Last spring, Jasper sponsored the One Book, One Poem contest in conjunction with the second annual One Book, One Columbia program, sponsored by Richland County Public Library, which featured Ron Rash’s Saints at the River. We invited poets from the greater Columbia area to submit poems inspired by Rash’s novel, and Rash himself agreed to judge the contest.
A poet as well as a novelist, Rash said he had a hard time picking the winner, and in the end, he decided it was a tie. The winning poems, by Will Garland and Debra Daniel, will be published in the new issue of Jasper, to be released Thursday, Nov. 15.
But before then, we’re publishing the finalists here on the Jasper blog!
Congratulations to Lauren Allen, Rieppe Moore, and Dianne Turgeon Richardson, who were all finalists in the contest. Their fine poems were among those that made Rash’s judging so difficult. Today we publish Allen and Richardson’s work, tomorrow Moore’s.
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Dianne Turgeon Richardson is from Columbia, SC, and holds degrees from both the College of Charleston and the University of South Carolina. She currently lives with her husband and two mutts in Orlando, FL, where she is pursuing an MFA from the University of Central Florida and is the managing editor of The Florida Review.
Of her poem, “Elegy,” Richardson said, “It’s hard to think on Saints At the River without giving some consideration to death by drowning. I have often heard people say that drowning would be one of the worst ways to die, but is it? I was writing a lot about landscape at the time I wrote this poem, and I felt that if I must ‘return to the dust’ as they say, the South Carolina Blue Ridge would be one of the most beautiful places to do so. I wanted to present death, even sudden death, as peaceful instead of fearful.”
This is how you’ll end:
water to water,
womb to womb,
whippoorwill for a dirge,
pine trees for pallbearers.
You go – wrapped in river satin –
go and cross over.
Every molecule of wayfaring water
vibrates with your memory,
your name echoes down the escarpment,
the weathered arms of Appalachia
cradle you in sleep,
whisper lullabies as old as Earth.
This is a good way to go.
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Lauren Allen is a professional horse trainer in Camden, South Carolina and is earning her MFA degree in Creative Nonfiction at the University of South Carolina. She says, “I was interested in the undercurrents in Rash’s Saints at the River. The ideas about wilderness, stewardship and ownership resonated with me, and as someone who moved across the country to Los Angeles and then eventually returned to my rural roots, I recognized the conflict between love of a place and the need to escape.”
Here’s Lauren’s poem, “corduroy road.”
clay the colors of sunset
only a witness tree
witnesses me trespassing
who owns this land
I know the secrets of these
woods the hiding places the
crumbled cornerstones of foundations
traces of the old road
eye-closing scent of crabapple
the rise and fall
deer trails where ruts disgorge
sandstone eggs hatch
try to ignore the yipping
coyote came from somewhere else
traps are everywhere
I used to think I too
would chew my leg off
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Check back tomorrow for poems by Rieppe Moore, who had two poems among the finalists. And be sure to pick up the new Jasper (released on Nov. 15) to read the winning poems.