2018 Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest Winners

2018 Sunbeams Front Book Cover

Sunbeams: The 2018 Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest Anthology is now for sale. Click the above book cover to order your copies today.

1st Prize – $200

Healers

by Shelly Reed Thieman

West Des Moines, Iowa

Shelly Reed Thieman

Shelly Reed Thieman is an Iowa poet who feels deep responsibility for sharing the beautiful and burlesque range of human emotion and experience through poetry. She is a disciple of vivid and unexpected imagery, a discoverer of glamour in the unglamorous, a mistress of montage.

Contemplation and prayer practices deeply influence her writing. Shelly is a member of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, Iowa Poetry Association and Omega Poetry Group. Recent poems have appeared in Lyrical Iowa, Haiku Journal and Modern Haiku. Shelly writes to connect with those who have preceded us, those we currently encounter, and those who will follow us.

Healers

She and the dog have ripened together

in Yavapai County, know the pulse

of the Javelina herd during feast of agave

and prickly pear. She rises late, boils


Mugwort tea before spreading

runes, massages warm sand

into hands worn thin as old maps.

She stretches, folds inward, chants.

The dog climbs into a bathtub

of sunlight to soak his ancient limbs.


Her days are unhurried; she hunts crystals,

presses pestle to cedar, cedar to mortar

for incense, turns sandalwood to oil.

Like a horned lark she gathers gifts

from the desert to mend and convalesce.


While evening gathers, she rests. Wind

soothes wild wisps of her gray hair,

the dog tells stories with his rain-dance

tail, patiently waits to receive her balms,

her hands, her benediction-filled eyes.

I chose “Healers” because it soothes. The deliberate cadence, imagery and title are restorative and giving, like a mother’s love. – Brett Ramseyer

2nd Prize – $100

“PILOT OF THE AIR WAVES”

by G. Lloyd Helm

Lancaster, California

G. Lloyd Helm

G. L. Helm has published poetry and many short stories all over the world in anthologies, news papers and magazines. He has published seven novels and two volumes of short stories.

“PILOT OF THE AIR WAVES”

My cousin Bobby died—

Lung cancer—

He smoked for years and years—

Said it gave him a smoky quality to his voice

That made it sound more intimate on the Radio.

He was a DJ on a little station in Missouri.

He did the sports and the news

And the recorded ad spots,

But what he liked best was to be the late night man

The DJ who spins records into the empty blue night—

The one who talks to his listeners as though they are

In the studio with him.

The late night man is the one who makes his lonely listeners

Feel a little less alone.

The station Bobby worked at was small,

But on nights when the inversion layer was right

It could be heard as far away as Kansas City

And mothers with sick children,

Or lovers who had quarreled

Or old folks deserted by sleep

Could listen, and feel like some one cared—

Feel that there was another human being on the planet.

That they weren’t alone

In the wee hours

of that all-engulfing darkness that can swallow a person,

If they feel deserted enough.

I hope all the people

Alone in the Missouri night who listened to him

Will lift him up to God,

Remembering that smoky voice

That made them less alone.

I chose “PILOT OF THE AIR WAVES” for the narrative style that sought human connection across the lonely reach of a radio tower on a sleepless night. My mother often stared into the black of insomnia, exhausted when morning blinked through the limbs of her valley. When the rested awoke to join her she spent her days practicing small kindnesses making us feel less alone. We miss her for that. – Brett Ramseyer

3rd Prize – $50

I want to pee

by Ailish NicPhaidin

Palm Bay, Florida

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Ailish NicPhaidin

Ailish NicPhaidin emigrated from Ireland to Florida in 1997 with her then 9-year old daughter and has written poetry for the past twelve years.

I want to pee

We were singled out in savagery

Some of us waivered, fell, and were shot

In the head by a grinning gunman

We left them where they fell

For others to hold their stillness

As we delved more clearly and deeper

To hush the mighty unrest in our breath.


Into the wagons they shoved us

Hounded, herded and hood-winked

Not a snivel or tear in anyone’s darkness

Even the children ne’er wept nor jerked

Just like their parents and grandparents

They accepted the fright

Their plight, amid storming and quiet kerfuffle.


From the back of the wagon came a whisper

Barely a breath of a breeze

But nonetheless sounding the hideous

Simple nature of a swollen blockade

With nowhere to go, nowhere to hide

“I want to pee” said my grandmother,

She of ninety-two years of age.


How could she settle that longing?

Maybe once she’s dead in her grave.

Adieu sweet lady

It’s so easy to feel your despair

It might ruffle a few of the feathers

But speak it aloud to the air.

I chose “I want to pee” because the title initially struck me to ready myself for a comic poem thinking of my mother’s notoriously small bladder. When I read on the poem molded my memory with its fragile defiance in a wagon train of man’s inhumanity to man. The old woman stands against forces armed at her immolation, yet she demands her humanity. In our fractured United States I felt it important to hold up this Holocaust-like image so that we might see ourselves as the old woman before we become the ‘grinning gunman.” -Brett Ramseyer


Generous Patrons

The increased prizes and guaranteed contest with increased cash prizes next year would not be possible without the donations of these generous patrons.

Flower Garden Level $500

Beth Snider

Rose Level – $250+

Margaret McKee

Daffodil Level $100

Rhonda & Scott Greiner

Violet Level $25

Lillian Haversat

Richard Lewis

Patricia Peters


2018 Contest Finalists

  • Howard Gershkowitz for “Redemption”
  • Colleen McMahon for “Ode to Mother Love”
  • Erica Steinweg for “Unexpected Warmth”
  • Teresa Sutton for “Witching Hour”
  • Jo Barbara Taylor for “FAR FAR FROM WELL”
  • Trace Wilson for “lifelines” and for “Cooper’s Hawk Clemency”
  • Ariana Yeats-Lonske for “Elegy”
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