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The “Plein Air Poetry Contest,” in collaboration with Delray Beach Center for the Arts, The Cornell Museum, and Plein Air Palm Beach, invited poets to submit original poems inspired by the “En Plein Air” Exhibit at the Cornell Museum of Art in Delray Beach.

About the winning selections, Mr. Gibson said, “Judging the Plein Air Poetry Contest was both a pleasure and a task, a pleasure because of the overall high quality of the poems submitted, and a task for this same reason—a task made the more challenging because of the high quality of the poems submitted.

About the First Place poem, “Another Version of the Many Ways He Left Me,” Gibson said, “In the long line of Romantic poetry going back to Robert Burns, and before, we have the encounter with nature taking place and the long-felt impact that such an encounter entails. This poem is a beautifully crafted and evocative pantoum about gain and loss, emotional as well as physical. As line 4 of stanza 1 reminds us. “Someone’s always leaving, always coming back.” That leaving and return can both leave damage as well as renew. A wonderful work.” About Second Place poem, “The Circle of Life,” by Todd Mercer, Mr. Gibson remarked the poem is “an engagingly gritty, free-verse noir piece steeped in Florida gangland and Everglades lore.”

Entries to the contest were read “blind,” the author’s name eliminated from the poem title and inspiring poem. We congratulate all the poets who participated in the contest, and are pleased to offer the winning poems here below:

The complete list of winners and honorable mentions linking to the poems follows:

First Place:
“Another Version of the Many Ways He Left Me,” by Lynne Knight

(after Chris Kling’s Misty Waters at Riverbend)

econd Place:
“The Circle of Life” by Todd Mercer
(Ekphrastic on Gator at Loxahatchee Wetlands by Kerry Ericksen)

Third Place:
“Gator at Loxahatchee Wetlands,” by Meredith Davies Hadaway
(after the painting of that title by Kerry Ericksen)

Fourth Place:
“Cycling Open Roads Ghazal,” by Jari Thymian
(after All Pumped Up, by Manon Sander)

Fifth Place:
“Enticements & Push Mowers” by Sheila Kelly
(after “Spring Rush at Jupiter Ridge” by Ruth Weiss)

Honorable Mention:

“The Tires Hold the Road on their Rims,” by Elizabeth (Betsy) Aoki

“New Year’s at The Inlet,” by Jennifer Greenberg

“En Plein Air,” by James Penha

“The Witching Hour,” by Amanda Brahlek

“Gator at Loxahatchee Wetlands,” by Mary E. Galvin

Contest Judge, Stephen Gibson is the author of five poetry collections: Rorschach Art Too (2014 Donald Justice Prize, West Chester University), Paradise (Miller Williams Prize finalist, University of Arkansas Press, 2011), Frescoes (Lost Horse Press book prize, 2009), Masaccio’s Expulsion (MARGIE/Intuit House book prize, 2006), and Rorschach Art (Red Hen, 2001). His work has appeared in The Paris Review, Ploughshares, and Poetry. His collection in progress is “The Garden of Earthly Delights, A Scrambled Abecedarian.” He teaches at Palm Beach State College, and lives in West Palm Beach.



Another Version of the Many Ways He Left Me by Lynne Knight

after Chris Kling’s Misty Waters at Riverbend

He was out there somewhere.
Lost in mist and fog, in moss and tangle.
I called and called.
Someone’s always leaving, always coming back.

Lost in mist and fog, in moss and tangle,
I saw the boat a thousand times.
Someone’s always leaving, always coming back.
I’m not talking suicide.

I saw the boat a thousand times,
slipping away from the dock, the oars like gulls, flashing.
(I’m not talking suicide.)
He said nothing, like someone who’d lost his language.

Slipping away from the dock, the oars like gulls, flashing,
the river like a road into nowhere,
he said nothing, like someone who’d lost his language
suddenly, in the middle of a confession.

The river like a road into nowhere
I could easily reach,
suddenly—in the middle of a confession?—
the sound of his voice vanished in the heavy morning air.

