At first I was bewildered, even overwhelmed and continually amazed at the pile of entries that kept coming and coming. Each poem introduced me to another world of image, emotion, drama. Each had a language of its own that had to be de-coded slowly in order to divulge the energy and spirit of each line, each stanza.

Some were overly decorated with image after image that flowered so densely, the page was overgrown well before the story developed.

Some were simply narrated, prose-like in their determination to offer facts, not linger with sympathy, not delve into empathy, not offer alternate routes.

Some, like the winners, embroidered the space, worked their thoughts into knots of connection that grew into continuous connectedness, creating a network of ramps, bringing me to a central kernel that became a surging narrative.

The strongest submissions pulled me in before I realized what was happening, begged me to change places with the speaker, demanded I take my place in the struggle, teased me into personally enduring the impact of the narrative.

I was most moved by themes that dealt with intimate issues, personal burdens or joys the poet understands, experienced, suffered, overcame.

I was most delighted by outspoken ideas I hadn’t heard before.

I was excited by a balance between the known and unknown, surprised by intensity, and embraced by real or imagined insights.

I was reminded that form is as valuable as content, that omission can be as powerful as the obvious, that tailoring the familiar to a new shape is what poetry does best.

Being one of the three judges, was a great honor.