Poetry Society of Vermont
founded in 1947


1st Place So many ways to die             Cindy Hill

2nd Place Salamander                          Marta Rijn Finch

3rd Place At the Minimart on Rte. 31  Brooke Herter James

4th Place Hearts and Hummingbirds   George Longenecker

5th Place Over Cunningham Pond       Ann Day

These poems will be published in the 2022 Mountain Troubadour, and will appear here later this year.



As with the Spring Workshop, the Fall Workshop was cancelled due to the

pandemic. PSOV members to submitted poems for a popular

vote. Here are the winners as published in The Mountain Troubadour.




In good times, we were mystified by past

atrocities: marauding hordes, slave-traders—

described at length in history books. Aghast,

we read of carnage, of heretics, crusaders;

of witches burned, and many thousands hung

from castle walls—all in the name of God.

But unaware the pendulum had swung,

far removed from the last known death squad,

our guard was down. Thinking ourselves immune,

we fought for decades for all who were oppressed.

Our recent leader, self-proclaimed tycoon,

sought out the worst to replace what was best—

defaming long-held saints he viewed as sinners,

proclaiming all was false that we knew true.

In hindsight, those once pitied may be winners,

who plunged from flaming towers, or those who,

due perhaps to a weaker constitution,

died from plague—to be spared the revolution.


Marta Rijn Finch, First Place tie



We watched a fox and vixen court in woods

on a snowy knoll. They wore rich russet coats,

white-tipped tails and white vests, leapt stone walls

and fresh-fallen logs in their black boots, engaged

in intricate, extended, intimately-patterned dances:

they circled slowly, slipping under branches,

then rested together, then apart, resumed

their frolic—racing, playing tag around

stumps, trotting delicately, patiently building trust.

Their graceful gambol slowly flowed from sight.


Marshall Witten, First Place tie



after ache of night

bare limbs at the

edge of human warmth

beeches holding

bronze teardrops

beneath a feathered sky,

birches born on

granite ledges, salvaged clumps

of earth, crumbled stone

where ravens nest

and hawks whistle, wings

tucked in.

Yes, there will be singing

though forests groan,


the chick-a-dee cruises close

to home, black-capped,


as dandelion spores,

puffs of seed-song

a dee-dee.

Feel the world’s arms

at your window

bringing you outside


to fill the feeder

from an old crunched can.


Judith Janoo, Second Place tie




A river’s flow to the ocean cannot

be stopped any more than the tides,

any more than humanity

can be stopped in its relentless flow—

as it has for millenniums

across oceans and continents.

There may be fences and walls,

but they can barely slow the tide—

those who escape, who yearn for better places.

The tide will not cease,

any more than a robin in migration,

any more than whales who swim seas.

A child on a beach looks across the strait,

picks up a cockle shell

and a black stone worn smooth by oceans.

Seas and walls cannot slow the tide,

of those who come with their children,

of those who work at whatever they must—

bricks, bagels, lumber, paint, microscopes, books—

in laundries, hotel rooms, restaurants, labs, hospitals, classrooms.

The flow of humanity has never been stopped for long,

by walls built of bigotry and zealotry.

We have all been refugees,

have all been migrants who crossed seas.


George Longenecker, Second Place tie




I will never blow away in winds

from any side, down any streets.

I will stay wrapped firm about you,

soft scarf around your silken neck.

No swirling blue maw of waters

shall suck me out of sight of you:

I will make the ocean remake me,

condense in your ears, and sing.

The umber earth will push back up,

disallowing any of its rocks to part.

I will melt and mold them into hands

to cradle the aliment of your evening.

Hold onto these things, just till now.

Though a candle fills this dark room,

the softest breath trembles the walls.

Douse the light. Still my scent lingers.


P. H. Coleman, Third Place tie



How does one define absence?

Yeah, yeah, I know - the death of a loved one.

That is an absence.

But what words define it if absence is nothing?

Dark, blackness, blind, endless space,

cannot feel, touch, or hear - empty?

How can I make it, shape it?

There is no shape - there’s only

memories of shape.

But no, that’s not it ...

is absence simply death?

Since we do not know

what’s behind death’s door,

maybe there is no absence,

maybe there’s only change.

Perhaps the essence of anyone or anything

... in absence ...

is to become what we call—



Janet Hayward Burnham, Third Place tie



My father holds up a fistful of earth

lets it trickle out between his fingers.

They make more people every day, he says.

But they’ll never make another acre.

He’s showing me around the old homestead

explaining how in the great depression

when garden harvests could mean survival

subsistence farming was a way of life.

The laid-up stone walls of the cellar hole

contain the ashes of a wood-frame house

while two old wagon wheels with broken spokes

guard the charred remains of a livestock barn.

My father remembers the garden plot

beans and peas, tomatoes, cucumber beds

points out places where his father’s father

planted root crops for their family table.

Land sustained us, he says. It always will.

It’s the last thing of value that remains.

He sifts through another handful of earth.

And it always takes us back in the end.


S. J. Cahill Third Place tie