I could easily reach
one conclusion: he longed not to be seen again.
The sound of his voice vanished in the heavy morning air,
the boat already gone.

One conclusion: he longed not to be seen. Again
I called and called,
the boat already gone.
He was out there. Somewhere.


The Circle of Life by Todd Mercer

Ekphrastic on “Gator at Loxahatchee Wetlands” by Kerry Ericksen

Sometimes, like right now, they only show their eyes
above the waterline. They blend in masterfully.
You will have to stay aware to keep off the menu.
Under those cypress roots, there’s the same beast
that finished Jimmy Valentine when a crew of wise-guys
drove him here in the trunk of his own vehicle. I heard
they tracked him to Havana Nights, a club over in Boca.
They walked him out of there voluntarily. He’d been talking
to the Feds, but must have thought that no one knew
the score. A bystander said Valentine was eating gator steak.
He had the leftovers boxed up, just before they disappeared him.
It was wasted food. The circle of life, Everglades style.
The guy thought he was out with friends. Then
he was amphibian fare. It’s beautiful
in this preserve, but don’t get careless.
One poor judgment? That’s the end.
Those cold-bloods can see you clear. They move
before your eye tracks movement. Flaring nostrils
rippling surface, little hints are all they give away.
This is the wrong place for daydreaming.


Gator At Loxahatchee Wetlands by Meredith Davies Hadaway

Pillows stacked around her cloud-on-cloud, like a sky when
rain gathers, my mother is propped in her new hospital bed.

Above the swell of a gray duvet, her small arms waver,
brittle as downed trees.

A month ago we were fishing off the pier at Loxahatchee
Wetlands. Not much point, the ranger told us as we cast

our line and sinker. Anything decent, the gator gets before
reel it in.

My mother sleeps in the whir of a machine that keeps
her bed inflated. Rows of captured air that rise

and fall beneath her, as if she’s floating through
the overheated winter afternoon on a raft of breath.

We tiptoe in and out, adjust the heaped covers.

And you know, the ranger said, that’s a tug of war
you are not going to win.


Cycling Open Roads Ghazal by Jari Thymian

after All Pumped Up, oil painting, Manon Sander, 2014

I pump the tires, check the brakes before cycling open roads.
Those who say Kansas is flat have never pedaled many open roads.

“Been through the desert on a horse with no name,” I sing aloud.
No one hears me pumping up steep hills, nameless on the open road.

This seat, these pedals, spokes, chain, handlebars, I know, I know.
Our cells exchanged like vows over weeks and miles together on open roads.

Lost love, the yellow jersey ascending the Col du Tourmalet.
My dream climbs blue as distant peaks, a cloud-lined open road.

The wind, the rain, the heat, a punctured tire can mark a route with tears.
Beyond the bridge, euphoria can blow curved shadows down the open roads.

Jari, a treasure map holds clues that lead to the gleaming spot marked X
but “Here there be dragons” is the interior journey on the open road.


Enticements & Push Mowers by Sheila Kelly

after Spring Path at Jupiter Ridge, by Ruth Weiss

If I could have taken him to Jupiter Ridge,
dragged him up and out of his usual places,
he may have even liked it—bushy bluestem,
buttonbush, and the four-petal pawpaw igniting
our jaded eyes in spring—but like so many
men of his generation, Dad spent his entire life
at work or at a bar or reading The Morning Call
at the right end of a mid-century modern sofa
courtesy my mother’s taste in Broyhill.

The annual sting of balmy air spelled suffering—
dragging up screens from the cellar, switching
out storm windows for those porous cousins
so April could open its soft throat and sneeze.
The enticements of spring awakening were few
for Dad. It meant brushing off the cobwebby
push mower whose blades were never sharpened,
and the hand clippers which could have doubled
as vise grips. His hands broke out in a spotty rash
if he touched newly-cut grass and after our doctor
prescribed a dubious hodgepodge of ointments
and creams, a 10 cent bar of Fels Naphtha cured it.

