls to say she’s been in the hospital
  not just the E.R., but intensive care,

her blood pressure erratic as the stock market.
       It’s been raining
  there, mudslides and flash floods sweeping

household pets into canyons. At least, she’s still got her view of
       the Pacific,
  even if she’s not enjoying it like she used to.

Up here, I tell her, the lawns are drying out,
  like an old man’s skull -

the hottest year on record, two years
       in a row.
  How long can we keep the string alive, the sportscaster

jokes with the weatherman. GPS won’t help us navigate
       the Anthropocene -
  terrible name for this terrible new age.

We see it coming on the Weather Channel - windstorm,
  deluge - but refuse to do anything that might

make our lives less comfortable. Thank you,
       say the forests,
  raining ash and cinders on suburban roofs.

Thank you, say the streambeds, charting
       the dried
  arteries of the past. Our dog, a rescue

pet, has the whole back yard, brown and dusty
       as himself,
  to shit in. We’ve loved and cared for

him like the finest pure bred, but he’s
       damaged goods,
  barks at every leaf blower and garbage man,

bites friends and strangers without distinction,
  when our daughter howls with headache

or anxiety. Last week someone in our church
       lost her son,
  twenty-one and with a history

of drugs and alcohol. His girlfriend found him
       in bed, unconscious.
  He never woke up. Was it drugs? Alcohol?

Nobody will say. All they’ll say is what a bright
       spirit he was,
  how creative, filled with life.

And now it’s gone, nobody’s fault. At least
  taking the blame.


Lee Rossi (photo at top) has authored 3 books of poetry, most recently Wheelchair Samurai from Plain View Press. His poems, reviews and interviews have appeared widely in journals such as the Harvard Review, Poetry Northwest, Poet Lore and the Sun. Although he currently lives in the Bay Area, he still thinks fondly of L.A., where he lived and wrote for over 30 years.


The Polite Bird of Story  

Takes flight, against God or the sky.
We are always open domes looking for rest.

All the linoleum stung with spilled salt.
The cabinets full of hard parts.

I have been thinking about the shells
of Russians Dolls snapping like twigs

under the hunter’s footsteps.
The way each woman looks in the mirror and

sees the window a sparrow flew into.
Sometimes there is too much female

they call it monster.  I roil a tiny teakettle
behind this mug shot of picket teeth. Perfection

a cold cup of tea. This menu of vacancy, I chew
and chew. Please don’t watch me eat.

The living room for sitting. The bedroom for silence.
My mother’s breath wintered. My father speaks in drywall.

Their daughter: a museum. Put a rope around this smile.
Quote the hours I spent like dried paint.

And in this world there are kitchens and there
are mothers. Both cold like the sky left waiting.

Food is another ghost story
the starved like to tell.


Kelly+Grace+Thomas+HeadshotKelly Grace Thomas is the winner of the 2017 Neil Postman Award for Metaphor from Rattle, a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee and a Best of the Next nominee. BOAT/BURNED, her first full-length collection, is forthcoming from YesYes Books. Kelly’s poems have appeared or are forthcoming in: DIAGRAM, Tinderbox, Nashville Review, Sixth Finch, Muzzle, PANK and more. Kelly was also a 2016 Fellow for the Kenyon Review Young Writers Workshop. Kelly currently works to bring poetry to underserved youth as the Manager of Education and Pedagogy for Get Lit-Words Ignite. She is also the co-author of Words Ignite: Explore, Write and Perform, Classic and Spoken Word Poetry (Literary Riot). She is also the founder of FeministWrites, a creaitve collective that connects and champions feminist voices. She lives in Los Angeles. For more please visit kellygracethomas.com


Her Arms Are Calendars

Despite warning labels reading: do not use on skin,
Kelly used her arms like paper reams, writing

Gelly Roll reminders: Math problem set due Tuesday.
Call Anna. I told her the ink was toxic

but she shrugged, drawing a heart on the gap
between her ring and pinkie fingers.

The marks were milky pink, luminescent even—
I think about the radium girls who painted

their teeth glow-in-the-dark for late-night pranks,
who pointed their paintbrush tips with their lips

the way their managers showed them, who were told
the only effect from radium was some color in their cheeks—

In the dark, the radium girls glowed like those clocks
they made, even the dust on their corsets was illuminated.

One girl got her tooth pulled but the whole jaw came with it.
Another broke her leg tripping on the dance floor.

I don’t know what it’s like, to feel my jaw collapse
like an eroded cliff, teeth falling out, honeycombed bone—

my mother, on my getting married, gives me three pump-
bottles of Johnson & Johnson baby soap. If it’s made  

for babies, it’s gotta be safe, she says. I don’t tell her
about the article that just came out: the moms asking why

there’s formaldehyde in that soap. I can’t know
what gave my mother her fibromyalgia. I wash

my hands in her soap— it’s been three years
and I still haven’t gone through all the bottles.


meg1_headshotMeg Eden‘s work has been published in various magazines, including CV2, Poetry Northwest, Poet Lore, RHINO and Gargoyle. She teaches creative writing at the University of Maryland. She has five poetry chapbooks, and her novel Post-High School Reality Quest is published with California Coldblood, an imprint of Rare Bird Books. Find her online at www.megedenbooks.com or on Twitter at @ConfusedNarwhal.


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