2018 Riley Festival Written Poetry Contest Winner!

I am excited to share that I recently won first place in the Riley Festival Written Poetry Contest!

If you are not aware, the Riley Festival is a local arts/crafts/poetry/music festival that celebrates the birthday, life, and legacy of local poet James Whitcomb Riley. Known as “the Hoosier poet,” he is famous for poems such as “Little Orphant Annie” and “The Raggedy Man.”

James Whitcomb Riley, circa 1913. Copyrighted by Moffett, Chicago. Link.

The festival, affectionately called “Riley Days” by the locals, includes shutting down several major streets in the historic downtown area and setting up booths where local vendors can sell goodies that often include homemade crafts, antiques, baked goods, toys, and clothing. The festival also includes a fine arts gallery that awards prizes for photography, cooking, painting, quilting, and other needle-crafts. There’s also an entertainment tent (or two) with several performers varying in fame and style.

In recent years festival organizers have also tried to stay true to the origin of the festival by promoting poetry events such as open mic nights and a poetry slam. The written poetry contest, however, goes back to the early happenings of the festival (or, at least, it was still a prominent part of the festival when I was in elementary school — and before poetry was a thing I did seriously). The contest is divided by age/grade with winners in each age group.

Each year has a theme, which is always a poem of Riley’s, and this year the theme was his work “Out to Old Aunt Mary’s.” All poems in the contest have to somehow relate to the theme.

You can read the poem here, or, as a special treat, listen to Riley read it himself.

My poem was titled “Wishful Thinking” — a nod to the tone of innocence and freedom Riley writes about (and my struggle to relate to it). Honestly, I was a little surprised my angsty poem did so well.

Of course, another exciting thing is that the winner receives actual prize money, so this is one of the few poems I’ve actually profited from!

You can see the announcement of all the winners (including yours truly), in this article. According to the contest, publishing first rights are granted to the media, so if/when I get the ability to share or post the poem I will certainly do so!

His Heart

Composed 5/12/13

Description: I recently stumbled across another poetry contest that really sparked my interest with its prompt. The post described a study that found that “twenty-three words still in use today have survived mostly unchanged from the end of the last ice age.” The blogger then went onto list these words: I, we, thou, ye, who, this, that, what, mother, male/man, not, old, black, worm, bark, hand, ashes, fire, to give, to pull, to spit, to flow, and to hear. The challenge was to create a poem using at least fifteen of these words in less than 12 lines. It sounded fun, so I gave it a shot! I hope you like the results.

Also, be sure to check out the contest and poemelf’s awesome blog! She has such a cool project, and, if you like poetry, I’m sure you’ll love her blog.

I hear those folks who say
My man’s heart is old and black
That it burned out in the fire
And all that’s left of it is ash

But I know what his heart’s like
Because he gave me that warm hand
And asked me not to leave him
When I said “I understand”

He just needed me to pull
His heart strings soft like this
To let his love-song flow
To grant my one true wish