October 6–12, 2008: Dawn O’Leary, Salvatore Buttaci and F.J. Bergmann


week of October 6-12, 2008

This week presenting the winners of the
2008 (eleventh annual) Poetry Super Highway Poetry Contest:

see the complete contest details here

Dawn O’Leary
Salvatore Buttaci
F.J Bergmann

click here for submission guidelines

Dawn O’Leary

Bio (auto)

Dawn O’Leary lives in Culver City, California She is a writer-poet, playwright and screenwriter She is originally from New Jersey and is the mother of three.

She won first place in this year’s contest with her poem “Surviving”.

The following work is Copyright © 2008, and owned by Dawn O’Leary and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.


It is as you suspect
when you turn the knob, expecting it
to come off in your hand You should not
have come back, should have asked cousins
beyond the canal to gather your clothes,
schoolbooks, ceramic horses You pass
your parents’ room, then your brother’s,
closing doors like eyelids of the dead
In the damp church, you were hollow
as the blue madonna, your insides all air Later you would remember nothing
but the finality of bells, and a preacher
you did not know, speaking of the three
that God had taken You could have told him
there was no God in the water that night
How small your father’s hands had seemed,
sinking fast like coins under your mother’s reach,
and yours; he had not reached back Steven’s eyes were fixed on water,
drowning already in the fear of it Your mother clutched his lifejacket strap
till the slicing cold drained her grip Her fingers felt nothing
when he slipped away In the minutes
before she found him gone, you already knew
she would not save herself
You are an oddity at school You descend one stairwell and go up another
to avoid passing your brother’s class His friends fall silent in the back of the bus
as you slip into your seat But the moment passes,
and their noise is not diminished
by the absence of his voice
You sleep in your cousin’s bed, facing the wall One night you are wakened
by her damp arm across your waist Suddenly your grief cracks and begins
to thaw, forming pools around your ankles,
and rising This time it is you
paralyzed You understand
the ease of it Till the waters close
above your head, and slowly
you raise your arms, knowing
you will surface, not knowing
why you are one who wants to

First published in the Antioch Review, volume 47, number 3, summer 1989.

Salvatore Buttaci

Bio (auto)

Salvatore Buttaci teaches English at a local middle school and is an adjunct professor at Bergen Community College He lives in Princeton, West Virginia , with his loving wife Sharon
He won second place in this year’s contest with his poem “The Books are Whispering: Free Cento Verse About Teaching”.

The following work is Copyright © 2008, and owned by Salvatore Buttaci and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

The Books are Whispering:
Free Cento Verse About Teaching


Academies packed with scholars writing papers
have no clue what fortitude is required––what patience!––
to walk into an eighth-grade class and teach Matt Flynn in row one, seat one, sprawls his gangly height
as he slouches like a vacationer in his desk chair He waves a blank sheet in my face, smiles and says
defiantly for the benefit of his chick and the other chicks,
It’s all I have to bring today.


Objective: students will demonstrate their facility
with compositional work Procedure: Write a story…
Remember as you pre-write, it is important to
love a life whose plot is simple Get to the point Make your characters seem real Create a problem your antagonist must solve When I check out Janet’s “notes,” she hides them
under her textbook, blushes, bites down on her lip.


Write about your favorite comic book hero,
Deer staring at the first winter snow,
A dragon slayer who falls in love with a dragon Procedure: ask students to read their first sentences Strong enough? Attention getting? Focused?
Mat Flynn pantomimes a hunter using binoculars Good, Matt, I tell him, now write about it!
Eddy Morales socks his cousin Diego in the arm.


Work is love made visible
Anywhere in the world perhaps, but not
In this classroom with open windows
And spring interjecting its magic and pollen
While my students sniffle and sneeze
And Flynn wants to make it perfectly clear
Why he’s sitting there swatting imaginary flies:
All words hate his guts.


Objective: Have students work on their first drafts
beyond the opening sentence Adequate details?
Clear description? Believable dialogue?
We are diggers, like badgers; we love to feel
The satisfaction that comes with their discoveries Teachers with their lanterns leading the lost Perhaps a mind will open in this world
Of the classroom, I think a bit sarcastically.


Procedure: Read the class a poem by Whitman Discuss free verse Ask about word choice Janet in the last seat, last row, asks if the poet
Is related to the people who make the candy
And is it really true some verses are free I tell them poems contain little galaxies They are serious teachers these poems Ain’t one teacher in the room enough? Asks Flynn.


A hand goes up Georgette wants to read a poem,
Not Whitman’s Hers I will not refuse her The poem is all about looking forward to better days Georgette’s had a tough life Her parents gave her up And I say to myself: That’s true, hope needs to be
Everybody’s poem After she reads it, she gives it to me Something has reached out and taken in the beams of my eyes Walt Whitman would be proud to hear this girl’s song!


Assignment: Write a poem of your own Be original Don’t surf the net for somebody else’s or steal Georgette’s Let all your poems speak to us,=2 0let them all be
singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs Matt Flynn raises his hand You want music with that poem?
Even Morales finds that ridiculous The class laughs Can I write the poem and strum my guitar? Flynn wants to know Again Morales: You need two hands to write poems!


Objective: Discuss the difference between science fiction
And fantasy How are they similar? Where is the magic?
What opens the door to another world out there?
Procedure: Ask the students to talk about a movie
That might have been one or the other Dawn of the Dead, someone calls out Hostel Thankful for some feedback, I welcome it
And I know somehow all will turn out well and I will
grow old though pleased with my memories.


Objective: To close the year with readings
From the class poetry and story anthology Even Matt Flynn has a good poem in the book
Though he laughs about it as he reads it,
I listen to them all They make me proud
And deeply fill my heart with peace The books are whispering,
I tell them Flynn holds the book against his ear.

F.J Bergmann

Bio (auto)

F.J Bergmann is presently and originally from Wisconsin and has lived in France, England, New Jersey and Maryland In a previous life she spent all her time working with horses Fred is her present and original husband, since 1978, and she is the Space Lord Mother of three more recent offspring She claims to have an MFA from the School of the Americas, and is to blame for everything on this website, as well as madpoetry.org and other iniquities Her poems have been published in numerous print and online journals, including (under the nom de plume Easter Cathay) on asininepoetry.com Her hobbies include narcolepsy, retrophrenology, and Fainting in Coils Her hairstyle is deceptive One of her pseudopodia can reach all the way from the bedroom to the refrigerator
She won third place in this year’s contest with her poem “What Matters”

The following work is Copyright © 2008, and owned by F.J Bergmann and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.

What Matters

In the future, poetry had become
the arrangement of tangible objects Everybody had a poem, outdoors, 
along an imaginary line on the lawn
in front of their house A disparate
array of items was important, but
not mandatory Almost invariably,
these included a very large rock.

Typically, poets would only use
material taken from nature: bird
nests, driftwood, icicles, dead snakes
Lately there had been a faddish
tendency to add a six-pack of dwarf
marigolds One rather self-referential
composition was nothing more than
ten metric wrenches laid end-to-end,
and an emerging surrealist had buried
a bicycle to its axles in green sand.

Its practitioners were secretly
insecure about the parameters of
their art They sometimes met in
open parks and pastures for public
displays of new work, most of them
pushing red wheelbarrows laden with
the lumpy tools of their trade
The unburdened were those who
specialized in found poetry.

The most critical aspect was the
length of the line No one knew
what the ideal dimensions ought
to be, but they all carried folding
rulers Passers-by would often stop
to measure a poem that seemed
inadequate or excessive, and argue
at great length about whether
size mattered.

An earlier version of “What Matters” appeared in Words & Images.

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