The 2022 Contest Issue

posted in: Aging, Poetry | 0

Honorable mentions from the new issue of Passager, with poems by Joyce Schmid, Julie Pratt and James McGrath. 
6 minutes


Passager just published its 2022 Poetry Contest issue. In an upcoming Burning Bright episode, we’ll feature work by the 2022 Passager Poet David Bergman. This episode, though, features work from that issue by three other poets. Although the poems in the issue address all kinds of subjects, these three focus in some way on love.

Joyce Schmid said this poem was inspired by this excerpt from T.S.Eliot’s poem “Four Quartets:” “You say I am repeating/Something I have said before. I shall say it again/Shall I say it again?” Here’s Joyce Schmid’s poem about the beauty of love in her life, “Beauty Beauty.”

If I repeat myself, it’s called anaphora.
If I repeat myself it’s called a theme.
If I repeat myself it’s called I didn’t
get it right the first time, so I try again
I’ve never had that much to say,
not like my friend the engineer, who says
the history of textiles is the history of man,
John Marshall had one year of education,
I am going to Japan
. That’s why
I’ve spent my life in listening.
I’m filled with other people’s words,
the beauty of them insurmountable.
I have a story too, and I repeat it
when I can. It’s beautiful
just after rain when air is clean
and trees are fed and every blade of grass
is unashamed to wear its tears.
The beauty part as I have said before
and I will say again is lying with my head
upon your chest, my favorite place,
a joy no afterlife could even try
to understand.

“Beauty, Beauty” by Joyce Schmid from Passager’s 2022 Poetry Contest issue.

In Native American culture, cranes symbolize true love. In her poem “The Cranes,” Julie Pratt remembers her parents’ resilience and tenderness towards each other during the many years her mother lived with MS.

Just past dawn they glided through the fog
that rested like pillows on the still lake.
My father watched as the pair of cranes
descended toward the grass he cut the day
before, dew-covered and shimmering.

When it seemed almost too late, they
pulled up in tandem just enough to lower
their legs, the delicate spindles with claws
touching, bouncing, then settling – but wait,
only three claws, for one was missing half a leg.

The birds foraged in the grass as the man sat
with his coffee, a kind of meditation, forecasting
a day that would start by gently waking his wife,
raising the back of her hospital bed and placing
pills and orange juice on her tray.

For the next two years, the two couples
shared this shore, living the daily rhythm of an
unhurried life. Many an evening, the man pushed
his wife’s wheelchair onto the dock as the sun
sank crimson over the lake.

In the third year, my father watched the sunsets
alone. He sought comfort in his visits from the cranes,
who, like him, mated for life. Then, one morning a
single bird appeared. He wept when the crane landed,
wobbled, then steadied himself on one leg.

“The Cranes” by Julie Pratt.

James McGrath’s poem “In the Book I Leave Behind” also uses an image of cranes. In some cultures, cranes represent immortality; in others, harbingers of death.

In the book I leave behind
there will be blank pages.

There will be the silver poems
of snails crossing the abandoned path
in the dripping forest.

In the book I leave behind
there will be the rehearsal schedule
for the wake of the ancestor
I became.

There will be pages of active verbs
of climbing mountains that have shadows
of lupine and wild strawberries.

There will be dancers of light
crosshatching nouns of lost-and-found.

There will be fingerprints and footprints.
No one can tell the fingerprint
of the father from the hoofprint
of the deer.

In the book I leave behind
there will be bookmarks of woven threads
from kitchen towels, grease stains
of roasted chicken and the heat
of baked potatoes.

There will be pages of portraits,
pages of smiles, laughter, tears
and smirks, the daily script
of growing old and not forgetting.

There will be an ink-filled pen
in a pocket at the back of the book
I leave behind. This is to sign your name
with love as a thousand cranes
fly away with my shadow.

“In the Book I Leave Behind,” James McGrath’s poem, also from Passager’s 2022 Poetry Contest issue. James McGrath, by the way, was the 2015 Passager Poet.

To buy the 2022 Poetry Contest issue, subscribe to or learn more about Passager and its commitment to writers over 50, go to You can download Burning Bright from Spotify, Apple and Google Podcasts and various other podcast apps.

Thanks to Passager intern Dina Sokal for researching and writing this episode.

For Kendra, Mary, Christine, Rosanne and the rest of the Passager staff, I’m Jon Shorr.

*Due to the limitations of online publishing, poems may not appear in their original format.