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Poetry Project: Winter 2012 Selections

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Winter 2012 — Valentine's Day

In celebration of Valentine’s Day, Tupelo Press ran the Winter 2012 edition of the Poetry Project. The challenge was simple: write a stunningly good erotic poem. Be bad. Be good and bad. Editors for the winter edition were Jeffrey Levine, Editor-in-Chief of Tupelo Press, and Marie Gauthier, Director of Sales & Marketing of Tupelo Press and author of Hunger All Inside (Finishing Line Press).

Check out our new anthology of erotic poetry, Myrrh, Mothwing, Smoke, the culmination of the Winter 2012 Poetry Project. Congratulations to our 30 contributing poets and a special thank you to all who submitted entries to the contest!

First, second, and third place are as follows:

Honorable Mentions
in alphabetical order by the author’s last name

Finalists
in alphabetical order by the author's last name

The winning poems can be read below.


First Place

"Dialogue with Gaps" by Jeneva Stone These meadows themselves open, brush the horizon and was the— yes it were she says it were what she says he’s sorry same old he says she’s right damn straight she says she arrives and why not Some meadows flayed by wind, pinned by trees she says she remembers sorry she says she liked it right she says what of it Arrive then, riding between trees, legs clasped what he says don’t the matter was her These trees in these meadows green at the tips her nipples were her eyes were her hair was her mouth formed her thighs opened That grass coarse against which some lay back his hair black his hands spread his lips hard his eyes closed his mouth wide Among trees overhead leaves curl like hair observe she says catch me what he says can’t where he is disappeared matter she says and he rides on A meadow, distant now, each line of grass arrayed against another her green fingers reach he rides she reaches further he rides

Jeneva Stone's poems and nonfiction have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Colorado Review, The Collagist, RHINO, and many others. She is the recipient of 2012 fellowships from the MacDowell and Millay Colonies for her memoir about her disabled son's undiagnosed illness. She most hopes, though, you will respect her in the morning.


Second Place

"O Honey, Won’t You Rock My World Up North" by Aubrey Ryan The snow will go for days, our road keep trackless, and the lamplight spill then stay. You’re gold in wool and overalls; you’re a sight to see: my man. One pear, one pound of chestnuts in a paper bag, one kettle set to burst. I’m smooth and round; I’m a shallow bowl of oil: so sweet for flame. Bring shovel, bring salt and light a match to me—my bones will melt. Honey, ring me in garland: I’m a festival. Our home is in the branches of jack pine. Our bedposts hum like hives. Take this body. We’ll make a wet thaw come.

Aubrey Ryan’s work has appeared recently or is soon-to-be in Best New Poets 2011, Quarterly West, Booth, Squat Birth Journal and Cellpoems. Aubrey lives in Iowa with her husband and their son, who is the best muse of all.


Third Place

"Hypothesis, Proof" by Amy Dryansky A week of nonnegotiable fantasy, days of unmovable image—in a locked room, against a door, in front of the window. I, of course, am wearing a skirt, stockings holding onto my thighs. You look and then look down. You think what you think. There’s only this table between us – a slight expanse of wood and steel, file cabinets, note-taking. You rely on me and I you, not to. But I’m undependable with the right kind of pressure. I look outside at the land you love clearing its throat, preparation for singing. We have an understanding. A bridge arches over the river, river rises to meet it, pigeons fly out from the dark underneath, and starlings rise and fall in parabolic sweeps, glissandos drawn from architecture and math, music almost impossible to play.

Amy Dryansky’s first book, How I Got Lost So Close To Home, was published by Alice James Books and her second, Grass Whistle, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry in 2013. She teaches at Hampshire College and writes about the territory of mother/poet at her blog, Pokey Mama.


