Thank you everybody who entered this year's contest! Your entries provide much needed support to the Hyla Brook Poets and the Trustees fo the Robert Frost Farm in their mission to promote the teaching and writing of metrical poetry--the kind of poetry Frost wrote. Below is the 2018 prize announcement:
Susan de Sola Wins 8th Annual Frost Farm Prize
May 21, 2018, DERRY, NH -- The Trustees of the Robert Frost Farm in Derry, NH, and the Hyla Brook Poets today announced that the winner of the 8th Annual Frost Farm Prize for metrical poetry is Susan de Sola, an American poet living in the Netherlands, for her blank verse poem, "Buddy."
The prize was judged by Melissa Balmain, editor of Light, America's premier journal of light verse, and a winner of the Able Muse Book Award. She read all 1,123 anonymous entries and said, “I've never seen better proof that metrical verse is alive and vital. The entries vary enormously in rhythm, form, subject, and mood. Many are so well written that choosing a winner and finalists kept me awake several nights in a row. I thank every one of the poets for the privilege of reading their work.”
de Sola receives $1,000, and will be a featured reader at The Hyla Brook Reading Series at the Robert Frost Farm in Derry, NH, on Friday, June 15, 2018, 7:00pm. The reading kicks off the 4th Annual Frost Farm Poetry Conference (June 15-17, 2018).
About the winning poem, Balmain said, "’Buddy’ manages to squeeze a novel into 81 lines. It's the rich, touching story of a friendship between a young woman and man from disparate backgrounds, seasoned with the woman's later realizations and regrets. Susan de Sola tells that story with great wit. She deftly layers details that reveal character, circumstance, and the social codes of an era. On top of all this, she makes her language and her loose iambic pentameter sound completely natural—no mean feat, as any writer of blank verse knows. I'm delighted that, thanks to the Frost Farm, many more readers will get to fall under ‘Buddy’s’ spell.”
de Sola’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming at The Hudson Review, The Hopkins Review, PN Review, The Dark Horse and the Birmingham Poetry Review, among many other publications and anthologies, including Best American Poetry 2018. She is a past recipient of the David Reid Poetry Translation Prize. Originally from New York, she holds a PhD from The Johns Hopkins University, and is the author of numerous critical essays, book chapters, and the photographic chapbook Little Blue Man (Seabiscuit Press). She will be a Poet in Residence at the forthcoming West Chester Poetry Conference and is an Assistant Poetry Editor at the journal Able Muse. de Sola has recently completed her first full-length poetry manuscript.
"It is a great honor to be acknowledged in the Frost Farm Prize competition,” said de Sola. “As is true for many Americans, Robert Frost was one of the first poets I encountered as a child, and my love for his work has deepened over the years. I greatly look forward to visiting the Frost Farm, long a fond hope, and participating in the Summer Conference."
In addition to selecting the winner, Balmain chose two poems as Finalists:
"Ash Wednesday Lament" by Marion Avrilyn Jones of Fairbanks, Alaska
"To the End of Efficiency" by Eric Berlin of Baldwinsville, NY
Marion Avrilyn Jones lives in Fairbanks, Alaska, with her husband, Dixon, and their cat, Bug. She holds an MA in English from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Her poems have appeared in Ice Floe: International Poetry of the Far North and Cirque: A Literary Journal for Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.
Eric Berlin’s poems have been awarded the University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor’s International Poetry Prize, Bradford on Avon Poetry Prize, National Poetry Prize and The Ledge Poetry Prize, and were finalists for the Manchester Poetry Prize, Ruth Stone Prize, and Allen Ginsberg Award, among others. He has been granted residencies at Vermont Studio Center, Art Farm, and Constance Saltonstall Foundation, and his poems have appeared in journals such as Hunger Mountain, North American Review, Jewish Currents, The Poetry Review, The Rialto and The White Review. Assistant Editor for The Cortland Review, he lives near Syracuse, New York, where he teaches courses like The Poetics of Stand-up, Ear Training for Poets, and The Poetics of Prayer.
The Winning Poem (posted with the gracious permission of Susan de Sola):
Buddy had loved me long, but from afar.
We never even kissed. His job was cool,
projectionist at the makeshift movie-house
we had in our sandy, summer island village,
collecting reels by wagon dockside, barefoot
like all of us, to play them from the booth.
A self-described “kraut-mick” among the cultured
Upper West Side Jews, he’d smoke some weed
while spools unrolled, his perch a sweetened pot-
head’s den, eye level with projector-beam.
