2022 Contest

Our prizes include First, Second, Third, Honorable Mention, and the Siggy David Award for poems written in any form with the theme of “Whimsy,” chosen by last year’s SDA Award winner Eydie Wight. Perry County residents will be eligible for the title of Perry County Poet Laureate.

The Poetic Excellence Awards will take place at 6:30 pm at our coffeehouse event. Open mic night will follow the awards. For more information on our coffeehouse event, click here:  Coffeehouse – Perry County Council of the Arts (perrycountyarts.org)

Perry County Poet Laureate

Lynne Reeder, “two birds, one stone”

this morning, i attended a viewing for a fifteen-year-old girl
and now, I’m pulling chicken from the bones,

my country mother tongue plucked like poultry,
the grime of grief coating my throat,

rendering me silent about the way her friends stared
at the closed casket and her family scattered,

afraid her suicide would stick to their skin.
i played with the necklace against my collarbone,

my sister-in-law’s, eighteen and dead now eleven years,
and now, i’m here meal prepping for the week ahead

in a world where teenagers die and
i hold skeletons in my hands.


Kenneth P. Allen Award (Theme: Love in the Time of the Coronavirus)

Anna Wilderson, “The Great Affair”

“The great affair is to move”
Or so that’s what a notable poet wrote
As he looked back on his pilgrimage
Through the Cévennes mountains in France.
I feel envy of his carefree philosophy,
His ability to travel — to experience something novel
With an untainted, innocuous sense of curiosity.
I can only imagine to roam
To Rome.
A paradise, an Adonis of a city
Where you can throw a coin into a fountain
In exchange for the covenant of a return.
To conceptualize a past experience
Or merely a figment of my imagination
Reunites me with my unrequited love.
I desire its affection and I capitulate in its presence.
To travel for the sake of travel is like
A lover’s lullaby — it satisfies the senses,
Rejuvenates the soul
And educates the peregrine mind.
But for now I must be flightless.
I mustn’t pull out my passport
No crossing borders, I can only imagine
And re-imagine travel as I, we, experience this great loss together.

Siggy David Award (Theme: Gratitude)

Eydie Wight, “Asper Hill Plateau”

And now at last, the elongated downward slope,
dogs straining at the leash to tug me lively into lovely bliss,
faster and faster until we leap off and up and into a starship of vast infinity, launched, giddy, into a stirring, sparkling, crisp expanse.
Big Dipper standing upright in the northern sky
bracketed by Perseus’s swing off a Cassiopeian angle
and Orion’s stance with arms akimbo, all offhandedly bemused
as I jog gingerly past the tittering cosmos.
Blossom and Mosey pull me back (and nearly off my feet)
from my musings on the universe.
Elegance, eternity, divinity, creation.
A winter dandelion outlined by starlight.
Looming blackness shrouds the tree line with impenetrable mystery.
I chuckle at this fabulous foolishness,
knowing the peace I’ve long ago negotiated
with the decades gone, abandoned homestead it hides.
There the loam rich, work roughened hands still ghost along wisteria
now grown and gloriously blossoming to the tops of sugar maples. Shirtwaist dress, earth stained bare feet, and wind played plaits
live on in the wonder that this place was grace and salvation and home.
And oh my God, the truth, the many noted resplendent TRUTH of it, there, exposed, on this plateau of revelatory discovery,
is that entirely, completely, altogether,
is that “Why yes, it is enough.”

First Place

Samantha Bise, “they said”

they said / what college are you going to / they said / volunteer to help the less fortunate / you can put that on your resume / you need a master’s degree for that job / we were impressed with your cover letter / they said / it’s time to get married / you’ll find a way to afford the wedding / why aren’t you changing your last name / they said / a few more years and loans and we will call you doctor / they said / you can work and study / and become a mother / parenthood is a joy you cannot measure / they said / as they counted my salary / my gpa / my bmi / they said / you’ve become too much wife / not enough of the stuff you used to be / they said / you were such an independent woman / they said / you’ve become too distracted / they said / you can’t put that on your curriculum vitae / they use the word career a lot / they use more numbers than poems / they give me titles and try to call it identity / they almost made me believe i had to interview for this body / made me think i had to prove something to the committee / made me feel like love is something to achieve / they almost convinced me / life is something i could have more of / if i just worked a little harder

Second Place

William G. Davies, Jr., “Driving Past West Perry M.S. During the Coronavirus”

The infield
of the softball lot
is nearly a mosaic
with tufts of grass
inlaid between gullies
left by rainwater,
only some curvature
of sunlight
rounds the bases silently
past an umpire of crows.

Third Place

Brooke Mitchell, “In the Wake of My Grandfather’s Death”

We gather ourselves at his oakwood table.
Grandma’s hands shake when they clutch the butterknife.
This toast, golden and melting against my teeth, swelling in my stomach,
Still, she butters piece after piece after piece.
My brother pulls soft slices from a Wonderbread bag, arranges them like gravestones.
I slide the bread into heated slots, too young to find cremation in this burning.
Grandma dresses the toast in butter and cinnamon and powdered sugar,
This garnishing nothing more than an artist painting her lover’s urn.
We eat in silence, crunching, spilling remnants,
An attempt to swallow this grief whole.
I push myself up, move to sweep the crumbs.
Grandma says, “No, leave them. Please.”

