Friday, September 10, 2010

Winning Poem: Stephanie Kranes

We are happy to present the Grand Prize Winner's poem of 2010's January 1st through April 30th contest.


there is no eye contact here
we look away
passing each other by granite countertops
and grandfather clocks
the back of her bleached head
is part of the picture i have of each room
when my mother made me
she was overjoyed to find that my hair was as red
as the tomato juice she'd craved for nine swollen months
i fix it when i know i'll see her
because i think it will make it better
than if i let it splay and fall, unruly
like the time she made me pee
yellow rain
down my pajamas against the kitchen
on a family vacation to a cerulean place
we toured a restored slave master's palace
the color of southern baptist wedding cake
a rusted garden hoe the length of a Klondike's back
lay abandoned on the front lawn
as if a child had just left his toy to his mother's call for dinner
i feel the food in me rise now
"it's so beautiful here," she'd said
and i knew then
our eyes were as different as our hair

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Winning Poem: Ellen Bonney Marchese

We are happy to present the Grand Prize Winner's poem of 2009's April 1st through June 30th contest.


They drift like petals, to and fro:
a vari-colored multitude;
bright saris, sturdy calico,
a turbaned head, a fancy ‘dude’,
in dazzling dissimilitude.

Soft sounds on fragile air are hung,
rich rhythms resonate and spill
--a polyglot of mother tongues:
melodic, guttural or shrill;
the fleeting phrases, vibratile.

The cream of Island lilt is slurred,
a Muslim intonates a prayer,
the grit of ghetto is interred
and Asian sing-song pocks the air
as echoes haunt this thoroughfare.

Each voyager, his path pursues,
joint dweller of the universe,
odd earthlings of a hundred hues,
each one distinctively diverse
--converge, touch shoulders and disperse.

They drift, like petals, to and fro:
Pietro, Su Li, Ahmed, Joe.

By: Ellen Bonney Marchese

Winning Poet Profile: Gottardo Gabriel DiGiacopo

In April of this year, Eber & Wein Publishing selected yet another Grand Prize winner of the National Amateur Poetry Competition. This time, the spotlight is on Gottardo DiGiacopo from Mahwah, NJ, whose poetic talent caught the eyes of the judges and earned a unanimous vote. Out of approximately 11,000 submissions, DiGiacopo’s poem “Darkroom” made its way to the winner’s circle.

With an air of nostalgia, “Darkroom” encapsulates a setting that entwines the past with the present through a common theme: out with the old and in with the new. Quiet nightly reflections, however, bring back days long expired. While admiring his mastered technique of exhaling cigarette smoke in “world-class silvery rings,” the subject takes this hour or so and resurrects bygone days of career dreams, reckless lifestyles, and secret aspirations. Beneath the present world, what was once a basement photo lab is now a retreat that harbors memories, dreams, and tangibles from the subject’s past. A nightly ritual of reminiscence enhanced with a cigarette and a beer, this private time and space used to unwind is a vehicle that sends its frequenter back in time to days of “catching salamanders” and “removing hooks from the stiff lips of fish.” The personified trio of supporting characters—the bottle opener, book of matches, and baseball glove—are more than just necessary tools. They too are part of the vehicle; as his cohorts, they await his return each night, serve him well, and together they “hide.” The shelves that no longer contain materials once used for developing film also exude a sentimental sadness, reminding the reader of the digital capacities of today’s world where manual tasks that once brought feelings of pride and pleasure are now completely antiquated.

However, while sentiment is certainly one of the stronger elements of this poem, DiGiacopo also employs strong descriptive language and sensory imagery, which, in illustrating a vivid scene, gives “Darkroom” profound artistic appeal. Another poetic element important to the poem’s theme and tenor is the symbolism of light and darkness throughout, often juxtaposed and possibly connected to the significance of the “i.”

One thing our judges found perplexing was the lower-case pronoun “i” used throughout, and although several possible explanations were offered up, when asked, Gottardo provided the most profound answer of all. “I wanted to show the loss of an earlier identity, one that was perhaps more egoic and self-involved, but which is now evolving to something more spiritual in middle-age. Also, in Latin/Romance languages, “I” is an unimportant pronoun that is often dropped because it is explained by the verb conjugation . . . it is only capitalized if it starts a sentence. It’s Americans and imperialists who are so attached to the mighty high I.”

A mason by trade who only started writing poetry six years ago following a local $75 writing workshop, Gottardo is no stranger to art. Having worked with stone and cement (an art in and of itself) since the age of seventeen, DiGiacopo took a break from masonry in the 1980s to attend the Pratt Institute in New York where he earned a B.F.A in Fine Arts. There, he concentrated on photography and mixed media installation and developed new aspirations that would later inspire his writing. His major influence, however, is “ongoing life.” In referring to a near-death experience he had as a boy, a “wild teenage-altered state” in the seventies, his study of art, the family he has with his wife Stephanie of twenty years, the deaths of close loved ones (including his father just recently), and his everyday suffering from multiple sclerosis, Gottardo claims, “Life is all the fodder one needs to write.”