July of Fonda’s Julia; “Jason’s” screams,
a rich aroma of weed caught in his beard—
a fun ascent, to see the movies bent.
I never took his thing for me for real.
I think for Buddy stoned was steady-state
and being straight became like being high.
He said sharp things that made me laugh and wince.
The finest points of girls I knew he labeled
“bodacious tatas,” “tiny hineys” or worse.
He’d lead his blonde-haired collie up the stairs.
(Like all the dogs he’d owned he named her Christy.)
Then high up on the roof we’d sit and talk
and watch the sun spill pink across the bay.
Next spring, hearing that I was newly single,
he surprised me in my dorm, at posh Bryn Mawr.
He’d travelled all that way by motorbike.
He caused a stir. Not knowing what to do,
I took him to the cafeteria,
big Bud absurd with pint of milk and tray,
and slight young preppy fellows gathered round.
One said to me: “I like him. He reminds me
of guys I used to work with, building, summers.”
Our small buzz of celebrity. We went
to town en masse for pool and dollar beers.
Tall, side-burned Bud in checks and biker leather,
the sum and magnet of our bourgeois dread,
but there was something wholesome to him always.
He slept on my best girlfriend’s floor, without
complaint. I realize now he’d hoped for more.
I didn’t think about the miles he’d traveled,
his long-held dream deferred, or aim… busted.
Then one July he met my wilder sister,
gestured at me and said to her, “I’ve been
in love with Suze, this woman here, for years”—
and then he bedded her instead. She was
perhaps a bit more than he’d bargained for…
“I won’t touch that wild cat again,” he said.
Next day, he seemed worn-out and quite undone.
In August, he deflowered a friend of mine,
she dying to be unburdened, then ashamed
that it was Buddy—Buddy!— who’d been her first.
Then Grandma passed away, and I lost touch—
the place no longer mine. In later years,
I went back once, with husband, kids, and sank
in memory. I saw Bud there in town,
where you see everyone in local bars.
Still bearded, but now trim and clean in linen
shirt and cool white jeans, he looked quite well.
We drank some whiskey-sours; he filled me in.
He’d married and was happy, risen to
a Fire Department Captain in the city.
Like many boys, he’d dreamed of fighting fires.
“But me, I guess I never grew up,” he grinned.
Some years went by. I heard he’d died, a heedless
mix of medicine and nightly drink.
Died in his chair, still upright, not yet forty.
He’d always liked his substances. He’d claimed
that they “enhanced” his life. What had he needed
in grown-up years after the youthful weed?
A drink or two each night no matter what?
How strange that some small pill had felled my friend,
one strong enough to hoist up hose and ladder,
to carry men through flame, to breathe through smoke.
Chivalric Buddy, unafraid of fire,
yet quenched in liquor, his exit sudden, unplanned.
I recall his kindness, tilted nose, the mystery
that was his face (like many bearded men),
his soft blue eyes, the big and solid frame.
I wonder now, what was his name—his real name?
I wish that I had asked him. I would ask
him now: Buddy, tell me, what’s your name?
Previous Prize Winners:
2017 Caitlin Doyle of Cincinnati, Ohio, for "Wishes" --Judge Deborah Warren
2016 James Najarien of Auburndale, Massachussets for "Dark Ages" -- Judge David Rothman
2015 Kevin Durkin of Santa Monica, California for "Meteor Crater" - Judge Joshua Mehigan
2014 Rob Wright of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for "Meetings with my Father" - Judge Rhina Espaillat
2013 Caki Wilkinson of Sewanee, Tennessee, for "Arts and Crafts" - Judge Catherine Tufariello
2012 Richard Meyer of Mankato, Minnesota, for, "Fieldstone" - Judge Richard Wakefield
2011 Sharon Fish Mooney of Coshocton, Ohio for "Dimly Burning Wicks" - Judge Bill Baer
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About the Frost Farm’s Hyla Brook Poets
The Frost Farm was home to the poet and his family from 1900-1909. The Hyla Brook Poets, a 501(c)(3), started in 2008 as a monthly poetry workshop. In March 2009, the Hyla Brook Reading Series launched with readings by emerging poets as well as luminaries such as Maxine Kumin, David Ferry, Linda Pastan, and Sharon Olds. The Frost Farm Prize was introduced in 2010, followed by the inaugural Frost Farm Poetry Conference in 2015.