Honorable Mentions
in alphabetical order by the author’s last name


"Kiss" by Lisa Coffman Before buttons and unbuttoning, before the lock fell to the key or the prelude gave away parts of the opus you had your practice, an adept, you kept your X’d map of our coordinates you went on setting your little traps of pillows. I can’t flatter you sufficiently: your indecent shine (like glimpsing a zipper) your tongue loosing words off what they cover. In broad daylight you smack of the ample bed over a truck hood or luncheonette table. I’d have been so upright without you– kinks all still in my spine– and no touching faith in the seasonal. Naughty: the lines you blur but won’t erase. Tan line, lip line, language of a contract. Strewn softness swamping the tooth, balm to the wound, and wound giver, and wound, you won’t let us pretend wet belongs to the other element.

"Frond" by Christopher Cokinos Legs, pressed together, keep a shadow there. The dark between thighs, another variation of the frond. * Sometimes I push my cock between my legs to see what difference likes. I’ll yearn for space inside me, the strange fullness of entry, conjunctions. * The photo on my wall. A stranger’s smooth skin, four lines converging to her sex, beside a postcard of the fossil palm, dark hand in stone, evidence of ancient lushness in the present’s desert, how likeness found or crafted makes desire no longer secret but sanctity. * Outside, above the river, what flew then flies now: dragonfly, kingfisher. Water striders press down like fingers. A wing is spread. Feathers part. Our bodies are fans that open. * Force invented the frond, as the frond begets force, and rain falls or slickness rises to glisten surfaces in time, and light arrives on all of it. Yes, yes, how I want these shapes, how I want these shapes the way these shapes want themselves–

"Lepidoptera Nocturne" by Anna Claire Hodge We climb each other like a rock face, grab at ears, nipples for holds. Stacked limbs are cairn, monument. The insects spiral round our column, the false eyes: violet, cerulean, navy repeating. Not the familiar Monarch flit and go, sidewalk moment landers, little tickle on the nose or forearm in the Butterfly Rainforest, a children's museum. They bump the second-story glass until it gives, stream in the window the night you cry in my bed, powder of the wings mixes with brackish lines on your face. They black out the lights, the thread-thin antennae touching my hair, your hands in it. Exhausted, they quiet. The largest lands on your chest, flattens itself like a collapsed circus tent. Stripe upon bright stripe, quilt of jewel. Then, your hands folding mine into letters, signing to me with my own fingers, as if even shouted I might not hear.

"Errata" by Janet R. Kirchheimer This is what he fells me. He’s never been with anyone so errata, how he bloves all the blings I do to whim. That’s the vermouth. He says hell be there forever. I coo the girl fling, mold on. He rumbles. And there he flows, out of my wife. I still steal his touch, his misses, want to fall him, come up with any season. He left his thanks in the hamper, his iplod in my fish tank. I want to bring them clover to him. Take me whack. I want you lack. This is what I drink. I’m just a tool for love as the song throws, a drool, a ghoul, a pool for blove.

"Aubade for Peter Pan" by Molly Spencer He slips his shadow from the drawer, sees it fall, a rivulet of breath, to the floor. His skin leaps up, as if to claim it. He breathes the bitter tang of sweat and years, sees again where deepest wounds have stained it. Thinks for a moment of rolling it up again, closing the drawer and flying on, without the shadow or the girl, the mess of it all. But once she says, I’ll stitch it back on, once she begins at the heel, he knows he’s lost his chance to refuse the pinprick of bone-white needle held soft in her hand. He tries to hold still. The piercing of skin, the thin blade of her warmth on his as she pulls the soul-thread taut, deep like a root. The edge of lost shadow on found skin, dark as a plum. Her light and depths now woven into his. Their shadows, always telling truth but slantwise. He decides to stay here in this ever-land. It feels like home.

Finalists
in alphabetical order by the author’s last name


"Ether" by Cynthia Rausch Allar Even as I lie here, in this cavern, on this wide bed, half-empty now, staring into the white of the vaulted ceiling, in this echo on the edge of Toledo, hollow in this corner of Ohio, two thousand miles from where she, in California, in the clutter of a crowded room I cannot imagine, a room I’ve never seen, lies asleep on the featherbed I gave her, deep in another life, another time, in her mother’s house in Altadena, even as I lie here waiting for my life, for ours, sometimes the myrrh of her hair, the mothwing of her cheek, they come to me. If I close my eyes, the flute of her murmured I love you, the smoke of her eyes come, her nectar sheen, sometimes the iron tang of her clitoris beneath my tongue, she comes to me, two thousand miles folded into a breath between us, sometimes her mouth, her tongue, her palms, sometimes her fingers, come the heat, the slow-sweet spasm, through the ether, the embrace, till my eyes open once again into this white vault.

