Many thanks to Michael Ferris who agreed to serve as judge for the yearly awards–not a small task, but hopefully a pleasurable one.  He has been a presence in our pages as contributor, award winner and judge for almost a decade. His comments follow:

It’s humbling to judge others’ work because it underscores to me my limitations, how my own literary personality, taste and preoccupations filter what I find – and miss – in the writing of others.  Another poet would choose differently, I know.  That (obvious) point made, I’m glad to offer my praise for the following poems and poets:

Annual Awards:

Honorable Mentions:  I returned often to three poems that, in different ways, asked to see beyond ‘the merely given’:  Robert P. Lewis’s “Still, Life” (Summer Issue); Dave Crocco’s “Once, in June” (Spring Issue); and Page Hudson’s “Loblolly Pines” (Spring Issue).  Likewise, I admired (envied?) the serene vision of Frank De Canio’s “Cancer Diagnosis” (Spring Issue).

The Lyric Memorial Prize of $100:  “Reflection” by Mary Elder Jacobsen (Spring Issue).  A careful, caring rumination on the meaning of a word, which in the process builds a display of some of the enchantments of the world, with a poet’s love for and control of language.

The Leslie Mellichamp Prize of $100: “My Eliza” by Robin Helweg-Larsen (Fall Issue).  A smart and charming love poem with island images (I learned some new words) that finishes on the striking picture of two sea otters drifting hand in hand.

The Roberts Memorial Prize of $100:  “That Magic Spring” by Carol Snow (Spring Issue).  Five compact and simple quatrains that ruminate on one of my favorite themes: how inner weather determines outer weather, as Frost might say.  A soft but clear note of heartache, finely sounded.

The New England Prize of $50 “Picking Raspberries” by Ron Searls (Summer Issue).  A beautifully observed sonnet about one my favorite childhood excursions, raspberry-picking.   Wisdom in the closing couplet that goes beyond the bramble patch, could we but keep it.

The Fluvanna Prize of $50:   “If Your Lover’s Beginning to Stray You Might” by Dodie Messer Meeks (Spring Issue).  A crazy, at times nonsensical list of suggestions with something like a Seussian whimsy to it.  Sharp rhymes, imagination and wit, and it ends with a serious punch.  I really did LOL!

Quarterly Award:

Fall Quarterly Prize of $50:  “The Surfer” by Page Hudson.  An original, rhythmic ride on tetrameter couplets, ostensibly about  surfing the blue but maybe about something more, touching on bliss in our brief days.  Memorable.

Thank you so much, Michael, for your careful consideration!

Is it possible that the term “anthropomorphism” make you grumble to your morning coffee? It implies that we humans are something apart from the plant and animal kingdoms, making us rather “anthrocentric” in our view of the world.  Now that science has brought the language of whales and dolphins and the singing of mice in courtship, not to mention the sensory adjustments of the plant kingdom, can we be in accord that most if not all of the natural world is sentient?  As we are experiencing the world, it is experiencing us.  Perhaps we could rename the description animamorphism?  But better yet, let’s apply anthropomorphism to artificial intelligence, which is filling the ether and the airports with its digital opinions and instructions.  Rather intimidating!  I think I’ll run for the woods!

For those of you who enjoyed the poems of Joan Higuchi, we must sadly note that she is no longer with us.  She passed away October 15, 2018 at age 88. Joan was a psychiatric nurse for many years and worked to heal minds as well as bodies in her life.  As has been our custom, we offer one of her poems in remembrance:


Mary Immaculate Hospital 50th Reunion
Each time we meet another face is gone.
Our frailties and flaws have now been glossed
but never mind.  Old memories live on.

We postponed frothy gowns and Alencon
for uniforms with apron strings criss-crossed.
(Each time we meet, another face is gone).

By day a riband cap was our icon
and only cape protection from the frost
but never mind, the memories live on.

We chuckle now at night-time goings-on,
and sadden when we speak of those we’ve lost
each time we meet.  (Another face is gone).

For some we scan through phone books, search upon
the web or seek through mail, ignoring cost
but never mind.  Old memories live on.

For each a Kyrie Eleison
They’re in our minds and in our hearts embossed.
Each time we meet another face is gone,
but never mind the memories –live on!

She leaves us with good advice!  With gratitude for each day, each one a mini-life, and looking forward to the warmth of spring…



This very moment the axe is being pressed
against the roots of the trees; therefore every tree
not bearing proper fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.–Matthew       
The axe already lies against the roots.
The ravens circle fires for the chaff;
all is a loss that isn’t proper fruit.

The time is now: now each of us must choose

to set our feet upon the proper path.
The axe already lies against the roots.

So speaks the prophet, calling all times soon:

the time of fire, smoke, the day of wrath,
consuming all that isn’t proper fruit.

Still we, who hear his warning each refuse
to listen, choose to mock him to the last.
The axe already lies against our roots.

We try to reason, but the point is moot.

We each opine, but then our time is past
And all is lost that isn’t proper fruit.

The barren men who wear their whitewash suits

come down like haughty pines; the heavens laugh.
The axe already lies against the roots.
We all are lost who don’t bear proper fruit.

Jonathan Graham
First Prize, Collegiate Contest
College of Charleston, South Carolina



There are two worlds where I reside;
Where my new life will soon begin.
Between them both my sorrows hide.

While one road sought is true and tried
Hope for the next is frail and thin.
There are two worlds where I reside.

The time draws near when I decide
which land my tortured soul will win.
Between them both my sorrows hide.

I slave away to save my pride,
Transform to droll convention’s twin.
There are two worlds where I reside.

Scars marked with paint form the outside
While faux feelings line what’s within.
Between them both my sorrows hide.

What once was sacred pushed aside
In trade for a path marred with sin.
There are two worlds where I reside.
Between them both my sorrows hide.

Amanda Trout
Second Prize, Collegiate Contest
Pittsburg State University, Kansas



Sunday mornings, our faces were washed in the glow of burgeoning sunrise.
We slid through hallways on stockinged feet, our tights running faster then
us.  “God,

stop dressing like I don’t buy you new clothes,” Mommy used to say, her
earlobes weighted under solid gold.

I grew up believing church was a fashion show.  God

doesn’t care what you wear (maybe)./Our muted heels on burgundy carpet
always signaled reverence.

At our seats, the shoes were first to go.  We savored the feel of our spread
toes entwined in dusty carpet.  Trust a God

who banishes pumps from heaven./ We always looked forward to
communion, to those crisp white wafers and grape juice.

We fancied ourselves wine drinkers, blood bats.  We hid pieces of you
beneath our tongues: that white crust.  God

in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

The taste of regurgitated scripture in my mouth became synonymous with

I used to hover outside my grandmother’s room, listening to prayers:
jumbled symphonies of sound,

a prayer language between her and the Lord.  My mouth never learned to
speak in tongues to God./

It was easier when I just believed what I was told.  It was easier when I

thought a congregation was an audience for a show.
Jesus Christ, it was easier when I used to trust God.

Chidinma Opaigbeogu
Third Prize, Collegiate Contest
University of Maryland, Maryland.