Robert H. Winner Memorial Award - 2003
Ron Padgett on John Glowney and Rusty Morrison
It is a double pleasure to select two equally talented but distinct winners of this year's Robert H. Winner Memorial Award, John Gowney and Rusty Morrison.
A tip of the hat also to finalist Aidan Thompson, whose layered prose poems contain many joys, such as "Is art the only way to run away without leaving home?" and "Whenever you get a satisfying sentence you should stop and let the rumble pour over you."
TRISTAN & ISOLDE: THE 1981 SEATTLE OPERA POSTER
He is the color of the sea,
greenish-blue, the sea
where it is lost in itself, where it shades
into chalky cumulus clouds, far out,
nearly at the horizon.
She wears a blue gown,
a red sash,
yet it is the light, white,
on the swell of her breasts
that our eye is drawn to.
We think he is dead but he is not.
We think she can save him but she cannot.
What she can do is lie close and bring warmth,
what we might consider
a useless gift to
the near dead,
yet it is what we, as lovers, tumbling into bed together,
give so casually
and miss so deeply when alone
we would die for one last embrace
our lover's mouth opening to ours
the last breath we take
not our own.
Three of John Glowney's poems struck me in particular: "Illumination," "Tristan & Isolde: The 1981 Seattle Opera Poster," and "Spotlight." Each in its own way is a love poem, remarkably free of gloop, hype, and piety. I would quote from them, but what makes them oustanding is the way they build to that most difficult moment in a poem, the last line, and the way that line seems to be just the right measure of dramatic closure. These three poems are keepers: they don't get used up by being read over and over.
HISTORY OF EXPRESSION
Try their eyes,
but first light
has fallen from them.
Try their bodies
but no outline holds.
But children run
too fast to catch.
They bounce the bright, round
upon the chill ground.
You missed it.
And they laugh.
Beyond the chainlink, a city
is the union between two lovers
never taking place,
a theory of the idyllic
built upon its refusal
to embrace you.
Rusty Morrison's poems balance on the mysterious line between experiencing something and thinking or writing about it. Referring to school children at recess, Morrison writes: "They bounce the bright, round / housefire-shipwreck-lightning-strike / just once / upon the chill ground. / You missed it." Well, yes and no. That is, we had an experience but we're not quite sure what it was. As Morrison says, in another poem, "Giving it shape / would not find the shape it was." Morrison's poems are trim, phenomenological, and as shifting and mysterious as the phenomena that they present: "Silhouette behind the emergency."