WD Poetic Form Challenge: Somonka Winner

This post has been a long time coming. I posted the original challenge on October 21 with a deadline of November 10. Usually, I’d have the results earlier, but some decisions were made with the magazine that afforded me some extra time–which I’m glad to have received.

I know I say it every time, but this was an incredibly difficult challenge to narrow down. And I think I know why. Many, though not all, of the short-list poems were collaborations. So I think it shows the power of two heads vs. one that often created a more interesting tension in the poems.

Speaking of short lists, my initial short list ended up with 41 poems–and that was with me being super tough. Then, I had to run through several more rounds to slowly narrow the poems down a few at a time. Long story short (too late, I know): It was tough sledding, because the writing was so great. Thank you for that!

The winning poem was by a duo from North Carolina: Jane Shlensky and Nancy Posey for their poem, “Star-gazing.”

Here’s the winning poem:

Star-gazing, by Jane Shlensky and Nancy Posey

I wonder if you
realize that I’m in love
with your cottonseed
eyes, onyx stars dropped in cream.
How your sweet gaze distracts me!

I caught you glancing
at me, then looking away
when my eyes met yours.
What did you see there? If some
flaw, I’d gladly pluck them out.


Congratulations, Jane and Nancy!

Their poem will appear in an upcoming issue of Writer’s Digest, and if I can swing it, the runner-up poem will too. It’s an untitled collaboration by Rosemary Nissen-Wade and Bruce Niedt.

Untitled, by Rosemary Nissen-Wade and Bruce Niedt

A magpie warbles
at my gate.
I send you the song
across distance.

When I hear it
I will fashion clouds
to its music.
When the weather turns
they will sail to you.


Wow! Congratulations also to Rosemary and Bruce!

And to everyone on the Top 10 list:

  1. “Star-gazing,” by Jane Shlensky and Nancy Posey
  2. “Untitled,” by Rosemary Nissen-Wade and Bruce Niedt
  3. “Happy Hour,” by Cameron Steele and Walt Wojtanik
  4. “From the River,” by Taylor Graham
  5. “Looking for Home,” Margie Fuston
  6. “Macaroni,” by Tracy Davidson
  7. “Phantom Dance,” by Amy Glamos
  8. “Coffee Dates,” by Linda G. Hatton
  9. “Frost at the Window,” by Taylor Graham
  10. “Autumn,” by Jane Shlensky and Nancy Posey

Also, congratulations and thank you to every one who took part in this challenge! It was such a pleasure to read, even if it was torture to judge (because, like I said, there was so much good material).

You can bet there will be a new poetic form challenge on the way.


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Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer

Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and specifically the editor of Poet’s Market. A former Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere, he’s also the author of Solving the World’s Problems. A few places he’ll be reading poetry this year, include AWP, Poetry Hickory, and a just announced National Feature spot with the Austin International Poetry Festival (in April). He’s married to the poet Tammy Foster Brewer, who will be a special guest at AIPF and helps him keep track of their five little poets. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.


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18 thoughts on “WD Poetic Form Challenge: Somonka Winner

  1. Walt Wojtanik

    Congrats to the NC Dynamic Duo indeed. Your works are wonderful individually, but combining your muses is… well, unbeatable. Great word Jane and Nancy. Congrats also to the rest of the top ten. This was a great form challenge. And thank you to all my “partners” for collaborating on some exceptional poems (some of my personal best). Rosemary Nissen-Wade, Cynthia Page, Marie Elena Good, Janet Rice Carnahan, Paula Wanken (Your “Letter to Dad” still haunts) and especially my winning collaborator, Cameron Steele!

  2. Jane Shlensky

    Thanks, everyone, for your kind comments. Nancy and I look for excuses to get away from home and play–instruments or words. The teams that got together for this challenge are such wonderful writers, together or solo, I’m humbled to be among them. Thanks to Robert for making our challenges collaborative, life and poem-affirming, and fun!

  3. Nancy Posey

    Thanks, all! Jane and I, though we live about three hours apart, have been collaborating in lots of ways for years. (We are probably the only two people who go to a conference at Disney World and sit in our hotel room at night playing the mandolin and keyboard we dragged all that way–show tunes, gospel, bluegrass!) I’m honored to have out poem(s) selected! I can’t wait to go back and read the others again.

  4. PressOn

    I’d like to add my congratulations to all the winners. I can understand why Robert had such a hard time deciding; I was struck by the range and high quality of the works I was seeing, even as the challenge proceeded. It seems especially appropriate that Jane and Nancy have two poems on the top-ten list; when I read the their work, I had the feeling of two old friends collaborating, an almost hand-in-glove experience that was wonderful to behold and read.

  5. Rosemary Nissen-Wade

    Oh, how very exciting! Thank you Robert, and thank you Bruce. And congratulations indeed to Jane and Nancy and all the rest. I loved reading the poems, and thoroughly enjoyed the collaborations I entered into. I was particularly enraptured with Bruce’s lovely responses to my verses, so it’s great to see us included here.

  6. Bruce Niedt

    Thanks, Robert! I agree that there were so many beautiful and outstanding entries that I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes and winnow them down to just ten. Rosemary and I really seemed to “click” on this challenge. Jane and Nancy – outstanding work! Congrats to all the finalists!

  7. Marie Elena

    What a list!! Robert, it always seems a difficult task to choose a “top” list for each of your challenges, but it seemed like this one must have been particularly difficult. The poems were outstanding, and it was so much fun seeing all the match-ups. For instance, so cool that Nancy and Jane wrote winnerS together! And Cameron and Walt ROCK together. WOW!

    Congratulations, all!


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