imageIn May, I participated in a poetry competition that is unique in that the work is evaluated anonymously by the other writers in the competition. At the conclusion of the contest, you can access your feedback and see the names of the other participants if they’ve chosen to reveal their identity.

I use this contest to expose my most experimental writing to the feedback of several potentially unbiased poets.

When I’m in the spirit to start revising the works, I pull out that feedback and glean what gold may be found therein.

In the past, I’ve been disappointed by weak feedback and in many cases no feedback (where you are assigned a ranking against five other competitors but no comments). In my value system, a low ranking with detailed commentary is invaluable. I’ve even garnered a writing colleague from that very circumstance. A first place finish with no feedback is nice, but not particularly useful for my reason in participating in the contest. It is pleasant to feel that your work is liked, but if you don’t know what is or isn’t working for your readership, it is harder to gauge if something could be done to magnify your impact.

Going through the comments from my last submission, I was touched and encouraged by a few thoughtful comments on my work. It struck me that rather than have those comments lost in cyberspace, that I could memorialize them here—in gratitude.

Thank you to all of my evaluators for your constructive comments on my work.

“A very exciting read. I really enjoyed these poems. I like the experimental style, because it doesn’t come out as “forced.” It’s like «the content» has decided «the shape», and so it feels natural. The poems carry with them a fascinating blend of “mundaneness & passion & longing & coolness & city life & honesty & craving,” and the richness of this whole submission really speaks to me. Great work!” — Gisle Skeie

“The poems you have penned were great views into a new world for me. I was very interested in the many journeys I was able to experience. The unique perspective and levels of description definitely separate you from other poets[…] I feel like you are never afraid to try new things and challenge tradition. The knowledge mixed with vulnerability in some of your work creates a connection that very few can escape.” — Marcus Wright

Slim Tuesday was absolutely heart-breaking. The lines in your poem, Part [For] Me, “baby don’t call me callous when your looks are engraved in me scripted all along the back of my right shoulder” hold such powerful imagery that to call them merely beautiful seems like an insult to your artistic talent. They are raw, they are honest, and they made me feel in the depth of my heart this fire and anger and longing to be heard…god damn it! You should be proud of your work.” — Anonymous

nature’s first green is gold

“Poets are always taking the weather so personally. They’re always sticking their emotions in things that have no emotions.” J.D. Salinger, Nine Stories

stained glass mapleEvery time I come across this quote, I think, Salinger, mind your own business. Why don’t you? What skin is it off his nose if I experience autumn as a personal affront?

I’ve got thirteen trees in my backyard and I appreciate them, for what seems to me, their differing personalities. The oak tree that grew straight and strong from a stump has fortitude. The apple tree, I sang to and coddled from a bark damaged neglected sapling, has grown with appreciation into a sturdy beast that threw down two bushels of large sweet apples this year. Trees can teach you plenty if you are still enough to listen to them.

One maple is my quiet tree. It is over-shadowed by the trees that are bigger, make nuts, fruit, or scent, but for a brief period in the fall it shines. Its changing leaves range from bright-yellow gold to a deep-rosy salmon color. Situated where it is, it catches the rising sun for a few minutes a day; those minutes are embedded in my memory.

Salinger seems to intone that weather is just weather. Not to me. When that maple enters into its glory, it brings to mind that exact moment for every previous year. With nature, every fluctuation is a touchstone for the years before. Walking in the rain, reminds me always of a specific moment many years before. My friend’s mother died when a particular tree was in bloom.stained glass maple 4

All the trees change color and drop their leaves, but it isn’t until the maple is backlit, as now, that I feel the autumn and remember again my favourite Frost poem, and all the emotion that goes with moving forward and being unable to regain what is lost. Living requires constantly letting go and being let go of. My heart is broken every fall, and winter is the grief that must be endured till spring. click to tweet

Poets understand that people connect with each other over our significances. The ability to attach the memory of our emotions to the changes of weather that we all experience cuts across geographical, cultural or chronological divides. Weather blesses and curses, and even if it be indifferent to us how could I seeing it alive, as I do, be indifferent to it.stained glass maple 3


Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay.
Robert Frost