Tuesday, August 11, 2020

First Place, Sanford Goldstein International Tanka Contest


plague-year parsnips 

browned in butter—

the flavor

of my mother’s victory garden

in another sort of war

First Place, Sanford Goldstein International Tanka Contest 2020

The Judges' Comments:

In five concise lines, this tanka addresses the harshness of this plague year while resisting the temptation to be maudlin. The result is a poem that conveys the everydayness of the struggle to survive Covid-19 in a powerfully understated way. Comparing a contemporary pandemic garden to a World War II victory garden underscores the historical similarities and differences between both times, while sensory details summarized by “parsnips/browned in butter” and the use of alliteration point to a simple act of survival that, despite everything, imbues the poem with an underlying sense of hopefulness. —Margaret Dornaus

The use of the expression “plague-year” crystallizes the horror of this unprecedented crisis, juxtaposed with a seemingly everyday and homely experience. When the poet’s mother planted her victory garden, there would have been just as much uncertainty as we feel now—yet still there was hope—the stuff that binds us together. The parsnip’s extensive root system, which holds it in the sustaining earth, makes this an even stronger image. The fact that the “Forces Sweetheart” Vera Lynn died during the Covid-19 pandemic makes this tanka all the more bittersweet. —Claire Everett

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