Jill Burkey of Grand Junction wins Mark Fischer Poetry Prize | PostIndependent.com

Jill Burkey of Grand Junction wins Mark Fischer Poetry Prize

Jill Burkey of Grand Junction is shown with her family — husband Todd, son Parker and daughter Brooke.
Courtesy Photo |

Beginning Mind

Riding in our old blue Buick, my son looks out his window and asks what clouds mean,

how rain comes out of them, and if it’s the same way babies come out of bellies. He asks what kind of soft

is in slippers, why worms swim in dirt, why ants build sand houses, why there are planets to live on at all.

His questions jolt my not-yet-caffeinated mind from lulling into the morning news or calculating

the number of minutes we’ll be late to kindergarten,

and pull me into the space of math and myth that physicists

and philosophers have searched without end. I don’t know, honey. What do you think? I say,

but he pushes – just remember back to college,

as if I’ve lived too long not to have figured it all out.

At home, between bites of strawberry he holds by the “grass,” he tells me he thinks Granny dissolved into heaven and lives

a dead life. Later he asks if they ever make new Grannies. He says he knows where heaven is; it’s past space,

and where heaven ends, the past begins, where the past ends, is the future.

TELLURIDE, Colo. – Jill Burkey of Grand Junction received the $1,000 Mark Fischer Poetry Prize for her poem, “Beginning Mind,” at a ceremony May 16 during the Talking Gourds poetry program segment of the Telluride Literary Arts Festival.

Mark’s widow, Elaine Fischer, presented the award at Arroyo’s Wine Bar and Gallery. A San Miguel County Commissioner, Fischer talked of her time with Mark and of how rewarding it was to read his poems in his personal handwriting. She praised Burkey’s winning poem and explained how the expansion of the reach of the contest — open to all poets west of the Mississippi — and the increase of the size of the contest award had made even more people aware of her husband and his amazing talents.

“It was over the top,” explained Burkey. “Everyone at the award ceremony was so warm and welcoming, the setting at Arroyo’s was intimate and friendly, and it was a pleasure to accept an award that I feel like I’ve worked towards for a very long time.” She added, “The fact that my husband and kids were there to share the experience with me was wonderful.”

Burkey is a member of the Western Colorado Writers Forum. Her work won the 2009 Denver Woman’s Press Club Unknown Writers’ Contest and received honorable mention in the 2009 Mark Fischer Poetry Contest. Her poems have appeared in a number of literary journals as well as Grand Valley Magazine, IMPROV Anthology of Colorado Poets, The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, in downtown Grand Junction’s “Poetry in the Streets” project, and aired on KAFM 88.1 Community Radio. She is currently working on a collection of poetry, titled “Between.”

Growing up on a three-generation cattle ranch in western Nebraska only miles from the homestead where Mari Sandoz and her famous father, Old Jules, once lived can partially account for Jill’s vivid imagination and curiosity about the past, which fuel her writing. She attended a one-room schoolhouse through fourth grade and spent many carefree afternoons riding her chestnut mare, Pet, bareback across the pastures surrounding her home.

Jack Mueller, the celebrated North Beach poet now residing near Ridgway, who was named winner of the Karen Chamberlain Award for lifetime poetic achievement at this year’s LitFest, cited Burkey’s winning poem for its “clarity” — as he was the final awards judge who chose Burkey from among 91 poets who participated from 11 states and over 200 poem submissions.

A First Runner-Up award of $100 went to Donald Levering of Santa Fe, N.M. He also attended the awards ceremony and read his winning poem, “Barrelhouses.”

Second Runner-Up was split into two $50 prizes between two poets — Jose A. Alcantara of Carbondale for his poem “Beep Beep” and California poet Paul Fericano for “The Howl of Lon Chaney, Jr.” Alcantara attended the LitFest and read his poem at the awards ceremony.

Finalists included Curt Anderson, Devreaux Baker, Paula C. Lowe, Nicholas Karavatos, and Nancy Shiffrin of California; Holly Coddington of Denver, Robert King of Loveland, Jean Bower of Montrose and Julianza Shavin of Colorado Springs (CO); Robyn Hunt and Barbara Rockman of New Mexico.

LitFest is a collaboration among the Telluride Institute’s Talking Gourds program, the Wilkinson Library, Between the Covers Bookstore, Ah Haa School for the Arts, Telluride Arts and Arroyo’s Telluride. Talking Gourds is indebted to grants from Commissioner Elaine Fischer, the Telluride Institute’s Audrey Marnoy and San Miguel County Poet Laureate Peter Waldor for seeding this year’s Lit Fest poetry program and the Mark Fischer Poetry Prize.

For more information, visit http://www.talkinggourds.weebly.com.


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