Normally during the Joan Ramseyer Memorial Poetry Contest I read poetry entries, comb through them, separate them into yes, no, and maybe piles. I start contemplating who should make the list of finalists. After a week of ruminating on common themes in the most beautifully wrought poems, I begin thinking about how I should order them in the anthology or what the anthology should look like.
But what is normal anymore?
This year I started with a creative vision on a cover before reading a single poem. I shared that vision with Dana K. Leahy my 2019 cover artist winner and she set to work building the visual image I described to her in text. On April 2 she sent me her drafts of that vision, I commented, she explained, I rethought, I changed tack, we retooled, and Dana returned to her studio. She sought the advice of her friend Shelly Reed Thieman (the inaugural 2018 JRMPC 1st Place poet) for some finishing touches and then Dana emerged with this cover. Her confidence in her work overflowed in her prose and her painting. I love this hopeful result.
I cannot think of a better community process to designing a cover that merged our three minds across hundreds of miles. The Sistine Chapel met social distancing where there still is a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment. Despite the seriousness of these times the dark clouds of pandemic part in this painting to the piercing promise of Sunbeams.
I hope all who see this post are safe and inspired to enter a poem of community and/or activism. Both themes live and breathe all around us as our nation and this world look for ways to help one another at a watershed moment of history.
– Brett Ramseyer