Cover Stories

2024 Spring Poetry Search Winners

City of Santa Fe Poet Laureate Tommy Archuleta chooses poems that go for the gut

Roughly two seconds after learning Santa Fe-born-and-raised poet, musician and punk legend Tommy Archuleta had been named the City of Santa Fe’s 2024 poet laureate, SFR reached out to request he judge the paper’s annual Spring Poetry Search—joining the ranks of previous judges such as Institute of American Indian Art Associate Professor and award-winning poet Anne Haven McDonnell; former city Poet Laureate Darryl Lorenzo Wellington and Levi Romero, New Mexico’s first state poet laureate. Thankfully, Archuleta obliged.

Author of the collection Susto, Archuleta is a local’s local with a perspective steeped in Santa Fe flavor and style. He also knows the qualities he wants in a poem.

“I have some training in this weird stuff we do, so I’m looking at form, and what I mean is the construction of the poem,” Archuleta explains. “I’m looking at how the construction coheres with the content; how strong the voice is; I’m looking at tone, which is the conveyer of the emotionality of a poem; the overall cohesion.”

In this week’s issue, SFR presents the top-three winners and most of the remaining seven honorable mentions, with additional work online at First Place recipient Ginger Legato’s “Autobiography of Q” evokes Ocean Vuong in a visceral and formal interrogation of fallen queer lives. Bianca Barela’s second-place “Las Adineradas” operates as a remembrance of her great-grandmother that pulls back the curtain on the Santa Fe mythos. Third Place winner Michelle Ribeiro’s poem “My Right Hand” summons Neruda, and the eternal beauty of internal and external landscapes.

Archuleta asked for a blind judging (without the entrants’ names) “because it’s a small town,” and says he “didn’t have a theme in mind. There are some forms of poetry out there where it’s all about the percussiveness of the language, that have nothing to do with content—like Jackson Pollack and how they didn’t know what to do with him; how they didn’t know it was about what is the paint doing on the canvas, not what it’s saying when you step back from it.”

Bottom line? “I’m looking for the gut-punch, the ones that make my stomach and throat change places,” Archuleta says. " I take them with me. These have that.”

First Place

Autobiography of Q

By Ginger Legato

Soon I will be made to speak. —Michael McGriff

Silenced. Slapped shut.

A hooded tongue. Thirst.

Q views herself flayed. I could say canceled.

An empty shell.

Or a form of light, a window. Imagine a crystal glass orchestra causing the western sea to calm.

Q is dressed from the closet that has a bright sunny window, smells of animal fur.

Beneath her clothing she binds her body with layers of heat and cold, shivers like a mirage

of bending light. Q could be no one, none, a self-portrait with palms upturned, untitled,

yellow roses crushed beneath her feet, one foot pressing the head of a red adder.

Ocean V. wrote a closet of words that opened a door for her to pass through, barefoot.

Q inches toward the edge of her life. Not for the first time.

Arms crossed against the sensation of sharp punches to the head, she remembers the murders,

climbs the litany of names, queer deaths: Julie Williams and Lollie Winans, throats cut in

Shenandoah National Park; Nohemi Medina and Tania Martinez dismembered near the

border of El Paso–Juarez, their limbs strewn along the highway to their home; Club Q,

Colorado Springs, 5 shot dead 29 injured; Orlando, Florida, Club Pulse, 49 killed 53

wounded; year 2022, 39 trans men and women murdered. Tatiana Labelle beaten to death,

cut & stuffed into a trash can. Q recognizes the place of slaughter is where she sleeps, alone,

dreads her vision of bent bodies, the exhaustion of dreams. She tells herself not to sleep, leave

the light on, don’t tell.

When is a child old enough to speak? How many deaths must she carry?

Ginger Legato is a poet, artist and book designer. She is author of her 2022 book, The Hook Was Very Sharp; and her poems have appeared in American Tanka, Fixed and Free Poetry Anthology 2021, Heliotrope, Rubberreality, Seeds, The Magazine, Trickster, and Written with a Spoon: A Poet’s Cookbook. She received a First Place Award for a single poem from the New Mexico State Poetry Society and is a winner of the Southwest Literary Center/Recursos de Santa Fe, Discovery Competition. Ginger is also well known as an interior book designer for the Penguin Poetry Series, published by Penguin Random House.

