July's Poetry Contest Winner: Portrait of My Family as a Pack of Cigarettes

Posted by Cybil on July 2, 2018


Every month, Goodreads and the ¡POETRY! group host a poetry contest. It's a great way to discover and support the work of emerging poets. Join the ¡POETRY! group where you can vote to select the winning poem each month from among the finalists. Aspiring poets can also submit a poem for consideration.

Congratulations to Melissa Stein, who is our July winner with this poem:

Portrait of My Family as a Pack of Cigarettes

by Melissa Stein

I’d barter your life
for a brief orange
flame & a lungful

of peace. My whole family
was like that, tobacco-
stained, curling

a little at the edges.
Singed. Whenever
the wind rose, a few

blew away, easy
as an exhale, & we let go
in the way one does

with paper, smoke.
Until the box lay
empty, on its side,

in some dump. Now & then
cold hands would
fumble it, in hope.




Comments Showing 1-40 of 40 (40 new)

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message 1: by Tatiana (new)

Tatiana love this


message 2: by Maya (new)

Maya Enjoyed the direct hit


message 3: by Chang (new)

Chang Garcia Love it too.


message 4: by Caroline (new)

Caroline Congratulations Melissa


message 5: by MundiNova (new)

MundiNova Thanks for reminding me I should read more poetry. Anyone have any suggestions on good collections of poetry?


message 6: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl Really enjoyed this poem, well done! It has inspired me to pick up one of my poetry books and have a read again. Thank you


❄Elsa Frost❄ Wonderer wrote: "Poetry is dying.
Fewer than 7% of
the country read it in 2012

Down from 17%
in 1992
Why is poetry dying?

I can't imagine."


Actually, according to a recent statistic, it has slightly increased in the U.S. since 2012. Check here: https://psmag.com/education/why-are-m....


❄Elsa Frost❄ I think this is a pretty good poem selected from this contest. Excellent! I hope Melissa Stein will write and publish more.


message 9: by Vivian (new)

Vivian This poem really reminds me of the interactive story-telling game "What Remains of Edith Finch" on PS4. Beautiful game and beautiful poem.


message 10: by Paula (new)

Paula Briggs Wonderer wrote: "Poetry is dying.
Fewer than 7% of
the country read it in 2012

Down from 17%
in 1992
Why is poetry dying?

I can't imagine."



message 11: by Paula (new)

Paula Briggs Mary Oliver, Naomi Shahib Nye


message 12: by Dawn (new)

Dawn Enthusiastically agree on Mary Oliver and Naomi Shihab Nye, and I'd add Billy Collins.


Elisa-The-Dark-and-Lonely-Reader Vivian wrote: "This poem really reminds me of the interactive story-telling game "What Remains of Edith Finch" on PS4. Beautiful game and beautiful poem."

Sorry just had to say that yes! I'm obsessed with that game.


message 14: by Heather (new)

Heather Well done! So artful in evoking mood


message 15: by Avinash (new)

Avinash No.


message 16: by Cindy (new)

Cindy Poetry is about emotion. If you don't like poetry that doesn't rhyme, then don't read it. But you don't have to cut down something that other people enjoy. That says a lot about you, not the poetry in question.


message 17: by Ward (new)

Ward Howarth ::yes::


message 18: by Joanne (new)

Joanne Cindy wrote: "Poetry is about emotion. If you don't like poetry that doesn't rhyme, then don't read it. But you don't have to cut down something that other people enjoy. That says a lot about you, not the poetry..."

Please don’t cut down “Wonderer”s comment... I quite enjoyed it.


message 19: by Hari (new)

Hari Brandl My favorite poets are Edgar Lee Masters and Elizabeth Bishop. I'm not up to date on modern poets. Not yet...


message 20: by ❄Elsa Frost❄ (last edited Jul 03, 2018 09:17AM) (new)

❄Elsa Frost❄ Cindy wrote: "Poetry is about emotion. If you don't like poetry that doesn't rhyme, then don't read it. But you don't have to cut down something that other people enjoy. That says a lot about you, not the poetry..."

