Award Winners

Lyric Poetry Award - 2012

Greg Wrenn


Justin Boening

Diana Khoi Nguyen

Shadow Puppets

I'm a donkey
and you make me

I'm a camel you

never gave spit.
I'm a bedridden

Grandpapa reciting
a shit list,

asking the cosmos
for my teeth. I'm a quacking

bunny, a purring
greyhound nodding

at nothing in particular—as if
nothingness were my master

and could feed me—
then gazing above at a nail hole

I must pretend
is a bird and wholeheartedly

desire: now I'm
a pigeon flying up

the rough,
illuminated wall

till I disappear
into the ether, your knuckle-


Driven to self-regard
and melodrama,

I'm a fetus curling
into myself and my cartilage tiara

falls off, no one gasps.
I'm a bait shrimp

snug on a hook; a toaster oven;
a wastewater treatment

plant thousands
depend on; oh and the love child

(if forced to mate, if such zygotes
were possible) of a star-

nosed mole
and a pot-bellied pig.

I'm shadow that coughs,
spirit with

stubborn sores,
but whose

are your hands?
Turn away from the wall

and just look at them.
(I'm spittoon, you're

spittoon, dirty
rawhide moth.)

Light another candle
and bray.

Matthew Dickman on Greg Wrenn

There is something mysterious about lyric poetry. Something dark which almost makes sense but doesn't. I like to be engaged on this level with the art I experience as a reader. I'm not sure what all is happening in this poem, intellectually, but I do know that I'm moved, hopeful, heartbroken and all within twenty-six couplets. This poet has an energetic sense of image and metaphor. The world created in "Shadow Puppets" feels like the hidden emotional world of our own lives! And isn't that, partly but intimately, why we turn to art? To know we are not alone, to reach toward the "Other" and find the "Self"? I've read this poem over and over again, each time I get the sense that I'm realizing some truth about my life, having some new enjoyment, some new experience. This is a poem to be celebrated, a poem to be shared, a poem to keep folded up in your wallet…because, one day, you will need it.