Poetry Society of Vermont
founded in 1947

Summer Contests Poems


These poem are forthcoming in the 2022 The Mountain Troubadour


2021 Audette Award

Joyce Thomas, Judge


Winner: “Seventy-two and feeling like a mixed metaphor” – PH Coleman

Honorable Mention: “Mussels” – Ann Day

Runner-Up (tie): “Yoga of Poetry” – Judith Janoo

                            “Forgetting to Remember” – Marcia Angermann


2021 Barry Award

Sydney Lea, Judge


Winner: “After the Rain” – Sarah Snyder

Honorable Mention: “County Fair” – Steven Cahill

Runner-Up: “Grandpa’s Dairy Farm” – Robyn Peirce


2021 Gleason Awards

Barbara Bald, Judge


Winner: “Sunday Sermon in January” –   Lily Hinrichsen

Honorable Mention: “In This House” – Judith Janoo

Runner-Up (tie): “Without Limits” – Jim (Jimmy Tee) Tomczak

                            “Northeast Kingdom” – Steven Cahill


2021 Goldstein Awards

April Ossmann, Judge


Winner: “Killing Hector” – Cindy Hill

Honorable Mention: “Compassionate Friends: Worldwide Candle Lighting” – David Mook

Runner-Up: “Generation Gap” – Carol Milkuhn

2021 Spooner Awards

Via D’Agostino, Judge


Winner: “Note to Self” – Robyn Peirce               

Honorable Mention: “In the Afterglow” – Frank Murphy

Runner-Up: “Mount Equinox” – Wilms Johnson


2021 White Award

Jimmy Pappas, Judge


Winner: “In the Butterfly Pavilion” – Sarah Snyder

Honorable Mention: “Time” – Judith Janoo


Contest Chairs: Philip Coleman and Ann B. Day



Judge: Judith Yarnall





I hope there is a special place in hell,

a place where flames and shriekings pierce the night,

for him who first thought up the villanelle.


That he was male’s not difficult to tell,

creating rules as if it was his right—

there needs to be a special place in hell.


I see him in a cold monastic cell,

no windows letting in the wintry light,

the day he first thought up the villanelle.


Deservedly, with Gilles de Rais as well

as Nero, Vlad Impaler, none contrite,

he suffers in that frightful place in hell.


My poems’ forms I never can foretell

not rules or rhymes, just rhythm as I write,

ignoring him who made the villanelle.


And yet the form for years has cast a spell.

I’ve written this, and yes, with some delight.

Yet hope that in a special place in hell

dwells he who first thought up the villanelle.


Ann E. Cooper, First Place






Crackers, mustard, tuna cans,

what will I eat tomorrow?

Piles of sand, some starfish and

whatever I can borrow.


Seas come sliding slip me out

with every ripple ringing,

cirrocumuli about

and all the seagulls singing.


Borne aloft by butterflies

on palanquin of teasel,

settled on a mossy rise

and greeted there by squeasels.


In this land no winter clings

and egrets preen among us,

dogs have wings, and golden rings

are worth their weight in fungus.


No kings to be bothersome

or charlatans to guide us.

Gardens grow germaniums

of flotsam and detritus.


Alabaster macaroons

with whirling whortleberry,

afternoons of pork and prunes

—and ne’er a dictionary—


Sam Hewitt, Honorable Mention





Judge: Sarah Audsley





Beside the road the mutilated trees,
So common now, no longer horrify.
Truncated limbs loom stark against the sky,
Enclosing cables like parentheses;
Poles soaked in creosote, like crosses, squeeze
Among oaks and lindens—solely to supply
(Despite the beauty sacrificed thereby)
Light bulbs, wifi, and wide-screen TVs.
Though we may lack the power to resurrect
Our once-prodigious chestnuts, ashes, elms,
These trees reveal potential in their girth
For reaching up to merge in higher realms—
If we’d allow their growth to rise unchecked
With cables buried deep beneath the earth.

Marta Finch, Winner





No sap house to build

No buckets to lug

No holding tanks

Evaporators, or

expensive paraphernalia


Ingenious ways

To collect and boil down sap

Without spending any money

Right in your backyard!


First grab a…

dozen cement blocks

dozen gallon milk cartons

hotel-sized lasagna pan


Then drive one tap

Into a tree

Per quart you want

Tap ‘em in good!


Save up coffee cans

For your liquid gold

(no challenge for a poet)


A cord of firewood

Boils down ten gallons

(get your neighbor to gather that).


Michael Farrand, Honorable Mention





Judge: Jack T. Hitchner





Days begin and end in darkness

Snow blows against time and rattles window panes

Echoes calling from lost distant voices


As silence shouts at empty kitchen chairs

Cold doubt drifts in through cracked door frames

Wind whips and whispers faint heckling laughter


The old wood stove smiles and snaps

Soothing embers glow with burning memories

The woodpile reminds us how long till spring


Elizabeth McCarthy, Winner






“It was dark inside the Wolf”

Native Americans call it death

No end date, no pass through


The hungry Wolf arrives

Travels unseen to your bedside

Last breath sung to spring flowers

Ashes float down the creek

Where is your Soul?