It sounded to me like Wonderer wasn't cutting down anyone who likes rhyming poetry. Wonderer was just stating their opinion on poetry. Whether any of us agree or not is just--again--an opinion on poetry. We're all allowed to have opinions on rhyming poetry, whether we think it's the best poetry around or not. If you want to contribute and state why rhyming poetry is better/best or not, you're more than welcome to.

EDIT: Wonderer also stated some facts above about poetry book sales, so it wasn't just opinion. Wonderer talked about how "popular" poetry books are based on facts about book sales.


message 21: by ❄Elsa Frost❄ (new)

❄Elsa Frost❄ Wonderer wrote: "❄Elsa Frost❄ wrote: "Actually, according to a recent statistic, it has slightly increased in the U.S. since 2012. Check here: https://psmag.com/education/why-are-m...."

Thanks for the link. So I w..."


Yeah, the book sales are definitely determined (so far) by very small numbers, in part because we still have a fairly low number of people engaged in poetry. But there's also another reason why we don't necessarily see books selling as high as the new data seems to show: Slam Poetry. There has been a growth of engagement with slam poetry and it's showing through YouTube videos, increased venues for slam poetry, and more. So while they may not be selling books, they have been publishing or showcasing their work through other methods. The data seems to include this in the mix of reasons why there has been a growth in poetry.

Personally, I tend to prefer non-rhyming poetry. I read a lot of modern poets and have found some gems, just as I have found some poetry I already despise. Some of my favorite poets include Danez Smith (my most favorite poet), Tracy K. Smith, Joy Harjo, and Topaz Winters. I think it's possible to find favorites among modern poets, but I think it can end up being a long journey just trying to find them. I never really discovered these favorites until several years after I had begun my journey of seriously reading poetry.


message 22: by Holly (new)

Holly Walrath Lovely poem! Will there be an August contest?


message 23: by Breslin (new)

Breslin White Holly wrote: "Lovely poem! Will there be an August contest?"

Yes. There is a contest each month.


message 24: by Ellen (new)

Ellen Kendrick I loved this poem. How much it says in a few words about the author's family. Obviously, "crap," like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Everyone's entitled to their own taste, but I try to keep an open mind, & I don't think that's a bad idea for us all.


message 25: by Russell (new)

Russell Howen If poetry is dying, perhaps it is because we older people were raised on poems with rhythm and rhyme, of which there is very little written today.


message 26: by Saarah (new)

Saarah Niña Wonderer- I share your opinion generally, most poems these days are too cryptic and short for my taste. So, I wanted to suggest that you also try spoken word poems. I enjoy them myself, they're a little more artistic and obvious in connecting to an audience which I quite like. These can be found on Youtube and are very passionate and engaging.


message 27: by Jan (new)

Jan Well done, Melissa!


message 28: by Saarah (new)

Saarah Niña Hey, just be glad that the classic works like Frost, Angelou and Kipling are timeless by nature- I certainly am!

Personally, I'm not as fussed about style- all I ask for is something of substance and meaning, perhaps a story told... When I vote in these competitions, that's what I go for. Or, I opt to not vote. I missed the deadline this time.


message 29: by Saba (new)

Saba Idris I like the conceit. Family as a pack of cigaettes... Who knew?

I also like the factual, insensitive sort of sadness that gives an impression of objectivity and aloofness with such a personal topic as of ones own family.


message 30: by Becky (new)

Becky Congratulations! Nicely done. Poetry is such a great way of communicatingg. My favorite collection (other than Rod McKuenn from waaay back) is James Kavanaugh "Winter Has Lasted Too Long", for MundiNova.


message 31: by Afiya (new)

Afiya Khan My favourite so far.


message 32: by Russell (new)

Russell Howen For Everson: I wrote my first poem when I was in 3rd grade. It was for a safety contest. When I went with my father to pick up the $2.00 prize, I felt badly because the sponsor intimated I had not written. While in my twenties, I wrote a poem for our small town weekly newspaper over a four and a half year period. Most were about events in our hometown, such as the undefeated 8th grade basketball team.


message 33: by Poppy (last edited Jul 30, 2018 05:52AM) (new)

Poppy What is bad poetry? de gustibus, methinks. For me, bad poetry is any poem that seeks to confuse, irritate, confound me or makes me
have to work to understand its meaning. There is a lot of it about these days. But if the poem is a mystery, because it is meant to be, who is equipped to be its judge? No one.

