Winners of the 2011 Charles Prize for Poetry

It is with great pleasure that I announce the winners of this year's poetry contest.

The judges (a physician, two engineers, a biochemist, a literature teacher, an English major, a microbiologist, a theater artist, and a computer specialist) selected these 6 poems from among the 150+ received.  I apologize for the delay this year as I had a convergence of major stressors in my life.  Yet the tomato is still ripe and ready to be awarded.

Winner - Madonna, by Nykki B.
Runner Up - Heartbeat, by Conrad Geller
Runner Up - Hot Start, by C.B.

Honorable Mentions:
Bloodwork, by Suzanne Edison
Ohm, by Erica Tesla
Lux Caelestis, by Pathematica

Judging poetry is among the most subjective of tasks, and there were numerous poems that received votes from the judges that have not been mentioned here.  I received many emails from writers and readers who were inspired, entertained, and moved by your words.

What makes for good poetry?  Perhaps it is holy necromancy of dead letters, brought to stirring life.  It is larger, more vivid, and more animate than a simple summation of its typewritten parts.  A good poem echoes from within.

The next Charles Prize for Poetry, 2012 edition, will now be accepting submissions on a rolling basis for outstanding poetry in science or medicine.  Simply email your poem to drcharles.examining *at* gmail.com to be entered, winners to be announced in October 2012.  I hope to keep this blog going as a chronicle of entries for all to enjoy.

Thank you for your interest, and thank you for sharing your poetry with others.

Here are this year's top vote getters, congratulations!

by Nykki B

You are O!
she comments, as I pass her by
So pretty pregnant today.
they say, with a smile.
You have a sparkle.
Perhaps some women are made
to blossom
for naked silhouette pictures
empire waists
Pastel print jumpers
Not I.
Gravid, I am -
half-moon heavy,
full and round.
There is weight in me,
continents of curve and drift
a topography of breast
Oceans within, wet
salt and dark
a tidal flux,
And deeply life,
its reptilian shift
moving against the primeval

by Conrad Geller

The monitored heartbeat
Rides miraculously, over and over,
Peak after peak, wavelets in a gale,
Musical score for an instrument never

My own heart, monitored for you like that,
Would show, I promise, nothing but faithfulness,
A little checked by age, much more by pain,
Still writhing in its old accustomed rhythm,
Its geometric pattern on the screen
A perfect metaphor for hopeless love.

by C.B.

When I find the center of your center I'll unwind you
And coil you around myself instead
And slide my fingers down your seams
And dreamily undo you
Make spaghetti of your arching primal spires
By candle flame, I'll dextrously denature all that tethers you
Until you quiver bodily
A harp string
And sing
Every note that's written in you.

by Suzanne Edison

The live-wire of my body,
vigilant tuning fork, vibrates low.
Watching you walk, run, heave
a mottled brown ball toward netted hoop—impossible
to dream—a braided vision
of normality—I am no longer a chicken
pecking circles round your every moment,
as if that dance kept me from being
unzipped, or you, from falling.

Yet, each time your labs return
a notch too high or, a milky fog appears
inside one eye and your knuckles flare, grated
red, I curse the resurrected
hope-wagon I thought to ride on.
Still full of flint, ready for conflagration,
I would strip bark with my teeth, slice
the neck of pestilence—a fenestration
for cords coiled from my hair and flayed skin—
plait a lasso, harness, bower, anything
to keep the sky clear
of your unfurling.

by Erica Tesla

It began with the accident:
three feet of lost flesh made way for
plastic, the living and the inorganic
and I systematically learned again to grasp.

When I get the other shoulder inked, I leave that arm
covered. The parlor-man, he thinks he can
suss me out: a hippie who mistook
ohm-as-in-resistance for om-as-in-shanti
until I tell him it means    ​decay,
our bodies all do.

I can change. I think:
the bees can see UV; why can’t we?
Busted evolutionary equipment, hardware in want of an upgrade.
In my fingertip, I inject
a sphere of rare earth, iron,
a bearing to get my bearings,
and now (when in the presence of electromagnetic fields) it
​ vibrates? buzzes? feels.
My lip is pierced, errant hair seared away,
uterus protected by a copper T,
contact lenses intimidating the view into focus.

Over dinner and mother’s objections, I will mention
​    grandad’s pacemaker,
​    a bottle of Centrum silver,
​    the incision decision dad made after too many children.
Protest discarded, I will be renewed,
made in the image of my choosing,
no longer accidental;
bionic, really.

Lux caelestis
by Pathematica

Lvx cælestis
qve in omnibvs incidit
sed pavcvm illvminat

Imagine dreams that James Clerk Maxwell dreamed
When piercing eyes looked up, by chance, to stare
Across the Scottish fields, where furrows streamed
About the gentle grandeur of Glenlair.
Imagine thoughts that Albert Einstein thought
When fortune beckoned through the window pane,
Revealing Speichergasse, newly wrought
In Maxwell’s light, emblazing Memory Lane.
The Friday afternoon meanders by
And daydreams fill the grindstone-wearied mind.
The sunbeams through the casement catch the eye
With sparks of inspiration for mankind.
For life presents this treasure to us all:
We see the light—and rise—or blink and fall.

The light of heaven
Which falls on everybody
But enlightens few

Author's note:
For the poem "Lux Caelestis" to make sense, it is necessary to know that (it is alleged that) James Clerk Maxell was inspired by the sight of the furrows in the ploughed fields around his family home at Glenlair, Scotland, to describe electromagnetic radiation by a "force field" using vector calculus to raise his famous equations. Albert Einstein acknowledged that he had been inspired by Maxwell and that relativity was implied by his equations. The patent office in Bern at which Einstein worked was located on the corner of two streets: Genfergasse ("Geneva Lane") and Speichergasse ("Memory Lane" - one of the lines in particular will not make immediate sense without this). Also, the German pronunciation is required for correct scansion.