"On the Merits of Lingerie" by Michelle Bitting My friend has her breasts removed: I rediscover lace. Lady-in-waiting bedside, I keep vigil as sutures settle, thrust two forearms under blanketed knees so she can scoot upright, sip meatball soup fetched from cafeteria. Back home, dig an ancient teddy from the crypt of forgotten garments and glide into pitch satin, remembering how I’d lost my way weaving back from the cafeteria, self-recriminations concerning vanity, the body’s tyranny. Brand new hospital and many rooms empty. Fresh carpet, paint—pristine wings ignorant of suffering to come: incessant thumbs pressed to morphine buttons. My friend was dozing when I found her again, a few wisps of gray dream fallen to one side of her smooth crown. That night my husband brandished his flesh and I fell on it, more in love suddenly than I’d recalled, reaching down for the little curtain: I swept aside black silk and let death enter.

"The Last Time" by Paula Brancato I drink alone in the bar of the Peninsula, apple martinis, thinking of a man I asked to bed. What if I said I loved you? You make me feel gentle, he said, as he dressed and walked away.

"Liaison" by Gillian Cummings The moment he took my body to his, the world was water. I heard rain, rain on the sidewalk of Passage de Flandre, rain on the boulevards, rain on the tin roofs, a thrumming so hard it could only be made of softness. I saw trees slick, bare and black in the showers sheeting the city. And one tree I saw clearly, a silhouette of elm. One branch, one twig, I saw. How a drop of water clung and in its orb a shine, as from a streetlamp. How a second drop fell on the first, and together they swelled so full they quivered—it was all they could do not to break, to hold on. And heavy, too heavy to bear their union, they fell to the sidewalk beneath the tree, not knowing what became of themselves—

"Stopping by the Old Classroom" by Darla Himeles Empty desks smeared with pencil, air sticky, redolent of your morning buttered toast. To think how I taught while reading you in the air between students— your careless walk, slight tilt of chin, quick eyes, body long against my desk. To think our flames seared this space— old furniture melted like your folds, delicate between teeth.

"I Sip a Martini" by Mary Ann Mayer You talk about notes— A minor 7th and playing the frets. I’m looking at your crotch; tight denim, orange threads, steel rivets. Something hard in my throat. I study your knee, swung improvisationally over the stool. I swallow, and surface Pianissimo! To two olives with pimento, side by side, Adam & Eve on a toothpick, floating high above the gin.

[now we're older the body worship turns] —after Feng Menlong's "Idiot Thoughts," tr. by Tony Barnstone by Liz Robbins now we're older the body worship turns now the erotic inside out in some ways better not to consume you so hard the needle pricking the arm for the sedative now the teaspoon of sugar thought slowly planned in the morning for night tea this the stage of gentle past only certain kinds of peril yet when you are away my thoughts hurry you home my nose fitting your neck's hollow for the garland of leaves your self still to me as on childhood's Block Island beach overturning the white clam shell the surprise bolt of purple wampum what Native Americans fashion into sacred beads now your beloved loons are back circling the lake and the splash of white face paint reminds me of chalk how the infinite stars will be out soon even they dots on a board an equation one day outdated pinpricks kisses on skin

"GIVE AND TAKE" by Bruce Willard In Rangiroa, on the balcony of our fare, I was fading like the moon, thinning like the call of the frigate bird in the palms when you took me in, behind you, at the railing and I gave long and unexpectedly because of your giving – our mouths taking in the molten air, our ears taking in the wind, the tide taking in sand, giving back waves, sandbars before darkened water.