AMAZE
2006 Adelaide Award

Denis M. Garrison, judge

 

FIRST PLACE - THE ADELAIDE

For Nadia

Petals
like poet's tongues
born in a hard season
drift across thresholds of silence,
dark red.

          (Nadia Anjuman, Afghan poet,
          b. 1980. Beaten to death, 2005.)

                              Ann K. Schwader


This exquisite and powerful poem has stayed with me since I first read it. Schwader's traditional cinquain is an exemplar of the form but, more significantly, she, like her subject, has something important to say. This memorial verse is a fitting tribute to a woman poet murdered for her art. For those of us for whom poetry is a vital concern, Nadia's story has a place in our ancient and noble tradition. I encourage you to read more about Nadia Anjuman. 

What Schwader is displaying here is the inexorable reality of a brutal world, challenged by art: the price of truth is blood. This is not news, but this poem uses fresh imagery and a polished mastery of the cinquain's formal strengths to make this announcement anew-in powerful, yet brief, lines. The turn comes in the fourth line wherein, rather than hear of song, we hear of final silence. Our frustrated expectation produces the poignancy of the poet's silencing. The somber last line hits the perfect tonal note and resonates with the first line to make the poem fully integrated and complete. The third line would be a fine title for a biography of the subject poet. The title of the cinquain, as it should, adds value by providing an essential context for the poem; it is as important as would be an extra line of verse. This
is modern cinquain-writing at its best. In a book full of wonderful cinquains, Schwader's stands out as fully realized, beautiful, powerful, and important.


SECOND PLACE

Anna Akhmatova

Your words:
sharpened fine steel
forged in the fires of Hell,
burning red coals that keep your heart
alive!

                              Michael L. Evans


I am a fan of Michael Evans' cinquains, particularly those with historical or mythological subjects. Choosing among his cinquains is made more difficult by their variety-so much from which to choose! I selected "Anna Akhmatova" for many of the same reasons I have cited above with respect to "For Nadia." This also is a memorial poem, a tribute to a lioness in winter, Russia's
great 20th century poet who suffered greatly under Stalinism, yet triumphed in the end, showing how justice may be done in the historical perspective. 


In this cinquain, the turn comes in the middle of the fourth line where our diminished expectations are met with the triumph of the truth. Rather than being ultimately consigned to flames, Akhamatova survives and lives on, immortal in world culture, preserved by the verse for which she was persecuted. The isolation of the final word on the last line makes it a shout of
triumph, a trumpet of survival. Lines one and five resonate perfectly: "Your words: / alive!", summarizing the whole poem in pure brevity. This is an outstanding example of the power and beauty achievable in the cinquain form, and of the heavy freight which such a brief and fragile form can carry gracefully in the hands of a master of the form like Michael L. Evans.


THIRD PLACE

Portent

The crows,
haunting the view
from the northeast window,
settle on the yard like fragments
of night.

                              C W Hawes


Hawes sets up our expectations right in the title of this excellent cinquain. We are prepared for something frightening. This is an intelligent use of the title, which is an integral part of the classical cinquain. The first and fifth lines together, "The crows, / of night", catch the eye on first glance-and the chill deepens. Hawes creates a threatening atmosphere with the artistry of a true minimalist. The word "haunting" establishes the tone and allows us to see the evil portent in a fresh image ("like fragments / of night") because we are primed for it. This is quite a feat since, after all, nothing happens in this scene other than some crows settling on the yard.
All-in-all, a magical poem that lets our imaginations run wild.


FOURTH PLACE

Adelaide Crapsey

Whisper
of flame at dusk
twinkles on the lake's edge,
shadow-shrouded, frail-eternal
echoes.

                              Paul Ingrassia


It is truly fitting that a tribute to the creator of the cinquain form should be included in this short list of superb cinquains. Paul Ingrassia's offering is a fine example of the form. The turn comes at the end of line four with the triumphant "eternal". The first and
fifth lines "Whisper / echoes" is a potent and fresh image that fits Adelaide Crapsey well. Her personal frailty and early death did not bode well for the survival of the form she created and in which she wrote only a few dozen poems. Yet, her form and her name survive in the 21st century. The faint whisper of her voice indeed does echo down the years. Carl Sandburg is credited with keeping
Adelaide Crapsey alive in the culture by way of his poem, also entitled with her name, in Cornhuskers (1918). I have published my own tribute (Loch Raven Review, Summer 2006), and Paul Ingrassia is holding up the tradition honorably with this poem.


FIFTH PLACE

Coronation

Fall leaves
are borne by wind;
her slim grey fingers weave
a gold and beryl wreath to crown
the sky.

                              Anya Corke


This lovely lyric cinquain by Anya Corke is exceptional for the perfectly integrated and realized lines, in each of which the length seems intrinsic. Line breaks are a definitive technique for cinquains; any arbitrary break to fit the formal requirements is a flaw in cinquain. There is a most unusual and subtle turn in line four, the personification of the wind is succeeded by a surprising
personification of the sky. The conceit works because of the poet's light touch. Likewise, the short lines (one and five) carry a backstory: "Fall leaves / the sky." with an interesting switch of "leaves" from noun to verb. This is a quietly beautiful cinquain.


HONORABLE MENTIONS


It is too hard to stop at a certain point. There were many outstanding cinquains in the four issues of AMAZE from 2006. Of course, that is to be expected. I will console myself with simply noting two more cinquains as Honorable Mentions.


Two Swallows in the Rafters

Yellowed
journal pages-
read in discreet whispers,
a poem from my scarlet days
still fresh.

                              Naia


Tattoo

Imprint
your love between
the colors of my mind;
the broad scope of my heart's jasper
passion.

                              Amy Nawrocki


My congratulations to the winner of The Adelaide prize for 2006, Ann K. Schwader, to those who placed in the short list, Michael L. Evans, C W Hawes, Paul Ingrassia, and Anya Corke, and to our Honorable Mentions, Naia and Amy Nawrocki. What an honor and privilege it has been to read these wonderful cinquains and to share my reflections on them.


- Denis M. Garrison
Editor Emeritus of AMAZE: The Cinquain Journal
Editor of Modern English Tanka   

 

Return to the front page of this issue:   Amaze   Vol. 5, No. 1  
Go to the Poets & Authors page for the poet's biographical sketch and email link.
All poems are copyright 2007 by their respective authors.
 

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