Asheville-based writer Holly Amann has been named the winner of this year’s Xpress Poetry Contest. Writers were invited to submit work around the themes of sustainability, environmental awareness and/or reverence for nature. Poems were set in or in some way referenced Western North Carolina’s environs.
Caleb Beissert, the final judge for the contest, which received more than 60 entries, says, “at the corner of Elkmont and Elk Mountain Road’ gifts the reader an unexpected arrival of beauty and perspective, elevating the little catastrophe of the raccoon and its misfortune to a place of care and attention that the reader may see what seems ordinary in a different light.” He continues, “The poet stands still in a present moment with a sense of urgency and grace toward this volatile intersection of humanity and nature, death and beauty. The poem is a welcome departure from the idealized and overly sentimental imagery and language typical of many poems that seek to capture the true elegance of our natural world.”
Beissert is a poet, translator, musician, freelance writer and a member of the experimental performance troupe Poetry Cabaret. He co-hosts and co-produces the Asheville Poetry Series. His book, Beautiful: Translations from the Spanish, adaptations of the poetry of Pablo Neruda and Federico García Lorca, was published by New Native Press in 2013.
Runners-up in the contest are “Under the Morning Star” by Asheville-based poet, author, artist and playwright David Brendan Hopes; and “Erasure, The Black Mountain,” by Black Mountain-based poet Jacob Kramer. Hopes’ most recent poetry collection is Penial; Kramer’s debut collection, co-authored with Jordan DeJonge, is Unseasonable Light.
The winning poems follow. Capitalization and formatting choices are the poets’.
at the corner of Elkmont and Elk Mountain Road
by Holly Amann
a raccoon has made its grave along
the broad yawn of grass:
eyes closed, ears pressed back
in a splurge of terror
fumbled along at the eleventh hour
between a time today
and a time tomorrow. black insects
gush from the fray,
grovel along the ripped anatomy
that seeps and erodes
in a diurnal swelter. one road
clings to the edge
of undeveloped suburb, shrivels
and then bloats
into four lanes of unified grey.
the other road
cradles a curve of hillside
like delicate fruit.
Under the Morning Star
by David Brendan Hopes
I’m standing in my backyard in Asheville, North Carolina,
watching Venus transit the eastern sky.
Oh come late she says to the sun, somewhere
harrying behind her. It’s Equinox.
I suppose she’s where she must be at Equinox,
though perhaps she’s brought some mornings by lone,
wild will of her own, tarrying a little, looking over her blue shoulders,
wayward as the rest of us, willful and longing.
There are complete explanations for this, for the wanderings
of the cold worlds and the broiling worlds, which I have not
sought with sufficient dedication.
I’m watching Venus Ishtar Aphrodite climb my roof
two hours before dawn, imagining what I’ve missed
not standing there each minute: her own aspiring and
declining aquamarine, swart Mars
with his fists of dust, the impassioned Moon
eating away his own heart night by night,
restoring it with the most meager meal of love.
The owls pass over, and the dignified Canadas,
the bent and holy cipher of the heron
wheeling toward dark water.
One should have stood silent as I do now.
One should have had intercourse with the creatures of the hush.
Something flutters against my door with invisible dry wings.
“It is a moth,” I say, knowing in truth
it is my spirit in times to come, fluttering moth-like
to a locus not quite unfamiliar,
cocking its pale head quizzically, wondering
why, exactly, it had called this home.
Erasure, The Black Mountains
By Jacob Kramer
I would burn myself into the evening
and linger as
indigo and dusk
and sink among
seven sisters and four brothers
a son of the stars
in moon-glow pools
in the unmade dark
where man’s glut is not, nor