We shared a few walks late in his life, after bypass
and beta blockers, for exercise sake at a local park
where sugar maples lined a path around a duck pond.
My Manhattan-born father, more at home indoors,
may have agreed to walk a spring path at Jupiter Ridge
if I’d insisted on its health benefits, him knowing
the purple lovegrass needed no clipping or pruning,
at home in its natural state, far from the miseries
of mowed lawns.


The Tires Hold the Road on their Rims by Elizabeth Aoki
After the “All Pumped Up” painting by Manon Sander,
Cornell Museum, Delray Beach, Florida

On the street of steamed tar
I pedaled all the years backward
to the time of no hands necessary,
loose hair floating like a paper napkin
above a picnic blanket.

We were angry dolls on a ride to better times:
cardboard action figures, dotted line
trajectories for paper airplanes.
Every swerve, we meant something by it.
We cut and twisted in circles like the spikes
of a metal soda pop cap.

My scars have no brakes.
My scars carve me round.
I want you, like I wanted black rims
and silver spokes, yellow mustard on the tongue
and the blue vinyl seat of things I can’t name.
I want you like I once dreaded dark shadows,
the depths of bushes where we thought
the swamp monster stayed all night.

I suppose I want the monster too.

I want you, like a banyan grows
around a host tree, a green memory,
and then as the host dies inside
winds tree fingers in a spiral of leathery leaves,
holding the center space hollow.

I am ready to touch the lines of your face.
I am ready as a bicycle
to be stolen.


The Witching Hour by Amanda Brahlek

(A response to Brennan King’s “Rainy Day at Boynton Inlet”)

For Florida fishermen, sunset is “the witching hour.”
It is a superstition: they may not fish.

With a knife gunked and scaled
my brother slices sardines,
then chucks the cloudy-eyed heads
into the waves impasto.
He rests his pole against the transom,
keeps his eyes hooked
on the raw and bleeding sky—
he braces himself, pressing hip
into gunwale, foot into deck.

Waves thump against our hull
like the thrumming of a heart.
The anchor rope holds us steady,
that thin, nylon vein.

Now, we do not fish. We wait. We sit
in our skin pulled tight from salt and sun
as fish pulse below. The sky drains of blue
and the water boils black.

I search the Boynton skyline,
for our pump house tipped red—
our chapel of the inlet churned
blotted out by sea-storm shroud.



Gator at Loxahatchee Wetlands by Mary Galvin

That eye had marked me
Long before I drifted into sight.

That eye clenched me from a time
Long before any I could know.

I clung to a raft drifting into dark water edged
by rushes and saw-toothed grasses rustling

with secretive creatures. Pleased or displeasured
it’s difficult to know. Ahead, in lumpy torpor

an object stretched which seemed and was
not to be a rough hewn log, tossed

across our passage as to dam our way but was
in its coarse reptilian skin intent on turning on us

its evil eye. Frozen in that gaze it was not the first
but certainly the most convincing time

I was certain to but instead would only nearly die.
It turned in its desultory menace and perhaps

this was what offended most, its obscene
insouciance. The way the sunlight glistened

on the surface of its swamp washed skin. Its hunger
impersonal and muted for now.


New Year’s at The Inlet by Jennifer Greenberg

It’s just the way we remembered it,
the temperature and the tones,
the attempt at romance
by the subtle pink accents along the coast.
How could the painter have known?
Down to the very angle of the clouds streaked
toward the blue lined chop of the Atlantic

that New Year’s night you led me
onto Boynton’s barren beach
with a stack of rainbow tissue lanterns
and a tiny, weak Bic in hand,
at which a storm was mocking.

The painter has seen it too,
seen the rain looming in sheets to the North
riding the quickening currents toward the inlet,
that packed humidity into the sand beneath our feet,
made our skinny legs unsteady.

And in that angle of the dimming clouds,
where the sun sank off to the West,
the lights of a shrimp boat gloated
under a blue building fog. That night
we realized love moves a lot like wind.

And what the painter neglected to portray
were the silhouettes of two soggy lovers
flicking sparks out on the lonely sand,
heavy air holding down the lift
of our hands and our lips and our lanterns.


