2013 Poetry Contest Winner
Poetry Contest Judge Rebecca Gayle Howell writes of Catherine Carter's winning poem: “Here is a poem to conjure the ancient ocean that once was our place. The ghost of ship and sail, the ghost of forests, alive and well, the ridge. What of us will stand against these winds that boom, these true bugs that suck all the sustenance we have left? I do not know. To this poem, this elegy, I am grateful for its tender, visionary challenge that requires me to ask the question and to pray.”
When the big winds boomed and
roared from peak to ridge,
the balsams bore them like anchored sloops
or wherries, broad in root
and beam, single tall masts
unseen in the strain
of the rushing black sails set full.
Whole mountainsides, those deep
battering nights, leaned and bent
and groaned in those winds,
fir needles flung like spray.
There’s always a worm in the hold.
Usually it’s tiny, nothing you’d think
could ever unstep the tall sails,
sink those vast fleets.
These are white as foam
frost for Christmas trees.
Like the shipworm they’ve gnawed
home to a haunted shell. Sails rotted
away, the masts show now,
forests of bare poles, ghost
fleets leaning over streams clear
as acid, too shallow for any keel.
Born on the eastern shore of Maryland and raised there by wolves and vultures, Catherine Carter now lives with her husband in Cullowhee, near Western Carolina University, where she teaches in and coordinates the English education program. Her new book is The Swamp Monster at Home (LSU, 2012); her first full-length collection, The Memory of Gills (LSU, 2006) received the 2007 Roanoke-Chowan Award from the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association; her poem “Toast” won the 2009 North Carolina Writer’s Network Randall Jarrell award. Her work has also appeared in Best American Poetry 2009, Orion, Poetry, North Carolina Literary Review, and Ploughshares, among others.