Spirit First

Spirit First announces 2017 Poetry Contest Winners

We are pleased to announce the winning entries for our eighth annual Spirit First Meditation Poetry Contest. We received many wonderful poems from 48 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and 25 foreign nations. Thank you to all who participated - please know that we appreciate every poet, every poem. Your writing on the themes of meditation and mindfulness is important to the world, and what a great work it was to select winners from so many beautiful words. Very special thanks to our team of judges for all of your efforts to select the winners. Congratulations to our winning poets!

First-Place Winner: At the Middle School Concert by Jennifer L. Freed

Jennifer Freed

Jennifer L. Freed's work has appeared or is forthcoming in literary journals and anthologies including Amsterdam Quarterly, the Common Ground Review, The Worcester Review, and Forgotten Women: A Tribute in Poetry; in the medical journals JAMA and Chest; and in a chapbook, These Hands Still Holding, a finalist for the 2013 New Woman's Voices prize. Years ago (before husband, before children), she taught English in China and in then - Czechoslovakia. She now lives with husband and children in Massachusetts. Her website is jfreed.weebly.com.

At the Middle School Concert
by Jennifer L. Freed

The seventh grade band squeaks
through its festive repertoire,
and the harried day is still wound tight
along my spine.
I am checking the time,
thinking about the sixth grade chorus
and the eighth grade strings
still waiting to play,
thinking about the list of To-Do
I have not yet done,
when, from the stage,
or the air, or the whisper
of another mother passing near,
comes the sense
of being

All at once I see
how the small boy beating the drums
How the boy on trombone wears neon
green socks beneath his khaki slacks.
How the girl with gold satin shoes
and sparkling pink tulle
waves as she raises her flute.
Another girl clicks her high heels like Dorothy.
The band teacher waves his baton
and bounces with verve.
Every note is brimming
with gorgeous imperfection.
We are held, all
of us, in the light
of this

Second-Place Winner: Healing by Lawrence Kessenich

Lawrence Kessenich

Lawrence Kessenich, who has practiced Transcendental Meditation almost continuously since 1971, won the Strokestown International Poetry Prize in 2010. His poetry has been published in Sewanee Review, Atlanta Review, Poetry Ireland Review, and many other magazines. He has a poetry chapbook, Strange News, and two full-length poetry books, Before Whose Glory and Age of Wonders. Kessenich has also published essays; he had short plays produced at festivals in Boston, New York and Durango, Colorado; and his first novel, Cinnamon Girl, was published in September 2016. His website is www.lawrence-writer.com.

by Lawrence Kessenich

Tasting stillness and knowing that it was medicine.
                        - Roshi Joan Halifax

What we call stillness may be composed of
sea bird calls, waves shushing across sand,
the almost audible sparks of light dancing
on water. Even in the deepest stillness,
the heart beats, blood whooshes through the ears,
joints click as the limbs make small movements.

The still are steady as the earth on its axis,
their stillness a way of being, of interacting
with the world. Like a gyroscope balanced
on a string, a dervish spinning on a mountaintop,
an angel dancing on the head of a pin.

And what is healing but the restoration
of balance, that which is out of sorts sorting
itself out? When one tastes stillness, like warm
sweet milk settling the stomach, all that has
been troubling, disturbing, all that has made
one feel sick gently dissipates, and all

that's left is being.

Third-Place Winner: If by Pat Wadsworth

Pat Wadsworth

Pat Wadsworth has been writing poems and stories, and keeping journals, since she learned to read and write. Writing about the joy, sorrow, beauty, and wonder of life is her way of staying balanced in good times and sane in bad ones. After retiring from a twenty-four year career working with high-risk youth and their families, Pat enrolled in writing classes at her local community college. Encouraged by teachers, friends, and family members to submit her work for publication, she took the plunge. Her poetry has appeared in Mind Magazine, The Voices Project, The Blue Heron Review, and Sliver of Stone.

by Pat Wadsworth

if we look closely
into each other's eyes
we will see tiny magic mirrors

if we listen closely to other voices
with open hearts
we will hear echoes

and, if we reach out
with loving hands
we will touch ourselves

with holiness

Editor's Choice Award: The Humble Do Not Fear Failure by Liz Dolan

Liz Dolan

Liz Dolan's first poetry collection, They Abide, was nominated for The Robert McGovern Prize, Ashland University. Her second, A Secret of Long Life, nominated for a Pushcart, has been published by Cave Moon Press. A nine-time Pushcart nominee and winner of Best of the Web, she was a finalist for Best of the Net 2014. She won The Nassau Prize for Nonfiction, 2011, and the same prize for fiction, 2015.

The Humble Do Not Fear Failure
by Liz Dolan

and I'm still
waiting for the amaryllis
on the sill to bloom
as it did last winter.

Another slender green stem
sprouts. Lovely so!
But not the golden goblet
of last year's frosty gloom.

I've sprinkled stardust,
chanted psalms,
danced fandangos.

I've entreated
whoever/whatever will listen.

I've even worshiped turtles, frogs, lit candles to tarantulas.

But the red-winged seraphs guffaw
clutch their sides
laugh at my pleas. "Stay on your knees," they say.

What I force always fails.

Too late I've learned
to wait.

Special Category Award -- Haiku: paper lanterns a haiku by David Monteith

David Montieth

David Monteith is a former high school teacher - he lived and taught in San Antonio for nearly 20 years. Now he lives in Little Rock, Arkansas, where he is a journalist, a dog sitter, a facilitator, an Iyengar yoga practitioner, and a writer. He also runs an Etsy shop (Ex Libris Novum) where he sells earrings he makes out of comic book word bubbles. He loves playing with words. He's written three children's stories that haven't yet found a home. Last year he won a Banned Book Week writing contest with a story written in the style of 1001 Arabian Nights. "Paper Lanterns" is his first published poem.

paper lanterns
a haiku by David Monteith

Breathe, then place your thoughts
like paper lanterns on the
river of your breath

Mindfulness Meditation - Spirit First

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