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• 2017 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry •

Winners & Finalists 2017

Winners & Finalists for 2017 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

First Place: “I Thought Pigeons Were Vegetarians” by Barrett Warner
Second Place: “What form this time” by Torrie Valentine
Third Place: “things / i know to be true, / but will never prove” by Omotara James
Fourth Place: “Insomnia” by Barrett Warner
Fifth Place: “My Father at the Funeral” by Helen Park
Sixth Place: “Bird Woman of Wonder Valley” by Cynthia Anderson
Seventh Place: “Sacks of Cells” by Brendan Walsh
Eighth Place: “Where There Is a Life, There Is a Hope” by Brendan Walsh
Ninth Place: “Logged” by Barrett Warner
Tenth Place: “Grocery Shopping” by Rebecca Gould
Eleventh Place: “Misreading Belfast as Breakfast in a Poem” by C. C. Russell
Twelfth Place: “Ten Cents” by Gary Beaumier

2017 Luminaire Award Poetry Judge: Emily O’Neill

Emily O’Neill is a writer, artist, and proud Jersey girl. Her debut collection, Pelican, is the inaugural winner of YesYes Books’ Pamet River Prize for women and nonbinary writers and the winner of the 2016 Devil’s Kitchen Reading Series in poetry. She is the author of three chapbooks: Celeris (Fog Machine), You Can’t Pick Your Genre (Jellyfish Highway), and Make a Fist & Tongue the Knuckles (Nostrovia! Press). She teaches writing and tends bar in Boston, Massachusetts.

Emily O’Neill’s 2017 Judge’s Comments

“The imagery in ‘I Thought Pigeons Were Vegetarians’ is what floated it to the top of my list of finalists and kept it there, but my favorite moment was ‘Monogamy isn’t merciful.’ Poems that wander far from where the title leads me to believe I’ll end up are what I look for when reading, and that statement couldn’t have been further from what I expected to live in this poem. The line stands at the center as an odd declaration to imagine as the nucleus of the scene, and it’s the kind of statement that has the gravity to hold the rest of the poem in place. A thumbtack to hang the images on. A place to land and return to besides the breaks in stanza or line that we expect to hold us to the words at play.”

2017 First Place Winner: “I Thought Pigeons Were Vegetarians” by Barrett Warner

I Thought Pigeons Were Vegetarians

No machine can thresh grain like a bird,
especially the pigeon who downbeats
a throaty song and floats off
with nothing better to do than be faithful,
like its close cousin, the dove.

Monogamy isn’t merciful.
Sunbeams stab through missing battens
as two newlyweds dodder to the peak
where an extended clan of bats
sleeps upside-down like grapes.

This pair takes its sweet time
harvesting a leg, a wing, a face,
resting between courses as if to relate
a story in a gambler’s bluffing way—
shuffling, calling, raking the kitty.

Belief is a tricky beast
to keep alive on wheat and water.
Despite miles and days of crops,
and kept busy with the land’s riches,
I never lose the taste for flesh.

Barrett Warner is the author of the poetry collections, Why Is It So Hard to Kill You? (Somondoco, 2016) and My Friend Ken Harvey (Publishing Genius, 2014). He recently returned from a 25-year break from fiction, and new stories have appeared in Salamander, Gargoyle, Yemassee, The Adroit, and Quarter after Eight. Other awards include the Cloudbank, Liam Rector, and Princemere Poetry Prizes, the Salamander Fiction Prize, and the Tucson Book Festival Essay Prize for his memoir, My Thousand-Year-Old Disease. Last year, he received an Individual Artist grant from the Maryland Arts Council, which he used to finance his move to South Carolina to get away from everything. In April, he made his stage debut as the burglar Selsdon Mowbray in a revival of Noises Off at the Aiken Community Playhouse. Long on street and country, Warner supplemented skills acquired in the 1980s from off-road journalism, where his beats included NASCAR and horse racing, with an MFA from a small college in North Bennington, Vermont.

2017 Second Place Winner: “What form this time” by Torrie Valentine

What form this time

A man reads my palms and tells me
before this life

I was not good. What I had done
then, I must work out now.

What do I do with his words?
God spins me and then stops me

and I am here, in the night breeze
with the end of my cigarette going

out in the mist. How did I get here?
What moon am I under, what star?

The praying mantis takes the head of her lover
afterward. Was I something like that?

What do the lines say? He runs
his smooth brown hands over the creases

yes, he says, it is possible,
this life will be the same.

The lights from the buildings above me
are not the moon or the stars or God

or love or people. The skyscrapers
are restless, the space between is too great.

They sway in the wind to touch each other.
If they collide it is worth it.

This is what I have done for love,
I swayed into cool metal.

Let the crash come, let the fire come and the smoke
let the windows break, let the sky fall

Torrie Valentine is a Cave Canem Fellow, a VONA Voices Alum, a recipient of the Norman Mailer Residency in Poetry, and a holder of an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University. Thus far her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Boston Review, Cavalier Literary Couture, and Mythium Journal of Contemporary Literature, among others.

2017 Third Place Winner: “things / i know to be true, / but will never prove” by Omotara James

I know to be true,
but will never prove

when someone you love

you get to call
on their weightless soul

they will require a partner;

to transcribe the message,
the 3 blocks to Home Depot,

the small objects, tools that cut

large plumelike panicles from the
reed, so it might sing.

Omotara James is a British-born American poet and essayist. The daughter of Nigerian and Trinidadian immigrants, she currently resides in New York City. A 2017 Lambda Literary Fellow, she is the recipient of Slice Literary’s 2016 Bridging the Gap Award for Emerging Poets, as well as the Nancy P. Schnader Academy of American Poets Award. Her work has appeared in The Poetry Project, Winter Tangerine, Crab Fat Magazine, Cosmonauts Avenue, Arkansas International, Newton Literary, and elsewhere. She has received scholarships from Cave Canem and the Home School. Online, you can find her at @omotarajames and at omotarajames.com.

Luminaire Award Medallion Designers

Special thanks and acknowledgment to Devin Byrnes and SuA Kang of Hardly Square, for their creativity in designing our annual medallion imprint. Hardly Square is a strategy-, branding-, and design-based boutique located in Baltimore, Maryland, that specializes in graphic design, web design, and eLearning courses. Their invaluable design expertise has made our annual awards come to life. Learn more about our medallion designers.

Transparency for 2017 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry

Judging spreadsheets and final reports will be updated here soon.