Congratulations to Kari Gunter-Seymour of Athens, Ohio, on winning first place in the 2018 poetry contest with her poem "The Weeds In This Garden"

Poetry contest judge Ciona Rouse writes of Kari's work: 

This poem is earthy and rich, like the soil so deeply characteristic of this region. I feel the tension of these "tangled roots" beneath the soles of my feet, but we wrestle with these existential roots in our heads and hearts and in more ethereal ways. The author takes us outside and indoors, into the world and into our bodies and minds. The speaker's voice embodies so much strength and confidence: "I kept my eyes open" and "Whatever you call me, I have called / myself worse, invented words made up / of letters from my own name." So much fire! This strength pronounces itself even more with the litany of the question "Who hasn't . . ." I love the way the speaker seems willing to stand on her own while also acknowledging this feeling, this experience is not hers alone. These days, who isn't trying to identify the weeds? Who isn't wondering what will survive and thrive?

The Weeds In This Garden by Kari Gunter-Seymour

Winner, 2018 Poetry Contest

shoot up like false rhubarb, 
every wisp, stem and sodden pith 
a testament.

Long ago, I built a self outside myself. 
I ate what my family ate, answered 
to my name, but when they said let us pray
I kept my eyes open. 

There is a price to be paid for resistance. 
Whatever you call me, I have called 
myself worse, invented words made up 
of letters from my own name.

Now the backs of my hands, all bone 
and strain, I think cannot be mine.
Who hasn’t killed herself at least once, 
only to grow into someone more needy? 

Head full of tattered lore and sounds 
that rise from red clay dust, every hoarse 
whisper making its way into her body, 
the exactness of truth unwieldy.

Who hasn’t bent with her wounds, 
to a mutinous patch, scratched 
at the question of what it means to be here, 
taunted by a scourge of tangled roots?

Twice a Pushcart nominee, Kari Gunter-Seymour’s chapbook Serving was chosen runner up in the 2016 Yellow Chair Review Annual Chapbook Contest and published by Crisis Chronicles Press. Her poems can be found in various journals – Stirring, Main Street Rag, Rattle, The LA Times – as well as on her website. She holds a BFA in graphic design, an MA in commercial photography and is an Instructor in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. She is Poet Laureate for Athens, Ohio.

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