May 252010

Okay, this was an evil contest for the judge who has been tortured trying to decide among the Final Five (not to mention the other estimable entries). Never mind that after the aphorism contest the judge had to hide out in Sea Hills, NJ, for five weeks to avoid violence and public opprobrium. This time the pain was in the judging (and, believe me, the judge tried to hand off the honours but was flatly turned down several times). This time the general quality of the entries was so high, surprisingly high–it seems the NC crowd is upping its game, rising to the occasion. (I hope I haven’t turned you all into poets!) The Final Five are all just fascinating poems. And Gary Garvin may hedge about his “Spam Villanelle,” but you have to grant him the wit of the initial conception and the follow-through. The poems Gwen Mullins and Anne de Marcken entered are definitely the most “felt” poems, delicately threading emotion, language and thought. Of these two, the judge possibly admires the Anne de Marcken poem the most but he likes the Gwen Mullins poem on personal grounds–he has sons growing up. But then the judge appreciates the brash humour, the pure joy of Julie Larios’s ratty-ness poem. He wanted that one to win, especially because his dog makes a brief appearance (apparently a part of Julie’s inner menagerie, go figure). And finally he decided that Julie’s “At Play” should win because he admired it spareness and clarity of line and thought and its lovely description of the act of thought or writing. And so he thought he was done. But then he read them all again–torn, torn as he was upon the rack of ART!–

and decided that Gwen’s poem affected him the most. Usually, the judge judges negatively at first, looking for reasons to discard this poem or that. At the end, he couldn’t find good reasons for rejecting any of these poems. And so he had to fall back on reasons of the heart, the imponderable inner motions of intuition and feeling, and which, this morning, at this hour, in this mood, leaned ever so slightly that way. And so Gwen Mullins wins the 2010 Numéro Cinq Villanelle Contest. (Although the judge will read the poems again and doubts will invade and the rollers will pull tighter and this will never end, he thinks.)

The truth is I never thought the competition would be this hot, and this is a good enough reason, all in all, for the blog and the contests–because, you know, the judge and dg have their doubts now and then. And I just want to be sloppy for a moment and thank you all for joining in and taking pleasure in writing for the sake of writing. It really is quite wonderful.

Also, I want to mention here the three Barracuda (Under 16) Class entries (Sage Zimmerman, Sarah Irwin, and Danny & Anibelys)–all equally charming and poignant as far as the judge is concerned and he is not going to add to the horror of this week by trying decide among them.


Lovers and daughters slip and stray,
Laughing ungently at outstretched heart.
They will not linger; they cannot stay.

Like an errant skiff pulled from the cay,
The undercurrent serving its treacherous part,
Lovers and daughters slip and stray.

Shout from the shore, drink the drowning day,
Forget they planned to leave from the start.
They will not linger; they cannot stay.

Usher them toward safety into the quay,
Clasp them tight even as they depart;
Lovers and daughters slip and stray.

Still they go, they slide away
Like souls, they’ve mastered that sweet art.
They will not linger; they cannot stay.

Let them go and learn to pray;
Navigate by a new star chart.
Lovers and daughters slip and stray.
They will not linger; they cannot stay.

—Gwen Mullins

  8 Responses to “2010 Numéro Cinq Villanelle Contest–the Winner!”

  1. Good choice, Doug! If I’d had the guts to vote, I would have picked this one.

    (But Gwen, say it isn’t so; my daughters are 7 and 8, and I hope they never go)

  2. What an honor! I am looking forward to my free coffee, general accolades and the whispers of, “Yes, she’s the one who won,” when I pass through the halls of, well, everywhere. Thanks!

    And yes, my daughter is 16, currently on date with an 18-year-old boy, and spends her time planning on where to go away to for college in another year.

    • I’m sending this to my daughter (16 in a month, at boarding school) right now. I admired it from the start, as well as other entries, but it was, seriously, too hard for me to read again until now. Contratulations and thanks!

      And thank you, mysterious judge, for honoring Danny and Anibelys; it meant a lot to them to see the comments on their poem and to be part of the contest.

  3. Congrats, Gwen! It is a lovely poem. My daughters have been slipping away for a number of years now. The younger one has been traveling in Europe since September with no plans to return any time soon. I’m still struggling with letting go.

  4. Beautiful Gwen.

  5. “To fall back on reasons of the heart” is always the right thing to do, Doug. Congratulations to Gwen!

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