2021 Annual Contest Landscape Category Winners

Congratulations to the winners of our annual poetry contest! Thank you to everyone who entered the contest. The following landscape poems were judged by Christine Stewart. She was so impressed with the submissions. Enjoy the winning poems 🙂

FIRST PLACE

Ode to the Ground Cherry 

By Amanda Potter

I first saw you, physalis,
hiding next to a stale suburban pond
and its concrete retention riser. 
The tallgrass around you flattened 

by schoolchildren and their bikes and
their fishing poles and their food -
remnants of potato chips and snack cakes
at rest among the cattails. 

Your crepey shells abide, shelter precious seeds 
from careless feet. Dirt-learned fingers gathered gold berries
when the pond was just a quiet slough, 
your sweet-tart fed families, healed wounds. 

Native, ubiquitous, conqueror-called aggressive, 
cursed when you tangle in draper heads
and stain the soybeans.
You grow as you always have,

no defiance or disrespect intended 
despite the benevolent language of massacre:
Reduce water. Heavy hand with the Roundup. 
Burn it back. Get it early.

You are celebrated when you remain
where you’ve been transplanted, 
an existence marked by demure restraint.
I could buy your organic seeds online,
 
sell your fruit at $4 a pint at the farmer’s market.
Meanwhile, you sprout in ditches,  
and quietly cause chaos among neat crop rows – 
preventing their progress to the highest goods: 

shiny, empty packages hardening hearts.
Ground cherry, I want to be your ally, 
rebel against a system that values you 
only when you stay in your place, provide profit. 

It’s an eccentric kind of subversion,
gathering roadside fruit for propagation. Take 
my garden, grow over the imported blooms.
May you survive despite us. May you always remain 

the untamable creature from the earth. May you rise
again and again and again. 

SECOND PLACE

Hunting Season 

By Erika Saunders

When pheasant hunting 
it is advisable to leave
a thermos full of espresso, 
shot through with Four Roses,
in the cab of the truck 

for luck. Shotgun bent 
like herringbone on my shoulder
I stare down enucleation 
from the Big Bluestem seed 
heads with each footfall. 

Switchgrass, Indian grass, 
Sideoats Grama all solid bird shelters 
in the snow. Invasive species of grass
collapse under the weight of the winter 
snow suffocating what’s

below. Invasive like Canada 
thistle, wormwood sage, even 
these pheasants were invasive 
once, and then there is you 
and me. 

Climbing over fences and under 
the dropping sun when the dogs 
flush a pheasant. I have no shot. You do, 
and the dogs work the scent 
presenting a pheasant shot through. 

I warm fingertips against the trucks 
air vents, as the dogs in their kennel 
nestle together like a fine houndstooth 
and we sip at the coffee, grown stronger 

with the day, as the truck barrels over 
the gravel road flushing pheasants 
from the ditches all the way home.

THIRD PLACE

Blessed Zephyr

By Cameron Brooks

Spirit, breath, wind
surging in multitudes
of ripe sunflowers
like electricity

lifting blackbird
and raptor and
the damp coal nose
of a buck.

Laughter cracks
the face of the deep
lake (tongue-inflated-cheek)
and every last

stalk, shuck, and kernel
rattles like a holy
plaything.
Never inert

because never deserted
to that quietude
tantamount to
oblivion.  
HONORABLE MENTION

Autumn Analog 


By Peter Colson

Monarchs cling to the honeysuckles like wind to the plains,
they bob in concert with the gusts and the refrain of the hay sickle.

A hunter hurries when a downpour catches him miles from home,
stepping into a badger hole, the leg bone parts sudden as thunder.

A combine pivots at the end of a cornfield, and pheasants flush,
redtails spiral down, clear the dead and silence the indecisive.

Rattlers shed under a night sky, and the skins whirl moonlit on a breeze,
prairie dogs pause and ponder, the specters slithering among them.

Waxwings sing drunk after eating the sun-steeped cranberries,
they tumble from branches, and feral cats savor their own sweet time.

An oak topples in the shelterbelt, and a young man chops hard,
the blade ricochets and marries his lips with the taste of copper.

A bison hesitates above the glazed shale surrounding a hot spring,
skulls litter the bottom, their last breaths still bubbling to the surface.

A snow flurry blinds a summer tanager migrating late,
a falcon gawks at the easy note of red squeaking in its talons.

An old man’s foot keeps time with sap tapping in white buckets,
the beats slow by degrees, and the sugar spills out on the leaves.




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