On behalf of Lummox Productions, the estate of Richard Mankiewicz and our judge B.J. Buckley, I extend my congratulations to JOHN B. LEE — THE WINNER OF THIS YEAR’S ANGELA CONSOLO MANKIEWICZ POETRY PRIZE OF $1000.00.
This deceptively "simple" poem is actually an amazing and skillful tour-de-force of image, form and the music of spoken Amer-Canadian English. Although devoid of capital letters and punctuation, it is a single, beautifully phrased, complex sentence, divided by two stanza breaks into three uneven "thirds". Yet it reminded me of nothing so much as a sonnet, because it performs, much as a sonnet does, the presentation and development of an event/idea/emotion from the intimate and particular to the universal.
As it unfolds from the author's memory of the death of their first dog, the writer's life as a farmer is revealed – dealing with death is a constant of that hard occupation -- and one might anticipate a stoicism in the face of that; but rather the author suffers even at the death of an old ewe (whose described ailments echo with incredible subtlety the devastation of COVID on human lungs) -- and then in a marvelous turn in the last stanza, they give us her leaping twin lambs and themself as a child, their mother young, their dog a pup again, the life-long mortal seesaw of sorrow and joy.
I must also point out the seeming effortlessness of the narrative flow (which we all know is NEVER effortless), and the precise and vivid images -- the dog's death as being like a branch "broken off at the graft" --- dog and child part of one body, now severed -- the "snap string hay" the ewe's "last fleece/ tattered at her shoulder/ like the torn-away sleeve/ of a mendicant's coat". — B.J. Buckley (Contest Judge)