When Lauren Camp was presented with the stack of submissions to SFR's 2019 poetry contest in our office foyer, her eyes grew wide. The breadth and depth of Santa Feans' interest in poetry never fails to impress us; we received a record 156 submissions this year, and Camp read through each one, without authors' names attached, with careful consideration.
"It was challenging to narrow down to things that I cared deeply about," Camp says, but she came up with a number of winners of which she is deeply fond. "All of them, I believe, are strong voices, with sounds that are worth savoring in their writing, and powerful imagery that stayed with me."
Camp, a native of New York State, released a hefty book last summer: Turquoise Door came out of a 2013 residency at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos, and while it does focus intensely on Luhan (an early-20th century patroness of the arts in New Mexico), it also considers New Mexico as a personality as well.
Camp's connection to her adopted home is strong, and it came through in her chosen poems' sense of place. "I think I'm especially drawn to poetry and to writing in general that is about here; that is about a place that I am very devoted to and very intrigued by," Camp says of the winners. "I didn't pick based on that, but I noticed it when I came back and looked at the three I had picked. They're all about here, in a way; about the West or the Southwest in really specific ways."
The poems also greatly express melancholy, if not outright sadness. The trope of the tortured poet is a humorous stereotype, and Camp says she's not particularly drawn to melancholic work, yet there's something to a pervasive sadness—especially now.
"It's true that poetry often is about grief, love, loss, and I think that factors in to these poems," she tells SFR. "Maybe it's the situation we find ourselves in in the world. I woke up this morning to the news of the New Zealand mosque, and maybe it's that we keep on getting battered by difficult subjects. Not that that shows up in these poems, but maybe it just surrounds us, as poets."
So thank you, Santa Fe, for appreciating poetry so much. Enjoy Camp's informed and carefully considered selections, and keep up with events related to Turquoise Door at her website, laurencamp.com.
Join these poets and SFR for a reading event at 6 pm Monday at Collected Works. (Charlotte Jusinski)
Lost in Migration
By Katherine Kubarski
Stripped by wind of its Inuit kin,
the young Tundra Swan
surrenders south of Socorro,
drops in diminishing circles into the
babel of the bosque.
Fields aflood with cranes, geese, ducks, coots, pelicans, gulls, grebes.
Bounty of millet, chufa, tubers, roots, reeds.
Safety in numbers.
Three months a vagrant,
magnificent among the Mallards,
one for the birders' books.
The heart is an arrow
for a circle at the top of the world.
It knows that singular dawn when the lesser cranes lift
this is no ordinary flight
to forage in Cisneros' corn stubble fields.
This is the moment, odds against orphans,
for the running start
to rise up
with whistling wings
and join the great arrow
Katherine Kubarski has been working her magic as a grant proposal writer for the past 28 years, helping hundreds of nonprofit organizations to secure funding from major foundations and government agencies. She lives in Santa Fe where she loves to hike, cross country ski and salsa dance.
Aubade as it Begins to Snow
By Margaret Wack
The language of the sick is one of gasps and whispers,
madness halved and muted, put on like a velvet skin
above the crimson nakedness of blood. It is only human,
when the holy cold comes licking full of flame tongue and false
promise to want to pare the bone from muscle
like a butcher, press the flesh against the surface
of the world and scratch the skin like silver foil – it is only
natural to dream of death in the long low months
like a slow snarl in the throat's hollow saying please,
please– eros the dissolver of the flesh come back
again to haunt you in the body of a writhing animal,
all rabbit skinned and weak kneed and hungry for blood.
Margaret Wack is a poet and writer whose work has been published in Strange Horizons, Arion, Liminality, and elsewhere. More can be found at margaretwack.com.
Ministers of Roofing
By Basia Miller
Dawn just breaking, vehicles converge on my street,
the plates say Chihuahua, Sonora, Santa Fe.
The crew gathers. Dark pants, black kneepads. Gray hoodies are pulled up,
caps brim-backwards. The guys toss coffee cups and close the phones.
Boots rise in front of my kitchen window, mounting the red extension-ladder
rung by rung and, like balloons, disappear on high.
I hear orders barked between men whose faces I can no longer see.
Shovels overhead batter at the gravel, as if beating out a fire.
I'm at my desk when part of the ceiling caves in and clouds cross the hole.
Debris and Spanish curses filter through the gap and settle on the mantelpiece.
How little thought I've given to the roof ! It's been a gaping absence
in my count of blessings, this layer that marks my rooms off from sky.