Like all of our past winners, Gottardo DiGiacopo is an everyday person. And whether speaking of his writing or his life, it became quite obvious to us that he couldn’t be a more humble, unpretentious human being. He mentions in a letter, “I do read poetry regularly . . . and I’m blown away by how remarkable a form of saturated communication it can be—and how thoroughly outclassed I am.” In this case, however, one thing is clear—DiGiacopo did the outclassing, and we couldn’t be more pleased with our selection. Here at Eber & Wein Publishing, we were thrilled to name him a grand prize winner, excited to feature “Darkroom” on our website for all to view, and look forward to reading more of his work in the future.

Winning Poem: Alice P. Thomas

We are happy to present the Grand Prize Winner's poem of 2009's July 1st through September 30th contest.

The Gardener

Prophet of ripening things, he bends over cantaloupes,
Coaxing out secrets, confessions of readiness.
Searching their elephant rinds for slight imperfections,
Godlike, he lifts their small planets,
Holds them up to his ears, shaking them gently
Listening for tumbrels of seeds.
Finally, inhaling their perfume
That proclaims perfection
For the swift sacrifice.
"Ah," Dad says, "This one,
Now, this one is ripe."
He passes it to me. He's always right.
High Priest of growing things, he walks in his Eden.
Each morning plants bend to tell him green secrets.
I'm his acolyte at seven, a disciple in bare feet,
Carrying the chalice for the ordained sacrifice,
A coffee can reeking with kerosene
For fat, pale cutworms to be shaken loose
Dropped, writhing serpents in his garden.
I shudder, holding silently
My grail of obedience.
Dad's been gone twelve years now,
Yet yesterday, when I bent
Over the cantaloupes . . .

By: Alice P. Thomas

Winning Poem: Gottardo Gabriel DiGiacopo

We are happy to present the Grand Prize Winner's poem of 2009's October 1st through December 31st contest.


In a basement darkroom built under a world gone digital,
where it was thought i'd stay true to my analog self,
i'm lighting a cigarette. I've never made a print in here;
my Cold-light and Dektol dreams are now things of the past.
The shelves meant for archival, fiber-based papers and sleeved negatives
are instead loaded with retired accessories of household necessity.
There's a quiet but powerful exhaust fan over the long stainless steel sink
and a double switch by the door... Both toggles down simmer me in red light;
a blind hand brushing up startles this cave with bright white.
i bring a beer and a cigarette in here nearly every night.
Seated on a high stool with a batting glove on my right hand,
i blow world-class silvery rings into the spinning blades.
In tonight's spaces between the smoke, i think of catching salamanders,
and fishing as a returning the newts from my palm to moist shade
and removing hooks from the stiff lips of fish satisfied me.
The fan pulls the smoke and flicked ashes out underneath the porch.
i pinch the butts into a piece of masking tape and bury them in the trash...
They're secrets of my mortal recklessness from this darkhouse of cellar stories,
where a book of matches rests next to a silent bottle opener, and a pro's glove
stands by to catch the scented evidence of burning...
then waits a day for my hand to reenter...
It all waits for my return and we hide.
i come upstairs and spray cologne before kissing the kids goodnight,
turning a light on in the hall so i can see them in their dark room blurs,
through the focus and ideas, and projections,
in a process where shadows lack detail, and highlights appear, breathtaking.

By: Gottardo Gabriel DiGiacopo

Monday, February 8, 2010

Who Are Our Winners, How Are They Chosen, and Where Are They Found?

So what kind of people enter amateur poetry contests? Here at Eber & Wein Publishing, we have discovered that just about every kind of person in fact enters our contests. We receive poetry from five-year-olds, ninety-five year olds, and of course everyone in between. Our participants are grade school students, college students, tradesmen, working professionals, stay-at-home mothers, farmers, clergy, and prison inmates. Many are true students of poetry who enjoy studying and learning from the works of professional and classic poets, while others enjoy writing poetry at a more leisurely level.

One of our most recent second prize winners of $100, Jovel Queirolo, was most excited about her poem “Cold Tea” being published in Treasures, volume 10 of The Wishing Well series. She has been writing poetry since she was a teenager and her goal is to one day publish her own book of poems, “To somehow combine a love of the written word and philosophy to better understand my world,” she says. When asked about her overall experience with the contest, Queirolo remarks, “What you’re doing for young poets like me is great. It gives us a sense that what we do with our poetry matters. Poetry matters. And it always will.”

Another interesting participant and second place winner is Friedrich “Fred” Wurzbach, a painter, handyman, custodian, mason, school bus driver, and philosopher. His goal as a poet is to “keep writing better poems, perfect the craft, to try making rhymes and music to the ear while telling a story or exploring abstract concepts.” Wurzbach’s poem “Sheila” is featured in Gatherings, volume 6 of The Wishing Well series.

Sue Binder, a mental health counselor who has been writing poetry for fifty-five years, finds inspiration in her work, which deals with domestic violence and that often involves working with inmates in the prison system. She claims she “had some emotional feedback from inmates in prison when they read my poem in your book. Hopefully, thought-provoking to them . . . one can only hope.” Sue’s poem “Anticipation” is featured in Recollections, volume 4 in The Wishing Well series.

