It is always bittersweet when a contest comes to a close. The Women Artists contest generated so much interest in historic, underrepresented artworks and had part of the world abuzz in discovery and new creation.
Choosing our finalists was no easy task, and Alarie Tennille, as our guest judge, had her work cut out for her in choosing the winners.
Please read the work of all our finalists here.
We say a hearty congratulations to the winners, again to the finalists, and a huge thank you to each and every participant.
And a huge thank you to Alarie Tennille for sharing her talent and time with us. Alarie has been part of the Review from the beginning, contributing a wealth of poetry and expertise as a prize nomination consultant. We can't thank her enough for everything.
The runners up will receive $50 each and the winner will be awarded $100. Congratulations again!
Congratulations to all 24 finalists! You displayed such a broad range of style and approach that it was a pleasure to read your fine work and a bit of a struggle to choose only three prizes. Of course it’s a subjective call. There’s no other way to compare writing, but I did read my top contenders several times over and read them aloud. I also read them on different days and at different times to try to eliminate any judgements based purely on my mood of the hour.
The two runners up are equally ranked, but I arranged them with “Persephone” between the other poems for balance, since it’s the only poem written in more formal structure to a dark, realistic painting.
Two Runners Up
Lynne Kemen for “Group IV, No.3. The Ten Largest, Youth”
It’s fitting, giving the theme of our contest, that Kemen pointed out the femininity of the art with all warm colour, “nothing pointy or masculine,” and only round shapes that spiral, spin, and roll, much like her words on the page. I adore strong endings, and all three winners delivered those. Kemen leaves us with “delicate writing/ loopily scrawled,/ no signature, you know it’s me” –an intimate, satisfying, yet unexpected closure.
Mary McCarthy for “Persephone”
As a writer of ekphrastic poems myself, I find it more challenging to write to a traditional painting that tells a well-known story. What will surprise readers? What did the artist leave out?
McCarthy does a brilliant job of using lush writing to emphasize the chiaroscuro, the contrast of light and dark, in the art. I suspect this year all of us can related to what Persephone would feel coming out of the cold darkness into the warm and fecund earth, alive with flowers. Notice she does not tell us why Persephone was locked away from life. We already know that. While Romaine Brooks interprets the story through color and the contrast of light and dark, McCarthy makes us feel the emotion of the legend. In 2021, we, too, grow “ripe for resurrection.”
Sheila Lockhart for “You Are Here”
It tickles me that Lockhart did a stellar job matching everything about her poem to a canvas by the very Queen of Ekphrasis, Lorette C. Luzajic. Each time I read it, I find something else to compliment, but I’ll try not to keep you all day. She mirrors the art’s style with loose, mostly unpunctuated, stream of conscious writing. Her words bounce about and change direction much like the bee’s bobbing, hypnotic flight. This was one of the longer poems in the contest, but goes by so quickly, you want to read it over again.
The title was taken from the painting. “You Are Here” plants us firmly in a place and time, then we leap around the cosmos on a magical journey, while being oh so serious about science, logic, and decoding the “hidden source of happiness” that will direct us to our own honey. Imagine counting new galaxies appearing in front of you, “one two three/ five hundred and sixty seven.” Specific numbers must mean it’s true, right? This poem was pure delight for me. I hope Lockhart will share what she learns when she completes that last “tiny calculation.”
Group IV, No. 3. The Ten Largest, Youth
Burnt orange background for warmth
roundness, spirals, buttery pinwheels-
nothing pointy or masculine.
easter eggs in a basket
Comets cartwheeling, planets spinning
You are here.
Rolling baked rolls with cinnamon-
spirals, round, soft
tops, toys, skeins of yarn, tails trailing.
Roundness reaching into hugs,
sweet embrace, delicate writing
no signature, you know it’s me.
Lynne Kemen lives in the Great Western Catskills of Upstate New York. Her chapbook, More Than A Handful (Woodland Arts Editions), was published in October 2020. Five of her poems appeared in Seeing Things Anthology, Robert Bensen, Ed. She has been published or has forthcoming poems in La Presa, Silver Birch Press, The Ravens Perch, Blue Mountain Review, What We See In our Journeys Anthology, Martin Willitts, Jr, Ed.
Still wearing winter’s shadow
like a cloak over her shoulders
she rises pale as the new moon,
a whisper of light
promising to wax full
above the softening earth.
Like the first spring greens
waking from a long dream
her thoughts are folded close,
seeds praying for release.
She steps into light
like the gate of morning
onto the lambent air.
Where each day is the first day,
and she forgets there was ever
any other season
past her last grey dreaming
in the cold underworld,
where she slept and waited
cradled in the roots of trees,
listening to the songs
of rock and water
that kept her company
until she grew ripe enough
Mary McCarthy is a retired RN who has always loved writing and art, finding both inexhaustible sources of inspiration. Her late discovery of ekphrastic work suits her natural inclinations, deepening the experience of appreciation and creation , making the journey from image to words both an exploration and an adventure. Her work has appeared in many journals and anthologies, most lately in The Plague Papers, edited by Robbi Nester, The Ekphrastic World, edited by Lorette C. Luzajic, and the latest issue of Earth’s Daughters.
You Are Here
watching a bumblebee
squeeze its furry abdomen
into foxglove fingers
you’re trying to work out
how long it takes for a pollen molecule
to travel from the soil up to its calyx
you’re getting close but now you see
another galaxy has formed
a splotch of swirling grey
in a pink universe how many is that now?
you count them one two three
five hundred and sixty seven
and the letters too
directing pollinators to the hidden source
of happiness and why not you?
a message for bees
can’t be that hard to decode
it’s alphabetical after all a matter of
triggering the right responses
now the rain splashes silver curtains
smearing pink and cream
its drops tap-tapping on cups
their pipes vibrate with fugal harmonies
truths which must be recorded
with mathematical precision
using special symbols on graph paper
no easy task but the beauty of it
oh the beauty of it makes you weep
if only you could grasp its exactitude
its magnificent systems everything
would be clear
there was a time you could enjoy
simple pleasures of line patterns of colour
as you would looking at an abstract painting
no need to search for meaning everywhere
until one day you started counting
the number of flowers on each stem
the number of bees ones twos threes
stacking up behind your eyes
and you began to see
how every flower contains a universe
that demands investigation
how you could read their messages
how they insisted on it
you’ll have the answer worked out
very soon you just need one more
Sheila Lockhart is a retired art historian and social worker living in the Scottish Highlands near Inverness, where she doesn’t do very much except look after some horses, a husband and her garden. She started writing poetry five years ago after her brother’s suicide and has been published online and in print in Northwords Now, Nine Muses Poetry, Twelve Rivers, StAnza Poetry Map of Scotland, Writers’ Cafe, The Ekphrastic Review, Re-Side and The Alchemy Spoon.