Now the upended wheelbarrow drops the old roof bit by bit into the dumpster.
Now the crew dresses the deck in fresh tarpaper out to the parapets.
The drama's at its height. Foreman Ruben and red-gloved Marco, handlers
of the fire-dragon, put blowtorch to bitumen, then stomp it while it's hot.
They generate an asphalt spell to keep sun and snow
away from me, my fireplace and all I treasure.
The odor of tar pervades the space. I love the ritual,
and I begin to love the roof that covers me.
Basia Miller lives, hikes and writes in Santa Fe. She's been writing since retiring from St. John's College-Santa Fe. Her poems have appeared in Trickster, Adobe Walls, Santa Fe Literary Review and elsewhere. She particularly enjoys translating French poetry for publication in France. Her bilingual chapbook, The Next Village, appeared in 2016.
by Dana Lundell
A small child's bed frame.
A frayed, ivory
mattress cover reaching up
into the hot, August wind
for the red, cracked
plastic sled enjoyed briefly
and abandoned last March
at the end of a surprise
snow day in the high desert.
In this dry arroyo,
lost as a crinkled-up
candy wrapper that once held
mango sweets from Mexico—
enjoyed passionately some afternoon
by a small kid in a Lobos jersey
and then tossed away
just like that
to the striped lagartija
sunning on dry rocks.
An old rotary dial phone
buzzing with fresh gossip,
tossed aside one day for
new sources of insanity.
A direct line to abuela, tia,
a kind friend or sibling,
to pick up the phone
and listen to me sniffle
at 3:00 a.m. about a boyfriend
or car repair bill when
graduate school could not
pay for new tires.
As a green, plastic straw
bent over like a teenager
in sorrow, struck
by the force of mid-life
and cut loose
from certainty to fly around
like a paper streamer
caught in the ditch, I
I would always be loved.
like New Mexico wind,
a daily friend.
Never saw it
Of all things lost
and tossed to the side,
Somewhere in this arroyo,
Dana Lundell survived four years of caregiving as an only child for her mother who succumbed to Stage 4 uterine cancer in Santa Fe, NM, in August 2015. Dana, called "Dr. Dana" by her students, currently lives part-time in Santa Fe, NM, and Portland, Oregon, where she works at Portland State University. She has a doctorate in education.
The Longest Journey
By Elizabeth Selig
The longest journey
is to the center
of your own heart
Elizabeth Selig is a poet. And a reader, and a songwriter, and a ne'er do well, and a mindful walker, and a surfer, and, most importantly, a mother. She lives in Hawaii.
By Shelley Winship
The dove startled
As I strode through the trees
Into the courtyard
Into the big window
Crashing to the ground
Wings ragged, disoriented, distressed
She and I.
Best to just leave her
Make sure the dog is elsewhere
Give her a chance to catch her bearings
When the obituary for my mother is done and delivered
When the light on the hills
Is blood red to the east
I chase a squirrel away from the bird feeder
And see her
The mourning dove
Lying still on the ground.
Eyes wide open,
Wings folded close.
To leave her there would be to leave her
For the dog to find.
I walk with her
To the river
Past the meadow
Where the young grey horse
The color of a mourning dove
Still new to his maleness,
And tossing his head.
Past the tipped-over road sign
Saying, "Road Closed"
To the one-lane bridge
Where someone had a close call.
Startled by something
Thumbs and thoughts texting
Or more likely, just stoned—
They went off course
Hitting the flimsy metal guardrail
Yet somehow, miraculously
To fall in the river.
To pull back, drive away, and vow
To be more careful next time.
is beyond salvage
Certainly, not able to stop the dove
As she flies one last time
Away from the dog
Away from the window
Away from my cupped hands
Toward the water's swift surface.
Shelley Winship is a nonprofit fundraiser, orchardist, acequia commissioner, accordionist and cat lover living in Chimayó, New Mexico.
Bright Angel Creek Memorial
By Sam Moorman
A year after she died
I hiked down Grand Canyon
to Bright Angel Creek
Veered off trail and stripped
to lie white on gray stone
skin warmed by solar winds
Careless butterflies flew by
and lizards pushed
Cold water tumbling
over creek stones
mumbled bye bye
Sam Moorman publishes poems and stories in various anthologies. He has a Creative Writing M.A. from San Francisco State and is on the Board of Directors for SouthWest Writers in Albuquerque.