2021 Annual Contest Portrait Category Winners

Congratulations to the winners of our annual poetry contest! Thank you to everyone who entered the contest. The following portrait poems were judged by Dana Yost. He was so impressed with the submissions. Enjoy the winning poems 🙂


Stopping in at La Leona Roadhouse, Patagonia, Argentina 

By Peter Colson

On the way to the fish camp,
	we stop in at a roadhouse, searching
for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, not Newman
and Redford (“Kid, I never shot anybody before.”)
	but the real deals.

Three cowboys wager whiskey on hook and ring
	next to the poker table.

My guide Gabriela,
	a tatted, twentysomething redhead,
leans back into the bar and cools the hard trail
stares before flicking her chin back to the wall.

Beneath a $10,000 bounty and bowlers,
the banditos yanquis pose in tintype
	and unarmed, like dandies.

Years horse thieving and rustling colored civil
	but gone straight to robbing banks and trains.

	Likenesses sketched on a movie poster
hang near, their expressions pained and fated
to their Hollywood deaths by folly and overkill.

They hid out here after a bank job, mulling
the dullness in Bolivia against dancing
	head in a noose anywhere else.

A fourth cowboy strums a guitar, bawls out a verse
about a broke gaucho who can’t feed his horse,
	and the trio garrotes the chorus.

	(“Who are those guys?”)

On her way to the door, Gabriela cuts the line
	snagging the ring midflight and swings
for a bull’s eye, then downs the bets riding the rail.
	The boys look bushwhacked.

A smile escapes outside, and she whispers,
	“I’m better when I move.”

The tire tracks vanish over rock east of Fitz Roy,
	and Gabriela steers spurning cairns
and compass, but I don’t second guess, my notions
	drawing dead in the good company of outlaws.

Frederick Manfred
1912 – 1994

By Roberta Haar

His hands like origami birds 
in constant transformation.
When he was lying in the hospital
he told me, “One day I looked 
at the calendar and the numbers 
began to fall off the page.”

His demands that I keep writing,
to send him everything,
to overcome doubt that
I had “the stuff.” 
His imperious wishes, 
his imposing letters.

Yet, to think now, 
walking the River Bottom,
driving along the chalk-rock bluffs,
visiting the monument to 
Struck by the Ree,
lunching at the Fort Randall Baitshop.

The lilacs overflowing their damp 
wrapped newspaper, cut from Roundwind 
for my graduation and
my little place on Summit Avenue,
convening amongst my second-hand furniture,
and second-hand books and stolen flamingo.

His asserting that I drive his long white car 
to the Twin cities for his St Paul event.  
He said I looked “powerful” behind the wheel. 
The black-tie dinner at the Governor’s mansion with
tall Timberwolves at our table,
“Whose that old guy you’re with?”

His dangerously introducing me as
“The Poet” to everyone at the gala event. 

Then there was talk of Stockholm,
investigating his University of Minnesota 
archives: tax papers, 
epistles, carbon copies of 
all the letters
he had ever written 

including those written to me.

Most of all, I cannot forget eclectic Roundwind, 
his tee pee office poking out of the prairie with
photos (mine too)
books (“I read three at a time”)
his typewriter, the finished 
lizard manuscript and piles and piles of books.

The self-built mantel 
made with field stones
picked with care,
his pressure-cooking garden food, 
and placing me at the opposite 
end of his long table.

There, listening to his vivid, sometimes gaudy stories 
(baseball, basketball, tuberculosis, 
crawling on the prairie and eating insects 
to know Hugh Glass, Crazy Horse, 
Black Elk, Blue Mound, 
poets he loved and women he loved too).

All the while watching the sun set in the western sky
with swallows crisscrossing the valley below.


Danny 1958-2019 

By Bill Quist				

After years of midnight calls, 
slurred words, seizures, 
the time they found you 
in a snowbank hypothermic, blue,
we finally got the news you’d
made it through, coughing blood
like Kerouac to some satori
caught for the big beyond.

I’d already written your eulogy 
a hundred times but still it came 
as a surprise. You, star of our 
psychedelic youth, what vision 
did I miss this time that took 
you to the edge and over, 
and what was it about whiskey 
that you still didn’t understand?

In the Black Hills I found a piece
of rose quartz that reminded me of you,
sort of stooped when stood on end,
gentle and sad with grace. I hung it
on the fence and when we sit around
a fire it looks like you did, holding
something we don’t know, smile of mystery
and promise of something better on your face.

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