En Plein Air by James Penha

My bike and me, and hue, we’re all pumped
up to travel hill and Dale and Sande beaches
to ‘scape by spokes and strokes to sea and land,
over ridge and bridge, on a rainy Boynton day
or, since Hope does Reiss, roundabout a sunnier
day at a greener cay where, we are reminded,
human beings share this earthen canvas with wolf,
kerry and the gator waiting at the Loxahatchee
for cimarron too easily misled by river bends
and sausage trees midst misty waters from Hobe
to Jobe to Jove and Jupiter and the bright lights
of Ceres. Neither outer planets nor self-portraits
of ruthless kings in smoke-filled rooms can save us
without we sit in the full air, pause
and paint.

Painting Title Reminders:
“Rainy Day at the Boynton Inlet” by Brennan King
“Misty Waters at Riverbend” by Chris Kling
“Sunny Day at Green Cay” by Dale Stryker
“Arts Roundabout” by Hope Reiss
“Gator at Loxahatchee Wetlands” by Kerry Eriksen
“All Pumped Up” by Manon Sander
“Spring Path at Jupiter Ridge” by Ruth Weiss
“Sausage Tree” at Society of the Four Arts by Sheila Wolff


Elizabeth (Betsy) Aoki completed her MFA at the University of Washington. She has received grants/fellowships from the City of Seattle, Artist Trust Foundation, Jackstraw Writers Program and a Hedgebrook residency. Her chapbook, Every Vanish Leaves Its Trace was published by Finishing Line Press. (Honorable Mention)

Amanda Brahlek is an MFA candidate at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, Louisiana. A Florida native, she earned her BA in English at Florida Atlantic University and worked as an English teacher in Greenacres before moving to the bayou. Her work is inspired by art, place, and family. (Honorable Mention)

Mary E. Galvin is Professor of English at Palm Beach State College and advisor for The Creative Writers Alliance. She is the author of Queer Poetics (Greenwood / Praeger), a horror novel, and a memoir. Her poetry has appeared in Southern Women’s Review and East Coast Literary Review. Mary lives in Lake Worth, Florida. (Honorable Mention)

Jennifer Greenberg is a Florida native and self proclaimed tree hugger. She is a Palm Beach State alumni with a history of extra curricular activities in writing and English. Her work has been published in anthologies with The Creative Writers Alliance. She currently resides in Lake Worth with her cat Lucille.”

Meredith Davies Hadaway’s most recent collection is At The Narrows (Word Poetry, 2015). Her poems have recently appeared in Salamander, poemmemoirstory, New Ohio Review and Mantis. She was the 2013-14 Rose O’Neill Writer-in-Residence at Washington College. (Third Place)

Sheila Kelly is a retired psychotherapist from Pittsburgh who writes poems and plays. She leads writing workshops in libraries, art galleries and community centers and loves “non-writers.” Recent poems in The Brentwood Anthology and Voices from the Attic: Volume XX. Sheila lives with her husband, daughter, 2 cats and 8 chickens. (Fifth Place)

Lynne Knight has published four full-length collections and four chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in a number of journals, and her awards include a Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, an NEA grant, and a RATTLE Poetry Prize. She lives in Berkeley, California. (First Place)

Todd Mercer moderates the Writers Squared Series for Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters. His digital chapbook is Life-wish Maintenance (Right Hand Pointing.) His poetry and fiction appear in Apocrypha & Abstractions, The Camel Saloon, Dunes Review, Eunoia Review, Kentucky Review, The Lake, Main Street Rag Anthologies, and Spartan. (Second Place)

Jari Thymian’s poetry has appeared in publications including tinywords, The Pedestal, FRiGG, The Furious Gazelle, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and American Tanka. Her poetry has been nominated for Best of the Web and a Pushcart Prize. She volunteers year-round in state and national parks in the USA. (Fourth Place)

A native New Yorker, James Penha lives in Indonesia. His adaptations of Indonesian folk tales won the Cervena Barva Press fiction chapbook contest. No Bones to Carry, a volume of poetry, won the 2007 New Sins Press Editors’ Choice Award. Penha edits The New Verse News, (Honorable Mention)


Kerry Eriksen (“Gator at Loxahatchee Wetlands”) An oil painter for over 30 years, Eriksen has focused on Colorado and Florida plein air landscapes and seascapes for the past decade. A participant in juried plein air events, Eriksen recently won Best of Show at Loxahatchee Refuge Plein Air Festival.