Second Place

Las Adineradas

By Bianca Barela

my mama’s abuelita

buried two and raised four

then she crossed the milpa

helped raise seis nietos more

she’d take my mama and

my tias with her up the road

to clean house do the wash

hang and iron every load

for white women who paid her

cash and gave her trinkets

cut glass perfume bottles

a few drops of fragrance left

sometimes rhinestone necklaces

matching clip-on earrings

mirror compacts covered

in fake jewels sparkling

las muchachas knew she stashed

a glittering looking glass in her purse

she’d pull it out to check

her makeup before church

a glint of lives lived

by other women quién pagó

to have their sheets

exprimido y planchado

chones washed with ivory flakes

bleached with borax ironed flat

my mama wondering why

they’d ever need them ironed like that

our matriarch was a domestic

a favorite amongst wealthy wives

her well worn hands worked her land

ironed pleats sharp as knives

las adineradas tucked their babies

into crisp white sheets at night

while my mama’s abuelita

tied our purse strings tight

Bianca Barela is a poet, mother, and native of Santa Fe. Her work has been featured in the Santa Fe Reporter, Quiet Lightning, and IHRAF Publishes.

Third Place

My Right Hand

By Michelle Ribeiro


for Neruda’s silver moon apples

in pink opalescence

in the jeweled tips

of polished liquid rose

Who says artificial can’t be beautiful?

I could look at my hand forever

if I didn’t focus on those chips because

my hand is a living sculpture with rivers of hatch marks

fields of golden grasses

stored sun

I can see my insides.

Like smiles, skin can cover

but never hide it all.

My hand is a painting

a weapon

an instrument

the source of your groaning pleasure

I will leave my prints on you.

I will decide

that watch will not be a noun, but rather what I do

as I sniff out exaltation in a painted plastic fingernail

or a fleshy wad of woman-knuckle

As I sniff out exaltation

in that shiny gold band, a ring of starlight

a small piece of beauty that survived the marital wreckage

Like me.

Like those smooth, black stones

in Georgia O’Keefe’s heart

Michelle Ribeiro is an artist who believes that poetry is necessary. In the words of Dr. William Carlos Williams: “It is difficult to get the news from poems, yet men die miserably every day for lack of what is found there.” As a career educator, I always believed that my passion for poetry was the most important gift I had to share. I have always had the soul of a poet. It is, I think, what I was destined to become. As a child, I recognized myself distinctly in certain children’s book characters with poetic lives and souls. Characters like Fredrick the field mouse in the book of the same name, or the independent, imaginative young bookworm Arabella Hofstadter in The Windmill Summer. It has been a long journey, from recognizing to becoming. I now intentionally, fully, and joyfully dedicate my life to poetry. I am writing and re-writing myself more awake and alive every day, both on and off the page.

Honorable Mention

One of Our Worst Fights

By Mary McGinnis

We had finished putting

The beef, sour cream and mushrooms

For the stroganoff,

Into the crock pot and forgot to turn it on.

By the next morning

Everything had spoiled.

Mary McGinnis has been writing and living in New Mexico since 1972 where life has connected her with emptiness, desert and mountains. Despite having the disability of blindness since birth, she had a counseling and advocacy career for 40 years. During that time, she kept writing, no matter what. In addition to appearing in many publications, she has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize, and has three full length collections: Listening for Cactus, October Again, and See with Your Whole Body, and one chap book Breath of Willow.


By Zachary Kluckman

At dusk the lamplit river wends

a trail of stars. The knotting pine

stand like prophets, shoulders

bent to the task of adoration.

The intrusion here is mine, still

the mesas glow as if lit within

and welcoming. I step among the

prayers of animal tongue and

watch the holy rise. Spirits long

alone among the sacred stones

lift their legs in equine pose, stamp

and dance. Phantom fires light

their ancient faces. A sweat that

cannot be gathers on their brows.

The dew of dawn perhaps, glistens

as the song mourns their absent throats.

Their missing names. Land and

homes asphalt covered. Concrete

spilt like headstones across horizons.

They spin their feathered heads, cry

their children’s names. The hills

echoing the elegies, a bitter wind

the sleeping will not feel. My bones

ache with their presence. Chill

at the owl’s shriek. Somewhere

a mouse gives its life to afford

another. A horse whinnies behind

its iron fence in the distance.

A child shifts beneath his blanket.

His father sleeps before the TV,

his posture

a kind of reverence.

