The yearly awards for 2021 and the Fall Quarterly Prize were judged by Michael Baldwin, of Staunton, Illinois, who graciously accepted the task, turning from his own work on a long poem to choose, in his estimation, the best poems for the year.  He has been writing in for many years in relative isolation, and has been a Lyric contributor for 15 years.  Thank you, Michael, for your insight and comments, which follow:

New England Award: “O Pentatonic Main Pine,” by Cindy Hill, Fall 2021.
A nonce sonnet based on a fusion of the ABBA octave rhymes of the Italian sonnet and the 3-pronged argument of many of Shakespeare’s, with a closing couplet, demonstrating that form is not a box into which words are crammed, but a way of thinking, and this nonce form is well thought out.

Honorable Mention: “She Won’t Be Coming In Today,” by C B Anderson, Winter 2021.  This Italian sonnet neatly side-steps the reason for her loss in favor of the reason she’ll be missed.

Roberts Memorial Prize: “The One and the Other,” by Joyce Wilson, Spring 2021.  Two Shelties, one now gone, mourning and moving on, in play, and in life, no names needed but One and Other, all that’s needed.

Honorable Mention: “Growling at the Sunset,” by Michael Harty, Summer 2021. Dogs’ point of view, well-imagined, well paced, something to remember

Leslie Mellichamp Prize: “After Hail,” by Hilary Biehl, Fall 2021. A precise and tender evocation with outstanding metaphors.

Honorable Mention: “The Dollmaker of Nagora,” by Betsy M. Hughes, Winter 2021.  A sensitive villanelle addressing the fading away of the life and culture of a remote community,

Lyric  Memorial Prize:  “Hamlet at Fifty,” by Robert C Crisell, Winter 2021. A Shakespearean (fittingly) sonnet with a well-developed three-point argument in lieu of the Italian octave and volta, and a great closing couplet.

Honorable Mention:  “On First Looking into Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf,” by Robert P Lewis, Winter 2021. A true example of something really rare, Old English alliterative verse, with its four-beat line still felt in our accentual-syllabic verse, even in most iambic pentameter. It has good alliteration, and even a hall-mark compound-word adjective in the first line.

Quarterly prize:  “Clocks (XII),” by Gary Davis, Winter 2021. A nonce sonnet (why not? The form must be left free to evolve, meaning some risks, and here the off-kilter rhymes don’t impede the force of the argument. I liked the sly “XII” in the title.

Honorable Mention: “A Dread of Robins,” by Ross Lehman, Winter 2021.  If “Clocks (XII)” is post-modern in its rhymes (even just a little), this is pre-modern in its words (even more so), but it’s still a good poem. I think of such poems as having the Rachmaninoff Paradox; no one today cares at all that Rachmaninoff wrote behind his times, as did Bach, as a matter of fact. They’re both still with us and well-loved.

As always, we are deeply grateful to the Lyric Foundation which has made this small journal possible for 102 years, giving a voice to traditional poets during the many years when fashion has been unfriendly to rhymed and/or metered verse.  Edward Cameron of the Lyric Foundation instituted the Collegiate Contest in the 1950’s, to encourage young poets writing formal verse, and we re-introduced it in the first decade of the 21st century continuing to the present.

We are ever-so-grateful to Tanya Cimonetti for her careful and insightful work, coordinating, collating and co-judging the annual 2021 Collegiate Contest. Without her work, the editorial vita would be much less dolce!  The winners are included among the poets published in this issue; both winners and those chosen for honorable mention will be published on the website,

First Prize:  Kateri Campbell, “The Past and Present Intersect”, Salem State University, Salem, MA

Second Prize: Amanda Trout, “Hymn for Magicicada Septendecim,”
Pittsburg State University, Pittsburg, KS

Third Prize: E. M. Palmer, “Ghosts of Summer Past,” Dallas State University, Fort Hood, TX

Honorable Mention:  Natalie Fenoff, “Serpentine Sestina,” Salem State University, Salem, MA

Honorable Mention: Josie Wulf, “Candle Wax,”
Cornell College, Mount Vernon, IA

Honorable Mention: Mae Fraser, “Vanilla-elle,”
Salem State University, Salem, MA

Ah, words, words, mellifluous, luxuriant, succinct, pointed, ironic, all flowing from poets’ pens and igniting our senses and imaginations.  We can dive down through a pool of words, like Alice, through layers of consciousness, and if we share them with our voices, they resonate with other ears, human –and non-human, perhaps. Have you considered whether your cat or dog or plants enjoy the sound of your words?  And stretching the point a bit, to quote David Abram, “Language is a property that belongs to all things and not solely to humankind”…..”Sentience was never our private possession.  We live immersed in intelligence, enveloped and informed by a creativity we cannot fathom.”   We are grateful to the voices of poets, with their ears cocked and finely tuned.

As winter digs in for a final chilly breath, we invite you to immerse your senses in the poems collected here for you.  Yes, there are somber, joyful, and even some giddy poems, expressly included to lift the heaviness of pandemic life.  May your own spirits be light!