Brennan King (“Rainy Day at the Boynton Inlet”) Award-winning artist King’s paintings have been featured in Florida museums, the Copley Society of Art and prestigious galleries in Florida and Atlanta. Corporate collectors include Croquet International, West Palm Beach, and Via Mizner, Palm Beach.

Chris Kling (“Misty Waters at Riverbend”) earned a BFA and an art career distinguished by numerous awards for both landscape and portrait work. Kling is a member of the Portrait Society of America as well as other local and national art organizations. She is shows in galleries throughout Florida.

Hope Reis (“Arts Roundabout”) From Connecticut with a degree in Interior Design from FIT in NYC, Reis began painting in oils fifteen years ago upon her move to Florida. It’s the energy and passion that comes from painting from life and her appreciation for beauty that Reis enjoys.

Manon Sander (“All Pumped Up”) painted murals professionally and studied under well-known California painters developing her own style. Her paintings continue to win awards and are in private collections in the US and Europe. Sander also teaches and maintains a studio in Tequesta.

Dale Stryker (“Sunny Day at Green Cay”) Plein air painting offers Stryker the opportunity to explore nature’s color in all its varied light. Working in Florida for more than 30 years, career highlights include awards from the Boca Raton Artists Guild and a Special Merit Award in a Figure in Landscape Competition.

Ruth Palombo Weiss (“Spring Path at Jupiter Ridge”) With a BA in English from Boston University, Weiss continues her 40-year career as a freelance writer who went back to school to study art. To Weiss the most wonderful aspect of art is the opportunity to continue to learn, explore and grow artistically and intellectually.

Sheila Wolff (“’Sausage Tree’ at Society of the Four Arts”) studied portrait and figure painting in NYC and began plein air painting 25 years ago after moving to Florida. Wolff enjoys working to improve her craft and is grateful for the opportunity and joy of being an artist.

Our gratitude to Ralph Papa, Plein Air Palm Beach, who facilitated artist participation in this project. Papa studied art and architecture at Queens College, City College, and the Art Students League. He is a founder of Plein Air Palm Beach, former President of the Boca Guild, and teaches at Delray Center for the Arts and his Delray studio. His work garners many awards.

What is an Ekphrastic Poem?

The poetic tradition of taking inspiration from works of art is “ekphrasis” from the Greek. Ekphrastic Poems may include literal descriptions of a work of art, the poet´s mood in response to a work of art, metaphorical associations inspired by a work of art, or personal memories about a work of art.

What is Plein Air?
The term “plein air” refers to or relates to to painting in outdoor daylight .

Prizes and Publication
First Prize: $100, Second, Third, Fourth Prizes: 4 awards of $25 each,
5 Honorable Mentions. Top 10 entries published online

What is an Ekphrastic Poem?

The poetic tradition of taking inspiration from works of art is “ekphrasis” from the Greek. Ekphrastic Poems may include literal descriptions of a work of art, the poet´s mood in response to a work of art, metaphorical associations inspired by a work of art, or personal memories about a work of art.

What is Plein Air?
The term “plein air” refers to or relates to to painting in outdoor daylight .


“All Pumped Up”
by Manon Sander

“Gator at Loxahatchee Wetlands”
by Kerry Eriksen

“Sausage Tree”
by Sheila Wolf

“Rainy Day
at the Boynton Inlet”

by Brennan King

“Sunny Day at Green Cay”
by Dale Stryker

“Spring Path at Jupiter Ridge”
by Ruth Weiss

“Misty Waters at Riverbend”
by Chris Kling

“Arts Roundabout”
by Hope Reiss