Poetry winners offer insights on love, loss and joy

  • Bob Barba reads his poem, “Sundering,” at Stoneleigh-Burnham School Tuesday night during the awards ceremony for the Poet’s Seat Poetry Contest. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Bob Barba is congratulated on winning the Poet’s Seat Poetry Contest, Tuesday. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Bob Barba is the grand prize winner for the Poet’s Seat Poetry Contest. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 4/30/2019 11:11:46 PM

GREENFIELD — Finalists in the 28th annual Poet’s Seat Poetry Contest, ranging from teenagers to adults, recited personal stories of love, loss and joy at Tuesday’s award ceremony.

Organized by the Friends of the Greenfield Public Library, the contest received roughly 200 entries, according to board member Hope Schneider.

“This is one of the great Franklin County traditions.” Schneider said. “It’s just wonderful to see how many poets there are in Franklin County.”

Six authors and poets judged the contest: Janet MacFadyen, Dennis Martin Piana and Cindy Snow examined adult entries, while Mary Ellen Kelly, Barry McColgan and Gerald Yelle weighed youth poems.

Winners of the 12-to-18-year-old section were Amory Maxey for “Space,” Ursula Snow for “As the World Keeps Spinning,” Vivienne Potee for “J’irai par la forêt, j’irai par la montagne,” and Ishan Summer for “Mangoes Still.”

Finalists recited their poems to an audience Tuesday evening at Stoneleigh-Burnham School. Maxey, a Frontier Regional School seventh-grader, was first to the podium, reciting two poems: “Space” and “Stairs.” Maxey said he was inspired to enter the contest after his mother won a couple years ago. And while he admitted he was “a little stressed” about reciting his poetry to a crowd of people — first, no less — he said he found the experience “enjoyable.”

Snow, of the 12-to-14 age group, also recited two poems Tuesday: “As the world keeps spinning” and “Books.” Snow’s first poem remarked on how people are able to ignore the world’s pain.

Ayleen Cameron, a finalist in the 15-to-18 age group, wrote a poem about how Stockholm appears through a window.

“The flaming sky deepens, then unravels, and I inhale the studded stars,” Cameron wrote.

Three poems by Potee, a 15-to-18 age group member, were finalists in the contest: “Hymn for the Returned,” “J’irai par la foret, j’irai par la montagne,” and “Me, paraphrasing Hinton, who wrote Johnny quoting Frost.” Potee said she thinks of poems while on long walks and hikes — which she reflected in one of her poems.

“Mangoes, Still” by Summer in the 15-to-18 age category, wove themes of love and loss together with ripening mangoes.

“For now, we only love mangoes,” Summer concluded.

Adult section

Bob Barba of Ashfield won the adult section with his poem “Sundering,” a vivid account of the practice of splitting logs to make firewood. Barba said this ritual helps to quiet his mind.

“I’m a poet. I think too much. I’m always in my head,” Barba said. “I like doing things like splitting wood because you’re can’t think while you’re doing it.”

Barba said he has written poetry on and off for his whole life, influenced by his older sister who was a poet by trade. A first-time entrant, Barba said he was “astonished” by his win.

“I feel a little like a party crasher,” Barba joked.

In second place was Amy Gordon of Gill for “Looking Down from a Distance.” Gordon spoke of ancestors buried in the “fertile soil of the Jewish river that flooded every Spring.”

Two finalists tied for third place: Mary Chicoine of Greenfield for “Father’s Hands” and Lynn Pledger of Shelburne Falls for “Mother’s Long Program.”

Pledger offered fond memories of her mother, while Chicoine depicted a complex father-child relationship in her poem.

“His elbows on the table, dad places his hands in prayer position, palm against palm, and proceeds to rub them up and down, up and down,” Chicoine wrote.

Other finalists included David Bulley of Turners Falls for his poem, “Another Elvis Sighting,” evoking murmurs of laughter. As Bulley’s poem continued, it became clear performing — and Elvis — offered him a sense of belonging.

“When Elvis sang he belonged. In any situation: at any party, in any beach, at any hotel,” Bulley said. “In my own way, when I left as if I was drifting through, saying my lines, not really a part of things, I would sing!”

Lucy Kahn of Greenfield dedicated her poem “Statues” to her partner Rebecca, who she said asked to read her work, which resulted in her entry and ultimate success in the contest.

Mark Koyama’s work, entitled “TripDyct(ionary),” strayed from the typical poetry format and read like a dictionary entry, defining the terms “Weed,” “Widow” and “Wood.”

On “Widow,” Koyama told a story of a bereaved mother from the perspective of a child.

“After my father died the piano stood, upright and mute,” Koyama wrote. “I knew, though as a mere child, that it was a rare thing to have such a mother — whose hands conjured something that, in its frail claim to existence somehow contained all longing and beauty.”

Reach Grace Bird at gbird@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 280.


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