Friday, April 11, 2014

Our 2014 Poetry Contest
by Mary Ellen


We want to thank all of you who submitted these wonderful poems. We will be constructing a Poetry category on Mushrooming Together for everyone to read them. Please watch for further posts publishing all the entries.  For now, we’d like to publish the 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize (plus honorable mention) for everyone to enjoy. Congratulations to ALL the Poets!

1st Place - Jennifer L. Knox of Nevada, IA

The Mushroom Burial Suit

Screwed onto a silky stem with one arm
Buried to the elbow in a skirt of breathy gills,
A smooth hill of snow caps trace the nose
(Once sneezing), shoulders (once shuddering)
And paunch (once hanging over a waist band).
Busy bees, spores fly below the eye’s radar
To lay and lay down their carpet—soon, seamless
As a fondant, they’ll break down the splitting
Skin, blood, bones, and acorns sprouting in the now
Vacant mouth, down through a life of frets
And flurry to the ground thriving under.

"The poem was written about the Infinity Burial Project, here:
I know very little about mushrooms, but when I learn something new, it is inevitably the coolest thing I've ever heard."

2nd Place - Amber Veverka of Charlotte, NC


The Anishinaabeg once called it puhpowee, that force
which stirs in secret, lifting leaf mold,
surprising even the serious oaks,
who wake to find at their feet
these new beings, peopling their forest.
All in the damp dark, they come reaching,
with a power so particular, it earns its own name.

"I am not a poet but I love poetry, and have enjoyed it all my life. And my interest in mushrooms started as a child in Michigan, walking in the woods with my mom or dad. At the time I only knew the names of a few but marveled at all the shapes and sizes - the sticky purple mushrooms, the deadly destroying angels, the smooth shelf fungus, the elusive morels. I'm still an amateur when it comes to wild mushrooms, though I am learning about more of them with the help of a local naturalist. But this year, for the first time, I harvested my very own shiitake from logs innoculated with Field & Forest spawn: A surprise from my own shady backyard!"

3rd Place - Whitney Richardson of Chicago, IL


I field my walks at night

Spores cool my mind
Crawling hills beside me)))
(((Below a wet earth
A soft glow enlivens
My reflection sings a lasso
I drop to my knees)))
Underground rotting wood murky plank
Carries you honey mushroom to my island
I will take you wherever you'd like to go

"I'm an artist with an interest in melody, ecology and environmental awareness. My interest in mushrooms has led me to the brain of the forest and the wetness of the shower and the home of the log, all favorite places. I'm immersed in mycological surroundings on the regular now, a new thing for me."

Honorable Mention - Jared Urchek of Boulder, CO


Illicit beings upon
My small creations

"Well, I am a mushroom cultivator, I have a small business in Boulder, CO. I was sitting in my shop, buying some of your products when I noticed the poetry contest. I must have sat and looked around for inspiration, and saw a batch of my mushrooms that got contaminated:) Cest la vie! I didn't get mushrooms out of those blocks, but at least I got a good poem!"


Growing up in the 60’s meant there was a lot of listening for entertainment. My sister and I would lie on the living room floor next to the record player and listen to Disney soundtrack LPs.  My mom would sing us folk songs with her guitar when we were sick.  My oldest sister would read us “The Highway Man” by Alfred Noyes from our family poetry anthology before bed.  That anthology was so well read it had a broken spine by the time I was of reading age. I made sure that we had a similar book in the house when our own kids were little.

Poetry is something that is enjoyed by all ages. Kids love to read poems and lots of kids like to write it. Poetry is fun but also can be dead serious and desperately sad.  Poetry arrests my consciousness and makes my jaw go slack when I hear Garrison Kiellor reading a daily poem on The Writers Almanac.  It isolates and defines and plays with light and illusion as a photographer might do with a camera.

The idea of bringing mushroom poetry to visitors of Mushrooming Together came when a friend of ours sent an original  poem for me to read aloud when Joe was in the hospital  for a few days.  I read the poem to Joe, to nurses, then to Joe again. I found myself wanting to share “Ode to a Toadstool” with every mushroom cook and dinner guest. I got to wondering how much mushroom related poetry was out there…. after all, it’s hard to find a more mysterious, beautiful, functional and culturally important subject!

As it turns out we were thrilled to receive 28 excellent entries for this contest. Blind submissions were judged by Dr. Amy Reddinger, Associate Professor of English at UW-Marinette.  All of the poems were wonderful; we couldn’t believe so many talented writers knew … really knew!…. mushrooms.  The top three submissions are so elegant they need no further introduction from us.  The honorable mention, also awarded by Dr. Reddinger who is NOT a mushroom grower, had us giggling and nodding.