Literature is a state of culture. Poetry is a state of grace, before and after culture. – Juan Ramon Jimenez
Our second annual Coniston Prize issue celebrates the work of a new winner and our four finalists. We are proud to feature the work of fine women poets.
Our winner, chosen by award-winning poet Lynn Emanuel, is Alexandra Lytton Regalado. Her poems – placed in El Salvador and concerning the lives of ordinary people as they go about their days – are as arresting as they are elegant. A native of El Salvador herself, Regalado has found a way to make her short lines of poetry feel like long lines of prose. Each poem reads like the chapter of a book. Characters come to life, scenery changes, and plot moves forward at a breathless pace. These poems are electric.
Finalist Nicole Greaves draws her narratives with the precision of a fine-tip pen. Each of her six poems contains unforgettable moments in which the poet sees ordinary events through an unexpected lens: "a knitted sweater is a series of portholes," and a baby grows "no larger than a grain of rice/ puffed from the heat." These poems are detailed, intricate, subtle, with intense attention to craft.
Finalist Charlotte Holmes has chosen historically fraught material – but here, the subject matter is in service of the poems, not vice versa. Holmes inhabits her characters fully, distilling a complex story by rendering careful, crystalline details. She zeroes in on images like "the stray dog looped around a nest of frozen pups." Each of these poems becomes a well-conceived portrait.
In her "Border Crossing" poems, Beth Marzoni is courageous and relentless in the search to understand the other. We admire the many ways she finds to express profound empathy in her work. Here are just a few of her lines: "I can hear each If only./ It’s unavoidable:// alone on that plateau/ coming from god knows// where to that terrace,/ to where the air prays// to be broken into/ & rummaged."
Nicole Santalucia's group of poems live in rural Pennsylvania. In this series, the history of the place in which the poems tell their stories becomes as much a character as the people. All this is handled with sophistication, a meticulous balance of humor and earnestness. There are moments here of dark comedy and of tender sincerity. Santalucia incorporates shifts in tempo and imagery that keep us intentionally off-kilter, like the strange and striking image of "a man pushing a tin baby/ in a canopy stroller, and a boysenberry bush in bloom."
Now that we have recognized those poets whose work appears in this prize issue, we’d like to tip our hats to all of those who sent their submissions for this year’s prize competition. We were not only surprised by the sheer number of submissions we received, but also by the high quality of the work. Poetry is alive and well. We have seen this for ourselves many times, but we still like to be reminded! So here’s to all of you poets. Thank you for writing, thank you for sharing, and thank you for deeming Radar Poetry a worthy venue for your work.
Finally, special thanks to musician Shannon Wise for her help in selecting artwork for some of these poems.
Happy reading. Happy fall.
Rachel Marie Patterson and Dara-Lyn Shrager, Editors