2016 Janet B McCabe Poetry Prize Winners: Melissa Reeser Poulin + Barbara Ellen Sorensen

July 11, 2016

Ruminate Magazine is excited to share with you the winners of the 2016 Janet B McCabe Poetry Prize. The winning poem was selected by our final judge, Alice Fulton. You can read the winning poems in Issue 40: Nowhere Near, which releases this coming September.

FIRST PLACE: "Yellow" by Melissa Reeser Poulin

 Melissa Reeser Poulin  is a full-time mother and poet living in Portland, Oregon. Her poems have appeared in Catamaran Literary Journal, Water~Stone Review, and the Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art, among other publications. She is the co-editor of Winged: New Writing on Bees, an anthology of poetry, fiction, and essays on the relationship between humans and honeybees, benefitting pollinator conservation efforts. She manages her local community garden and loves a good old-fashioned potluck.

Our final judge Alice Fulton writes:

I’m happy to select “Yellow" as winner of the 2016 Janet McCabe Poetry Prize. I initially was attracted to the poem’s tone and imagery, which delicately suggest a mother’s hopes for her unborn child. It’s hard to avoid sentimentality with such a subject, but an important swerve toward the end saves this subtle, beautifully crafted work from an excess of sweetness. At the start, the speaker is sewing baby clothes and considering some “ordinary things” — dandelions, sunlight on the butter dish, cling peaches — that her child will experience in the world. These exemplars of yellow create a seductive materiality, but things darken as the speaker contrasts the utopian freedom of the womb to the confining garments she’s sewing and imagines the upheaval the baby will experience at birth. In the final tercet the connotations of yellow widen to imply betrayal, genocide, and apocalyptic disaster: “…The yellow / of Judas, yellow stars, yellowcake….” “Yellowcake,” a surprisingly rich choice, suggests nourishment, a comforting domesticity, but it’s also a uranium powder used in the preparation of fuel for reactors or weapons. With one gesture, the speaker’s optimism is conflated with her fear, and the trope of time, incubating throughout, is enlarged. These threads resonate in the powerfully understated last line where the mother’s sewing slows as if her needle were heavy with dread on behalf of her child who must enter such a grave new world."

You can read Yellow in issue 40, which releases this coming September. 

SECOND PLACE: "Small Implosions" by Barbara Ellen Sorensen 

 Barbara Ellen Sorensen has a BA in English from the University of Iowa and a master’s degree in creative writing from Regis University, Denver. She is former senior editor of the flagship publication of the American Indian Science & Engineering Society, Winds of Change. Sorensen now contributes to the Tribal College Journal. Sorensen’s work has received nominations for the 2011 Colorado Book award, appeared on VerseDaily.com (2014), The Poetry Foundation’s website (2015), and on American Life In Poetry (2015). Our final judge Alice Fulton writes:"I respect the content of the poem so much. I especially like the way the ending reflects on the beginning, and the thoughtful, unsparing engagement with the difficulty of gifts."  

HONORABLE MENTION: "The Lord, Walking in the Evening" by Michael Schmidtke and "Deer Apples" by Sally Thomas

 Michael Schmidtke is from Olympia, WA, and is now living in Portland after finishing an MFA at Eastern Washington University. His poems appear in Tin House's Broadside Thirty series,Stirring, the Cresset, and other places. He doesn't feel at home unless he's near a large body of water. He can't seem to stop believing in God, and can only rarely say what that word means.      

 Sally Thomas's poetry and fiction have appeared most recently in Dappled Things, Kindred, The Lost Country, and Windhover Journal. A poetry chapbook, Richeldis of Walsingham, is just out from Finishing Line Press. Her family includes one theologian husband, one third-grade-teacher daughter, one biology-major son, two middle-schoolers, and a Plott Hound. She home-educates her children for fun, relaxation, and intellectual stimulation, and still has last year's thirty pounds of deer apples in her deep-freeze.


Thom Caraway
Same Gilpin
Aumaine Gruich
Stephen Hitchcock
Cornelia Hoogland
Lary Kleeman
Megan Merchant
Kristina Moriconi
Mark Wagenaar
Jess Williard

Thank you to all of you who entered the Poetry Prize!  
Ruminate Magazine hosts an annual contest for short fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and visual art. You can read more about our writing contests and art contest here.

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