2013 Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize Winners

Winner, 1st Place

The Light
For Don Filion

Gently may the world take note
of blades of grass, of clovers and mornings
lit with sunshine; of subtle frost edging into November.
Notice ants scurrying, tiny creatures on uncertain terrain,
and the wiggle of a grandson’s fingers and toes.
This is what I know:
the stuff of Wordsworth’s lyric is still here,
trite now though it may seem, and is best viewed
through the eyes of one who has seen a doctor’s head shake,
one who is familiar with words like prognosis and hematology.
Whitman’s song of self still hums like electric current,
powering the soft lights of the bedside machinery
that reduces the body to numbers and lines.
Yet there is beauty in the quiet sounds a man makes
at the end of his life, as he takes in the smallest things
and finds them infinite: his wife’s scent, the mirror
of his daughter’s face.
It is not a rage against the dying of the light,
as Thomas would ask for; I see this in his eyes.
It is instead a realization that the light does not die.

Issa M. Lewis

Honorable Mentioned, 1st
Bagamoyo” Tiel Aisha Ansari

Honorable Mentioned, 2nd
Mother under Blanket Holding Deceased Daughter” Jessica Glover

Honorable Mentioned, 3rd
a sleep swept clean of dreams” Alexis Pauline Gumbs

Submissions were judged by Jaki Shelton Green in collaboration with Sidney Clifton.
All winners will be printed in our annual summer print issue, available in August.

Judge’s Comments:
“The Light” demonstrates excellent craft- synthesized, distilled language. The poem
emanates narrative authority and the poem’s intensity connects the reader to intimacy
and identification with the writer. A poem that has no disdain for the intimate- what a concept.

About the Judge: Shelton has received a variety of awards and honors for her work, including the North Carolina Award for Literature (2003), Artist-in Residence at The Taller Portobelo Artist Colony (2006) in Panama, and the 2007 Sam Ragan Award. Her poetry has appeared in publications such as The Crucible, The African-American Review, Obsidian, Poets for Peace, Ms. Magazine, Essence Magazine, KAKALAK, Callaloo, Cave Canem African American Writers Anthology, and The Pedestal Magazine. Her publications (Carolina Wren Press) include Dead on Arrival, Dead on Arrival and New Poems, Masks, Conjure Blues, singing a tree into dance, Blue Opal (a play), and breath of the song (which was cited as one of the two Best Poetry Books of the Year by the Independent Weekly).