I ponder the night sky

Seek the dancing star

You are there


Sandra Gartner, Honorable Mention





Judge: Carl Mabbs-Zeno

87 (on a bench at Walmart)  

Your children are gardeners

they have learned to count days in inches of rain.

Sun-hot scorn, then a cool breath of love.

back and forth, it was a cruel pendulum,


fire-polishing our hearts to seal in hope.

Ask your children and theirs the color of

their blood. Even now, they cannot say.


Our birthdays should all be in springtime.

Up here in the north, March peels off the

blanket of winter, and we see what we lost

in the fall, and what moles left of the lawn.


Patches of mud and grass, and the foolish

crocuses are our makeshift celebration of

all that kind nature has decided to leave us.


What’s left here with you? Time, space, and

enough breath to separate them. Watery eyes,

a fiery mind, the volumes of pictures holding

all the truth and lies you love. And us, your


presents. Those that will keep. Pretend your

birthday is in the spring. Feel that cold rain

that has fed all our lifetimes with you.


Philip Coleman, Winner





You saw the Conquest as divinely ordained,

glorified the French fleet as it left Normandy

by outlining single-mast ships, long and narrow,

perched on waves of stem stitch, a favorable sea.


And at dusk you left your needles and unused yarns

for a supper of pottage, bread and home-brewed mead,

and, adored or abused by battle-hardened husbands,

found happiness or not, as chance and luck decreed.


Yet each morning you picked up those threads again,

wove wools at right angles to heighten design,

emblazoning the canvas with Halley’s Comet,

an awe-inspiring star, seen once in a lifetime.


Watched the tapestry grow, a frieze give birth to dogs,

a cavalcade of horses, griffins and centaurs-- 

worked huddled over fires in smoke-filled halls,

quitting only at dusk, when you could see no more.


Immortalized a battle, the havoc at Hastings,

then put down your needles, surveyed your creation-- 

all two hundred yards of thread-encrusted linen—

and knew you were artists—a wondrous revelation.


Carol Milkuhn, Honorable Mention





Judge: Kyle Potvin




how lovely

the landscape of

your body



not one drop

of Helen courses


through your

riverbeds the

soft dense forests


of Kythera

or the twittering

sparrows mating in


the currents of

your sweet breath

carving soft valleys


still your hands

magnetic springe

snare quickly


the pigeon

of my heart and

split its breast


Philip Coleman, Winner




PARSON’S BENCH                       


Harsh April, we stroll, arms around each other.        

Rain threatens the dynamic beach. Monochromatic: 

clouds, water, rocks, and sand share sundry shades

of gray, except a white streak in the somber

cloud cover echoes the foaming surf, whose briny                

tang laces our noses. The waves relentless rumble

against the beach like a kettledrum, mesmerize us

as layer after layer collapses, dissolves.

Two surfers in wet suits bob in the breakers, waiting.            ?

Gulls scurry over hard smooth low tide sand,

bodies rigid in a floating dance step,

lift off and chandelle inland with wailing cries.

Far out a swarm of gulls swoop down upon

a school of fish like hussars; feed voraciously.

The looming storm’s churning energy quickens.


We lean together against the biting wind

as the first drops send us scurrying to the village.

We reach the espresso bar quite soaked, laughing,

shed our wet coats, sit by a window, chase

our chill with lattes, watching heavy rain

splash the sidewalks, washing them clean and shiny.

We finish our cups; her smile suggests we go            

to our bed in the inn across the street.  

Marshall Witten, Honorable Mention




Judge: David Mook




Quito at zero, I carefully balance

an egg on the point of its nose.

I hold a basin on that narrow line,

the water drains straight down.

One step north it swirls counter clockwise;

one step south it flows forward clockwise.


Careless, we fail to realize how precariously

balanced are custom and courtesy habits,

those simply tipped and loosened bonds,

by thoughtless, feckless, fellow citizens –

sanction easy serial acceptance of lying,

flouting the law, corruption, sowing hatred.


The zero line is invisible and thin.

Painlessly crossed, its torque caught,

often unaware, spins us backward.

We need to be alert to where we are

and pivot to stability, away

from unthreading those invisible bonds.


How narrow is that line, that wall.                

How easy is the egg to fall.


Marshall Witten, Winner






in equations strangely odd,

to probe the universe's plan,

to learn the mind of God.

A lowly clerk, his brilliance

saw trains approach the speed of light,

time slow down and then stand still,

mass approach the infinite.

In "E equals mc squared,"  

energy is mass set free;

there is cosmic elegance

in Quantum, Relativity.

Buddha, Allah, Shiva’s dance

and Quark -- each becomes the Word

but not more than Lion's roar

or the mating song of Bird.

In comets and in Shakespeare's plays

the light of life is glowing,

in wind as in arias

the breath of Buddha flowing.

Holy are the sun and moon

and the signs of life on Mars;

the galaxy is sacred

and the birth and death of stars.


Lorna Cheriton, Honorable Mention