Zachary Kluckman, three-time National Poetry Awards winner, is a Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Gold Medal Poetry Teacher, Red Mountain Press National Poetry Prize recipient, a founding organizer of the 100 Thousand Poets for Change program and nationally ranked slam poet. Kluckman was one of 3 American poets invited to the 2017 Kistrech International Poetry Festival in Kenya. Nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and recently a Finalist for the Subnivean Poetry Award judged by Kazim Ali, Kluckman is a mental health advocate and community organizer. His newest collection, Rearview Funhouse was published by Eyewear Publishing in 2023


By Marie Turco

I was walking down a sand trail

In my dreams

For seven nights, I dreamt

I picked up animal bones

There were seven bones

And seven trails

On the seventh night

I came upon a beautiful bison.

Marie Turco is a poet, playwright and textile artist. She lives in Santa Fe County, NM with her beloved service dog, Maya and those kind of friends who become family. She has had her writing published in The Voices Project, Rebelle Society, Untitled, The Mighty, among other publications. Her haiku was part of the NM State Society of Poets Poet’s Picnic and Chapbook in 2023 and another Haiku will again be included in the 2024 picnic and chapbook. Her play, The Sanity Trials, written from a collection of poems about mental health and mental health discrimination was brought to the stage by The Bridge PHL, a Philadelphia-based Theater Company in 2018. Marie is currently working on a book of haiku about living in the high desert of New Mexico. She is also a psychotherapist and activist.

Los Surcos

By Bianca Barela

We always develop wrinkles in our foreheads first

from furrowing our brows. We feel proud of this

ever deepening crease because it is a mark

of our lineage. We who think so hard and worry

so much it has left a permanent mark between

our eyes. To furrow is to dig a long narrow trench

in the ground especially for planting seeds

and for irrigation like the acequia in the field

behind our grandmother’s house. We dig and dig

and plant and plant and work our skin thin to provide

water to our seeds and furrow and furrow afraid

that our plants won’t grow strong and brave like we pray

they will. Despite our fear our plants keep sprouting

and blooming and like all the mujeres before us

our brows keep furrowing and our hands keep digging planting

roots claiming our place in this land we have made fertile.

Bianca Barela is a poet, mother, and native of Santa Fe. Her work has been featured in the Santa Fe Reporter, Quiet Lightning, and IHRAF Publishes.


By Greg Berg

fuzzy fragmented love


around her wheelchair,

before the tangles

and skeins

and amyloid proteins,

before the lesions became thorns:

a curious amalgam of gentle dementia

and skin like shaved balsa.

breath soft as her favorite marabou streamer

tied for salmon in Rangeley Lakes

words formed upstream,

cast into the current,


Greg Berg is a poet, book artist and fine arts photographer. He has published “The Hiker & the Blaze”, a book of poems and collage. His photographs have been in group shows and are in private collections. He lives in Santa Fe.

Land of the Dead

By Adrian Stone

On a mesa top they call heaven

calling my ancestors with smoke dimes

into slots in the sky

Despite the shaken faith Ma tells me about,

we both agree that the bluebird flying fast

by my vision is an abundant

reminder of an unmouthable truth

and more simply, the faith I can

see/taste/touch/feel with my senses

mainlining to the parting doors

of my heart.

Maybe that’s all faith has to be:

navigating everything possible from

bird talks to shit jobs to aching spirits

with our hearts open, quiet.

Adrian Stone was born on a flower farm in a high valley in Vermont. Stone lives in Cerrillos with his dog Shoestring, where they write, play and wander.

At the Mall

By Tamara Baer

You know the sounds you hear when

you aren’t exactly listening, or a scent sometimes

that passes on the street and snags a memory,

or even more that sudden—and just as suddenly gone by—

disorientation of motion when the planet turns

inside the briefest slip of gravity, and

some unexpected portion of the world comes to a stop...

It was like that—from the dead space of the parking lot

inside to the miasma of compartments, there,

between the equal double doors of glass,

flat and still as some imaginary water, was this plant—

a potted palm the size of some small serpent,

complacent, sitting in a plaited basket.

Its tubular and scaled fat trunk forked once

then sprouted delicate green strands of hair

down to the middle of its back, wavering between the pull

and push of air, a grand unshiny fish

in the microscopic daylight. I stopped and felt

its scales and sea hair like lifting something

from the water—did you ever dive and for an instant

before squelching it feel that germ of panic

that something’s going to keep you down there—

and then the exhilaration of coming up for air.

It was like that.

Tamara Baer is a landscape architect and recently retired planner. Her poems have appeared in numerous publications, including locally in The Magazine and previously in The Santa Fe Reporter.

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