Winning Landscape Poems from the 2020 Annual Contest

Congratulations to the winning poets of the annual contest! This year Darla Biel judged the landscape category. She said it was tough to pick winners because she was so impressed with the work that was submitted. Thank you to everyone who entered, and enjoy reading these poems.

“Eight South Dakota Riffs on Rilke’s ‘Herbsttag’ (Autumn Day)”

by Sharon Chmielarz

Eight South Dakota Riffs on Rilke’s “Herbsttag”(Autumn Day)
                                   “Herr, es ist Zeit, der Sommer war sehr gross, ...”
 
1.
You up there! Time-turner! It’s time. 
Open your hands, loosen the winds,
clear the skies. Make sure, make sure
there’s more heart than anger in your
long shadows, that the sundial’s style
shows it’s time to sweeten dark red
melancholic wines. Let field machine
headlights scour rows of corn like prowling
bot-suns in the night. Entrust our hands–
the drivers, the rakers, the washers and fillers
of jars and bottles. And the harvest’s bins.
 
2.
A day begins. Shadows–
the furrow’s,
the combine’s,
the farmer’s,
and mornings’
on elongated legs–
bob toward the fields.
 
3.
It’s time, dew has vanished from the field.
Midmorning, dry wheat stands up nice
and straight before the combine’s header,
the cutter, the gatherer, feeding the combine.
And from this beginning, a yellow arc of grain–
a spray of gold–shoots out into the grain cart.
Commodity on the grain exchange.
Maybe 50, 70 bushels an acre. To finish
all a farmer needs is a steady south wind
bringing in a few more sunny days.
 
4.
Following time
the sundial’s style 
moves by shadow,
pointing to the hour,
each one an ending
or beginning.
Whatever the wind.
Whatever the weather.
 
5.
O moon-y heaviness in the word
autumnal,
its drum beat sound
au tum nal.
O time of the tree frogs’ chirping
rings around evening.
Au tum nal.
 
6.
A small house. An easy chair,
so comfy to collapse into
in the living room,
in sunlight, in faint
November sunlight
Whoever hasn’t a house now ...
Wer jetzt kein Haus hat ...
longed for by those without.
 
7.
Out walking fall evenings a man or woman
learns a lane’s moves, slopes, shadows.
Aimlessness for those who have no field,
no work, no stoop to sweep, nothing grown
by the bushel. Ahead, accumulation of time.
 
Who am I but an arrogant hiker, a rogue soul,
too smart for faith but still admiring the magic
in fallen, smoldering leaves. This is my right.
Like the right of sun to burn its hot sure threat–
Hurry Hurry –
to the field’s ingredients for bread.
 
8.
After an autumn rain, the sky ’s a fast-moving
clock of ever-changing clouds. Cottonwoods
turn wet streets golden with their fallen leaves.
East of town, husks blown from a cornfield’s
rows of blond-gray stocks fly across your
windshield. Like singles from flocks of pale-
feathered birds they swirl about as if they were
on their way up, up into air’s atrium.
 

Bio: 
I was born and raised in Mobridge. Attended Sioux Falls College 
(before it was a university) and graduated from the University of Minnesota. 
I taught German and then German and English in public school. 
I've had three picture books and twelve books of poetry published. 
I visit my hometown whenever roads or time permit. My maiden name is Grenz.

Second Place: “Wingsprings”

by Ruth Harper

                     For Craig Howe and Charles Woodard
 
finding ourselves
perched in an ancestral landscape
pages of rolling hills unfurl into forever
punctuated only
by the butte marking home
 
we pause to say good morning
hi hanni waste
 
the enormous innocent sky
holds meadowlark mornings
in its open palm
and later
evening’s embers spill
from its loosening grasp
into the silent chasm of darkness
 
murmuring tall-grass prairie
alive with dull wood ticks and bejeweled dragonflies
knows coyote songs
curious cattle
and more than a few
intrepid humans
 
each person
brings a rock to the cairn at the gate
each stone a story
and a promise:
 
I will see you again later
Toksa ake wacinyankinkte ye
 
 
 Bio: 
Ruth Harper is Professor Emerita of Counseling and Human Development 
at South Dakota State University, where she taught from 1994 – 2016. 
She is the co-author of four books and many articles within her profession. 
She now writes poetry and loves being “Nana” to two young grandsons.

Third Place: “Late Summer, Open Field”

by Ruth Harper

Kneeling in the meadow
I observe the beetle’s boudoir
rich golden grasses
damp with tears of dew
a garden of silk
beneath my booted foot.
 
The scarlet robin
strides with bravery
or indifference toward
my little burrow
of flesh
and stone.
 
Nearby bees breathe
in a dense well of anthers
inhale the fruity musk
of many-breasted roses
a year of scent
in each narrow heart.
 
High in cottonwoods
birds with dark beaks crouch
over streaked eggs
the solitary woodpecker
a maestro
of potent nods.
 
I move among dynasties
in the open green field
tasting death in the
disconsolate rain
as winter encroaches
in its dark frock coat.
 
Note: This is a response to a writing prompt to use as many words as possible from Sylvia Plath’s poem “The Beekeeper’s Daughter” in an original poem

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