Celebrating local poetry

  • STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

For the Recorder
Published: 7/11/2021 10:16:49 AM

Over the next several weeks, the Recorder will publish a selection of finalist poems in this year’s Poet’s Seat Poetry Contest. The first selection of poems was published last week.

Winners will be announced after all the poems have been published. Under normal circumstances, finalists read their poems in front of a live audience. The poems will be published each Thursday in the arts section because of the pandemic.

According to Dennis Finnell, one of the contest’s organizers, “There were three judges for the adult category, two of whom, Bob Barba and Amy Gordon, were recent Poet's Seat winners. 

“The third adult judge was David Ram, recently retired from the English Department at Greenfield Community College.”

Additionally, Finnell said there were three judges for the young poets group: “Barry McColgan and Gerry Yelle have judged for two years. Barry is retired from teaching English at Greenfield High School, and Gerry still teaches there and recently published a chapbook of poems, ‘No Place Where I'd Rather Be.’ Joanne Hayes is the third judge in the young poets' group. She's recently retired from GCC and published ‘We Begin in Fragrant Fields,’ poems focused her colleagues and students there.”

Below is one of the finalist poems. Turn to the arts section next week and over the coming month or so to read more poems.

‘NORTH HADLEY’ by Sharon Dunn

I   Passing Through North Hadley

God is Still Speaking says the red banner

on the steepled church with peeling paint.

So I listen. He has punched a hole

in the cloud ceiling, and radiance sings

on a distant hill. His conversation

includes rusted tractors, roof-caved sheds

and bony cattle nibbling in a side yard. 

He is silent on the hip of the village cop

idling in his car for a speeder. He speaks

the tones of frost on the fields, of tree limbs

cracked in the October storm, of water

whispering from the pond to its lower stream. 

The road curves its broad S, then

the electric sign:

      Speed Limit:  30  

      Your Speed:  28

II   Tobacco Barn in Early Winter

On both sides of the emptied barn

tall slats slant open to the air.

I see through to the fields beyond

still snowless, looking like columns of gold.

The barn is breathing, I am breathing.

Gone, the long tobacco leaves hung

and dried, and the vacant barn

sings when the wind blows in.

III   Mid-December, Fields

Jailbirds in fluorescent orange vests

drag snow fencing across the stubble fields

not far from their white bus

lettered in front: TRIAL COURT.

Released into the crisp air, they erect

a line of wooden staves to protect

the country road from snowdrifts

so we can make our way unhindered.

Across the road hundreds of Canada geese

forage a vast field. All winter they fly

over us in their ragged V’s, north, south,

east, west, honking, compasses awry.

We are all lost. We make our way

through drifts, along country roads,

through dilemmas, passion,

sin or into unknown cities.

I am the prisoner glad for sun on my face,

waiting another chance. A long-necked bird

eyeing kernels of corn. A woman driving,

who needs a new way from here to there. 

IV  At Winter’s End

The men park their truck

farther up on West Street.

Hundreds of tin buckets

rest one inside the other

on the truck bed. You can see

where the men have already been,

buckets attached to all the maples

behind them. They tap a spigot

into each trunk and suspend a bucket

to catch the clear sap

just beginning to flow.

Oh, tap into me, let my sap

drop clear, watery, to the bucket

of spring, ready for the fire

of the sugar house,

steam escaping the chimney

in ten-foot plumes,

sap boiling down

to thick amber syrup,

so sweet.


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