Although most of our winners and many participants contact us in one way or another, we unfortunately don’t have nearly the amount of space it would take to share the stories of all of them. But the message we wish to convey is this: our contest is for anyone of any background and any education level. As it is an amateur contest, our intentions are to be inclusive rather than exclusive—which means formal training in creative writing is not a must. As a matter of fact, a good number of our winners have not had any formal training in poetry (although a nice introduction to poetry handbook is always helpful). So what stands out to our judges here at Eber and Wein? Most of our participants are well aware that what distinguishes poetry from prose are prevalent poetic elements such as imagery and figurative language (the use of metaphor). Rhyme and meter are also important when dealing with a more traditional style of poetry, and alliteration, personification, assonance, are various other techniques one can employ the use of to enhance poetic appeal. Poems that contain evidence of any of these combined with theme, tone, and language stand out the most. A good rhyming poem has a set meter and is free of forced rhyme. In a free verse poem, language should be vivid, surprising, detailed—not vague, general, and cliché. Of course one thing we really like to see is when poets attempt a particular style, for example the villanelle, pantoum, limerick, etc. So who has a decent chance at winning our contest? Anyone who is passionate about the craft of poetry and who makes a concerted effort to employ poetic elements and technique!

We would love nothing more than to be able to publish an anthology that includes all the winners of a contest; however, because some take much longer than others to return their Author’s Proof , it is just not possible. Therefore, the poems of our prizewinners are scattered throughout a series. Some volumes of a series may include more winning poems than others, but this is completely random. Winners and semi-finalists alike are assigned to whichever book is ready for the layout process at the time we receive their signed Author’s Proof. And although the majority of our winners do return their Author’s Proof, some do not. Without this signed document giving consent to publish, we will not include them in the anthologies.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Alice P. Thomas, Winner of Eber & Wein’s National Amateur Poetry Competition

Recent Grand Prize winner Alice Palmer Thomas could not have been more ecstatic upon receiving a phone call from Eber & Wein, notifying her of her winner status. With humble thanks, Ms. Thomas expressed just how much this meant to her, especially since her poem “The Gardener” was written in honor of her father, who was a “splendid teacher and writer.” Growing up in New Hampshire during the Depression, Ms. Thomas attended a one-room schoolhouse. And even though she left her childhood home for California—to attend college and begin a career—she claims to be a true product of rural New Hampshire. She fondly recalls a time when her father’s garden would feed many in the neighborhood as well as provide a “retreat” from everyday hassles and demands. “I used to pad after him, down the long rows of vegetables, happy to be included in his day.”

With a reverent tone, “The Gardener” is chock full of strong, descriptive language, figurative imagery, and religious metaphors. It is also quite appealing to the senses; we can almost hear the seeds sloshing around inside the “small planets,” smell their sweet scent foiled with the pungent odor of kerosene, feel the dirt beneath the “disciple’s” bare feet, and cringe at the sight of long, fat “cutworms” being shaken out of the can and into the dirt. Ms. Thomas’s use of personification livens up the setting, bringing the gardener’s green pets to life. His garden is his kingdom, where he is master, guardian, protector, and confidant. The young assistant, however, is just as fascinating. She shudders at her task, yet is silent and obedient and carries it out humbly because there is nothing else in the world she would rather be doing; her adoration for her father is easily perceived. It is a privilege just to be included and given the honor of carrying the chalice “for the ordained sacrifice.” So she willingly withstands the offensive smell of kerosene and the unsightly “writhing” and curling of the worms she distributes to the earth. The bookended first and last lines bring this experience full circle, subtly suggesting she is now master of her own garden and her own cantaloupes that whisper sweet secrets to her.

Ms. Thomas graduated from Stanford University in the fifties. A school teacher of thirty-eight years, she retired from teaching just four years ago at the remarkable age of seventy-six. And even now, at eighty, she still substitutes at her local middle school. Some of her favorite writers include Chaucer, Steinbeck (for his social conscience), and Steven King, whom she compares to a modern day Charles Dickens. Ms. Thomas encourages all writers, young and old, to revisit “familiar memories,” as this can be a wealthy source of inspiration.

Although Ms. Thomas has been a hobbyist poet her entire life, this was her first time entering—and, of course, winning—a poetry contest and having her poetry published. Her daughters along with their husbands took her out to dinner where they celebrated this exciting occasion with a bottle of champagne. “The Gardener” is proudly featured in Treasures, Volume 10 of The Wishing Well series. Click on the link at the bottom of this article to view a complete of list of winners from this contest.

Eber & Wein Publishing sponsors three contests per year. If you think you have what it takes to win, then don’t hesitate to mail us your poem. Only one poem per person will be accepted.

Eber & Wein Publishing

Poetry Contest 244 5th Avenue
Suite 1900-Y
New York, NY 10001

You can find our current list of winners here: Winners Listcan

You can read the winning poem here: "The Gardener"