This year, we decided to move INDY Week's poetry contest to April to coincide with National Poetry Month. As it happens, several of our winners have ties to organizations devoted to the appreciation and practice of the art.
We had well over 100 entries this year, and our screening judges read all of them and produced a baker's dozen of finalists to this year's head judge, Howard L. Craft.
Please join us for a winners reading at 4 p.m. April 27 at McIntyre's Books in Fearrington Village. —David Fellerath
by Marjorie Schratz McNamara
We made one
once, me and my sweet
Cassie. Just a try
like those prissy
cookbook photos: marble
swirls, not shooters
or cat-eyes, child.
You wanted to hoard
that bowl of chocolate
batter: I thought what
does it matter—you always
liked the chocolate,
even then. It said to alternate
the colors, meaning to keep them
separate. So we spooned
the batters straight;
then tongue tipped determined
between your teeth,
you pulled chocolate
delighted to see
that all turned
to chocolate—like this boy
you now tell me
you mean to marry.
The best poems are the ones we come back to because they move us and they make us think. That thinking usually leads us beyond the poem to a personal place where we question things deeply. The best poems use poetic devices strategically; they have flow, rhythm and sound. They are tongue tipped determined like the poem "Marble Cake."
The power of this poem comes from the voice of the mother and the authenticity of the situation the author uses as a metaphor for her daughter marrying a black man. The poem breaks down in subtle details the mother's feeling about race as she retells all the signs she missed that should have hinted at her daughter's actions. The poem works on multiple levels, using vivid imagery appealing to our senses and putting us in the kitchen with the mother and daughter while the baking takes place. The poem leaves us wanting to know what happens next. We care; we are invested; that's what the best poems do to us, and "Marble Cake" is this year's best. —Howard Craft
Marjorie Schratz McNamara almost didn't enter this year's INDY Week poetry contest. It took a reminder from a friend and fellow poet for her to submit her entries to the contest.
So McNamara entered, and she included the striking, autobiographical effort that inspires the cover of this issue. In a demonstration of the power of regular workshopping, that friend, Mary Hennessy, also entered the contest and won third prize.
McNamara's winning poem, "Marble Cake," is an evocation of a mother and daughter sharing a ritual they've performed many times, but this particular occasion is momentous.
"My daughter studied abroad in Togo," the Burlington resident says. "She met a man and fell in love." That was several years ago, she adds, and her daughter is now happily married.
For McNamara, who is semi-retired and teaches English as a second language in Alamance County, poetry is a later-in-life pastime.