Honorable Mention

Tina Berrier of Enola, “Pomegranate”

To write just what your day had in store is poetry.
These winter things.
Feeding the birds,
Cutting the pomegranate.
You could have bought the seeds already packed in a little plastic cup with the word ‘POM’ on it.
Your mind though- “6 dollars for the already hewn seeds and three for the whole fruit.”
Your mind tried to calculate how many seeds in one whole fruit as compared to the seeds in one plastic ready- made cup.
Your Yankee stoicism said get the fruit, do it yourself.
Yet really, poetess.
You picked it up and held it in both your hands feeling it’s solid round smooth yet lumpy heavenly heaviness real not plastic trying to imagine the branches bearing this weight looking at the blossom end worrying yourself that you didn’t know it’s origins vowing to honor it before you released the ruby reds from their skin.
Iran, Northern India, California.
What a journey, oh delicious one.
This fruit, is most decidedly female. The subject of many a still life.
Many methods to dislodge her.
Drown her like Ophelia or
Entice the arils with a wooden spoon being careful
because she will stain your clothes, your skin.
Once they are dislodged put them in your mouth whole and let them explode their exotic taste both sweet and bitter, both smooth and crisp.
She is a work of art. She is Lillith. She is the original forbidden fruit. She is patience.
In her Eden you will find
The day more bearable.

Honorable Mention

Aimee Horvath of Shermans Dale, “Gratitude, A Friend”

In a moment of time where all was lost
I found Gratitude
Peaking out of a sidelined corner
Half forgotten
Grabbing for my hand
Pulling me upright from my slumped posture
“Look at what is still here,” it said
Shining a spotlight on the giggles and smiles of my children
In their youthful haze
Unaware of the uneven terrain
We trudged upon
Enamored by the brightly colored
Cardboard backdrop of our lives
Painted in shades of normal for their benefit
Ready to tip at the slightest nudge
I held onto Gratitude
White knuckled
Half moon indents lining my palms
Eyes locked on positives
Pouring them into the deficit
Until the floor became the ceiling and
We could breathe
Breathing felt like enough
I chanced a glance back into the hole we surmounted
Angry at its depth and all the promise stolen
The ease of wallowing, a weighted blanket
Swallowing me in its soft folds
Holding me in place as a sleeping limb
Fearing the sharp tingles of movement
Gratitude whispered, “Look how far you’ve come. Keep going.”
With time, a cellar of misfortune became a foundation of lessons learned
A foundry for mettle forged in acceptance and appreciation
From there I set out on a path
Not knowing where it might lead
Allowing Gratitude to light the way

Honorable Mention

Beth Jacobs of New Bloomfield, “The Vietnam War as Shown on TV”

I remember curling up on the couch
watching the 7 o’clock news,
my eyes wide open
but not understanding everything I was seeing, even though it was all there in black and white.
I know my parents watched the same way,
all of our eyes focused on the carnage,
a war fought in our living room
with my mother clutching an afghan
as if ready to smother a fire.
I remember we made popcorn and baked cookies, one to cushion the other, my mother explained,
as she carefully boxed everything to send overseas. I thought she was so clever.
My uncles could eat the packaging.
But would the cookies and a box full of popcorn
be enough to help them fight the war?
Would it close their eyes to the sights they witnessed or were we just hoping to ease our minds
as we watched TV in our living room
every night at 7 o’clock
with my mother clutching the afghan
and knowing this was too big of a fire
for her to smother.

Meet This Year's Judge - Gary Fincke

Gary’s books have won The Flannery O’Connor Prize for Short Fiction, The Robert C. Jones Prize for Short Nonfiction Prose, the Wheeler Prize for Poetry (Ohio State). His latest collections are The Sorrows: Stories (Stephen F. Austin, 2020) and The Infinity Room: Poems (Michigan State, 2019). His stories, poems, and essays have appeared in such periodicals as Harper’s, The Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, and The Missouri Review, as well as in Best American Essays 2020 and Best Small Fictions 2020. Just retired, he was the Charles Degenstein Professor of Creative Writing at Susquehanna University.

Elizabeth Yon-1999
Ed Rech-2000
Melody Davis-2001
Joy Campbell-2002
Ann Benvenuto-2003
Melody Davis-2004
Melanie Simms-2005
Cordelia Jensen-2006
Cordelia Jensen-2007
Beth Jacobs-2008
Sandra Philpott-2009
Samantha McAlicher-2010
Fritz Williams-2011
Sandra Philpott-2012
William Davies Jr.-2013
Kenneth J. Little-2014
William Davies Jr.-2015
Lynne Reeder-2016
William Davies Jr.-2017
Lynne Reeder-2018
Lynne Reeder-2019
Lynne Reeder-2020
Lynne Reeder-2021
2021 Contest Now Closed

Announcement with winning poets COMING SOON.

2021 Awards Ceremony and Coffeehouse ~ Wednesday, October 6, 6 to 8:30 p.m.

Buddy Boy Winery, 111 Barnett Drive, Duncannon

Join us as we honor the award-winning poets from this year’s annual poetry competition and for the presentation of the 2021 Perry County Poet Laureate. Stick around for Coffeehouse Open Mic following the awards ceremony! Grab a bite to eat and a glass of wine from Buddy Boy and enjoy poetry readings, live music and more! No outside food/drink please.

Interested in performing during open mic? Contact us at 717-567-7023 or pcca@perrycountyarts.org.