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Various Poets


  • Poetry April 25, 2002

    Discovery/The Nation ’02 Prizewinners

    The Nation announces the winners of Discovery/ The Nation, the Joan Leiman Jacobson Poetry Prize. Now in its twenty-eighth year, it is an annual contest for poets whose work has not been published previously in book form. The new winners are: Linda Jenkins, Gregory McDonald, Andrew Varnon and Stefi Weisburd. This year's judges are Catherine Bowman, Carolyn Forché and Paul Muldoon. As in the past, manuscripts are judged anonymously. Distinguished former winners include Susan Mitchell, Katha Pollitt, Mary Jo Salter, Sherod Santos, Arthur Smith and David St. John. This year's winners will read their poems at Discovery/The Nation '02 at 8:15 pm on Monday, May 6, at The Unterberg Poetry Center, 92nd Street Y, 1395 Lexington Avenue (92nd Street and Lexington Avenue) in New York City.
          --Grace Schulman, poetry editor

    The Lewis & Clark Snowglobe

    There exists one, anti-gewgaw, memento
    ingenuous as any wonder,
    though I've never seen nor heard of it, and yet--
    as is revolution of heavenly body, of colony--
    all's a given. The only question being which scene
    of scenes? Spring 1804: keelboat,
    all fifty-five feet of it, curses
    the Missouri's sawyers--
    Shake it and snow that falls in summer

    plagues unseen men--Clark's "misquetors."
    Or Lewis gazes, dizzy with May and his first
    "plain and satisfactory view" of the Rockies'
    plastic expanse, its blue-lipped ardor soothing
    words Northwest Passage forever.
    In a roadside gift shop,
    Sacagawea proves false

    an old adage; Home again Home again, swirls
    her first moments back
    among the Shoshones; with a knick-knack's economy,
    sixteen mounted warriors become
    one or two; her lost brother has become chief,
    and they embrace:
    novelist's fantastical turn.

    It's the day a horse takes badly a Bitterroots precipice, the group--
    ravenous, anonymous, androgynous--proceeds,
    one colt divided among thirty-plus bellies. It's Clark,
    jubilant at the first
    (if false) view of Pacific.
    It's hermetic 1806 St. Louis,

    its sluicy tempest of rounds and cheers.
    And not famed, not at all likely
    to be the scene, yet Washington's elite toasts Lewis
    with a ball; outside, glitter falls--and Lewis, triumphant, drunk
    off the New Year, raises his glass, voices
    a toast of his own:
    "May works be the test
    of patriotism as they ought, of right, to be of religion,"
    as they ought (redundant or no) to be of love.

    Linda Jenkins

    It was in an Age of Such Incredible Secrets

    It was in an age of such incredible secrets
    that my mother began to paint her toenails
    the color of eggshells, and my father
    learned how to make love with his hands
    at his side. I saw them practicing once,
    but all I could think about was our icebox
    full of fish and ketchup, and the small wooden bird
    above my grandmother's bed, rocking back and forth,
    dipping its red beak into a bowl of water.

    Gregory McDonald

    What I Remember

    1.

    I lift the bottle every time you catch me
    looking at you. In all the apartment
    complexes down Alafaya Trail,
    I roll on the floor away from the wet nose
    of a basset hound. Pennies spill
    that I will forget; lips are moving but
    I can't keep my footing in the mud.
    Spanish moss hangs from a tree, there is a frog
    and everybody throws water balloons.

    2.

    A black dress with pink flowers
    A storm over the gulf at sunrise
    Empty beach chairs face turquoise
    Traffic lights change without cars

    3.

    I chase you with whiskey and chase
    whiskey with beer and chase an armadillo
    around the art gallery, muttering something
    about "plasticity" or "negative space."
    The search lights catch up with me. I walk
    out the back door too easy, afraid of fists
    that put holes in your wall. Mine
    is the long walk home under streetlights
    with only beat cops and that one Muddy Waters
    song I know to keep me company, me and that
    thirsty head full of wilderness I'm so afraid of.

    Andrew Varnon

    Elegy For Two

    A yowling pulls like tides at our blind ear
    from down the hall. The sound of Baby's ire
    at God knows what, the broken night, the leer
    of suns, I said. The nurse spit out: Liar.

    Eyes of fruit and cinder block conspire.
    His cries would fever milk and wrench the bed.
    A letter in my husband's hands perspires.
    For the love of God, it's just a cat, my nurse said.

    But cats don't antidote true love or shred
    the film of sleep with shrill ballistic shrieks
    or tick heart's tomb, slash the vagrant thread,
    tear the doll to wipe the bloody streaks.
    Cats don't rasp or beg with gnawing squall
    on stairs to help the helpless totter, fall.

    Stefi Weisburd

    Various Poets