As to rhyme, why not? It is rhythm personified, which makes the poem easy to remember, easy to quote, easy to like. Any form which draws my eye to the page, is likely to be quick to absorb, That doesn't make any rhyming poem a good poem, but the form, at least, invites the reader in.

That said, a good poem, in my estimation, is one that expresses an idea in a fresh way. It needs to be familiar enough to capture my attention, but new enough to make me respond to its truth. I am not very interested in poetry that is self-indulgent, or poetry that is contrived, or poetry that insults my intelligence by being amorphous and at the same time, dense.

I would love to hear other POVs regarding the definition of A GOOD POEM.


message 34: by Russell (new)

Russell Howen Well said, Poppy.


message 35: by Saarah (new)

Saarah Niña I'm with you, Poppy. I like the hidden messages that a poem's style may signify but usually that stuff is lost on me.

For me, a good poem is something that helps you make sense of something, or has you feeling something or recalling a memory. It doesn't try to be profound, just meaningful.

I especially like poems that give lessons or tell a story in an original way.

And, I agree that poems that seek to irritate and confuse are quite dull. If I don't understand, I'll skip. Though I love something original that makes you think of something in a new way.


message 36: by Saarah (last edited Jul 30, 2018 02:05PM) (new)

Saarah Niña Everson- Based on your first example, I think you'll enjoy the poetry collection 'You're Not Going Out Like That!' By Paul Cookson.

I still refer to it from time to time. It's incredibly funny.

Edit: Only one person seems to have reviewed it on Goodreads. And just one star. Strange for a book published in 2003.


message 37: by Saarah (new)

Saarah Niña Happy to share:) I've made a note of your recommendation also- going to see if my library has a copy.


message 38: by Saarah (new)

Saarah Niña I noticed the same thing- this month's voting is a little late. Usually it happens towards the end of the previous month (23rd and onwards) but there are no set dates.

I don't know why, but maybe this time there's been a greater influx of entries? This time, also, there were more comments in the entry section which isn't allowed ;)


message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

Last month someone deported the contest, this month someone rolled it up and smoked it. With incredibly unmemorable schlock like this being the focal point of this 'Contest' I'm shocked that it's taken this long to scrap it!


message 40: by [deleted user] (new)

It's just a guess on my part, but I believe that Goodreads pulled their support for this sham of a contest sponsored and held by this group when people like myself (Or maybe it was just me?) made it obvious (via our feedback) that it was self-serving to, and rigged in favour of a select few people that are connected with this particular poetry club, and friends/sycophants of the group's moderator.
*
The final line in the advertisement for this 'Contest' states:
'Aspiring poets can also submit a poem for consideration'.
Well, gee, that was really kind of those in charge to allow the work of 'Others' to be included into Their Contest. If this one seemingly insignificant and nearly unnoticeable point was not a dead giveaway that this group's 'Contest' was in no way intended to be fair or open-minded to all, and that the judging was going to lean heavily in favour of only certain people and only certain types of poetry then perhaps I was the only one who actually understood and interpreted the fine print in the rules.
*
Since when did a fair and impartial contest keep and maintain the Same Three Judges for the entire duration of the contest? Furthermore, along with rotating the list of judges, a legitimate contest does not and should not include a judging staff that are all members of the same sex, and are all closely associated with the person or persons staging the contest. Just saying!
So, blame me, because I called this contest out for what I believe it was. . . Rigged!
*
While I can't say for certain - because neither the group's moderator, nor anyone from GR has made any formal announcement - that this 'Contest' has officially come to an end, I really do hope it has. Sorry, but if you can't run a fair and impartial contest where everybody has at least some chance of winning then don't run one at all!
*
And so much for 'No Pretensions, Just Poetry'!


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