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Poe Museum 2013 Poetry Contest Winners

Thank you to everyone who submitted to our poetry contest last month, held in honor of National Poetry Month. We received some great poems from all over the world. The following three poems were chosen by our editorial staff for first, second, and third place.

First Place

“Family Portrait”

By Ryan McLellan

Your bonnet rots and my time piece stopped a long

time ago.  We became a faded image on a mantel.

My father posed like his father before him, a stone

expression and thumbs in his belt loops.  His wife –

not my mother – stood still and did not speak.  My

uncle twisted his mustache like a man hatching some

sinister plot.  You must have been so uncomfortable

in that corset, bound, while the men wore the billowy

suits and smoked the cigars.  How many of these

dreadful photographs did you have to pose for?  I

can’t see through the sepia anymore; cataracts are

brown and grey.  A group-shot taken the last time we

got together; a funeral.  We all die young in this family.

We look away from the lens like we can’t be bothered

with beauty yet we all put a hand on our hips, puff

up our chests and stand still when told to do so.  We

died in these frames, lived out our last days under

dust in forgotten parlors but we knew we could be

immortal if we struck the right pose.

About the Author

Ryan McLellan is a teacher, singer/songwriter, nationally touring poet, Buffler fellow and editor from Waltham, Massachusetts.  The author of five collections of poetry and the spoken-word album Last-Second Changes to the Set List, his work has been published widely in journals such as The Subterranean Quarterly, The November 3rd Club, Lower East Side Review, Bird’s Eye reView, Concise Delight, Cosmopolitan Review, OVS Magazine as well as the anthologies Chopin with Cherries: A Tribute in Verse and the2010 Poets’ Guide to New Hampshire.  He is the only three-time recipient of the Esther Buffler Poetry-In-Schools Fellowship from the Portsmouth (NH) Poet Laureate Program and has presented workshops around the country to a wide range of audiences.  He is a semi-finalist and four year veteran at the National Poetry Slam and his full-length collection, Plenty of Blood to Spare, was published by Sargent Press in 2012.  He lives in Portland, Maine and teaches in Dover, New Hampshire.

Second Place

“RVA Storm’s A Brewing”

by Gonjoe Winn

Richmond billows and blows wild wind vines

thru the thousand tiny pebble pressed streets

striped light with three inch thick white lines,

pedestrian hair flocks frantic

like dune reeds in a winter storm—

skirts flirt towards ladies’ noses—

traffic lights sway like strung up strawberries,

autos rush to hurry and bury their heads

fearing hail’s icy knuckles on their skin,

the milk stout James undulates ripples

racing like microscopic sailboats over his face

wrecking carefree into the feeble red clay banks,

gnats grow cross-eyed in the polarizing wind

seeking shelter within the friendly fur of homeless necks

and short-haired K-9’s with flaccid tails

tucking their snouts close to their handler’s crotch,

brief doses of silence hang like empty nooses

waiting for innocent water to become criminally heavy,

my grave eyes sketch the palm reading sky

prying into the beech wood woolen clouds

crying aloud to sidewalk strollers

lightening will rain and thunder will roll over

screaming blaze honey cream droplets

down and set to drown day into night’s arms.

About the Author

Gonjoe Winn works as a Professional School Counselor in Chesterfield County, and is an alum of James Madison University and Virginia Commonwealth University. Gonjoe plays harmonica in a Richmond-area band called “The Approach” ( and is always up for an adventure.

Third Place

“For Company”

By C. L. Clickard

At midnight in Maison la Creep
I wakened from a fitful sleep
to find an incorporeal guest
hovering near the cedar chest.

She dressed quite nicely for a ghost.
Her shroud was daintier than most,
and where her dented skull might show
the ectoplasm formed a bow.

And if you didn’t mind the gore
she smeared across the parquet floor,
she wasn’t half bad company.
I asked her back for Sunday tea

Next evening I was reading late
a stack of crumpets on my plate
when from the painting o’er my bed
emerged a spectre, minus head.

The portrait’s visage he’d have matched
if his head was still attached .
So since one should not snub one’s host
 I offered up my buttered toast

But he had business dark and dire
and could not linger by my fire.
Still, as he must return by dawn
I offered breakfast on the lawn.

The third night dozing in my chair
a skull came floating in mid air.
I wondered if the cranium might
belong to he from yester night.

But thinking such a question rude
and being in a quiet mood
we sat in friendly contemplation
of the fireplace conflagration.

And ‘ere he floated out at dawn
I asked him to return anon.
Such  peaceful camaraderie
is quite a scarce commodity.

On Thursday night I could not doze
so wand’ring through the hedge maze rows,
I chanced upon a spectral choir
chanting quatrains bleak and dire.

Politely I restrained the urge
to don a robe and join their dirge
And when they stilled, inquired their rate,
then booked them for the vicar’s fete.
Twas Friday when an apparition

dragged me from my deep dormition
and led me to a loathsome crypt
where shadows swirled and ichor dripped.

It raised a black and withered claw
The ghoul’s intent  I clearly saw,
and rapped upon that marbled door
with a jolly, “Drinks? -- at four?”

And though no answ’ring voice I heard
from guiding ghoul or the interred,
I felt my terms had been accepted
and company should be expected.

So I retired once more to bed
awaiting visitations dread
and when, at last, the hour tolled four
a noxious smoke roiled from the floor.

I watched as spectral shape congealed
complete with axe and blood drenched shield
Twas Comte la Creep, knight dire and dark
my bloodline’s thrice-cursed patriarch!

I took the axe his hands were gripping
“Pardon, sir, it seems you’re dripping.”
and  proffered snifter, pipe and chair.
His howl of outrage rent the air:

“Ere since my unshrived inhumation,
I’ve terrorized each blood relation
who dared reside here e’en one night!
Yet you…. unwholesome, twisted wight…

Have you no nerves? No fear? No dread?
No terror of the vile undead?”
I shook my head and offered up
a steaming jasmine tea-filled cup.

“Enough!”  he shrieked.
“I’ll not be taunted
with the shame of being wanted.”
He snatched his blade from off my bed
and clean divorced me from my head.

Ashamed of my ungainly pose
I rose, at least from neck to toes,
and hoisted severed head to see:
the painting now resembled me!

“Be cursed to haunt these halls alone
until this insult you atone.”
Thus with that shout, his anger sated
the Comte la Creep disintegrated.

Appalled, I swept through hall and tomb
each echoing, unspectered room,
and found my ghostly infestation
had dwindled to one pale relation.

And thus I linger, mortified,
until, within these halls, has died
some unsuspecting Creep relation --
who’ll come to join my ululation!

So should these wailings 'round your bed
loose your grasp on life’s thin thread,
pardon my effrontery --
‘tis only done for company.

About the Author

C L Clickard is an internationally published author, poet and puzzle-maker. Her latest book Victricia Malicia,
released from Flashlight Press in 2012. Her next book, Magic for Sale, releases from Holiday House in 2014.
Her work has appeared in Underneath the Juniper Tree, Spellbound, and Crow Toes Quarterly.
You can find out more about Carrie and her work at


  • Becky says:

    Wonderful poetry and each so different. Mighty proud of the second place winner who happens to be a close family “relation”! Write on!!

  • Isabelle says:

    Carrie, you are amazing!
    Your ability to tell a story and fascinate the reader is both amusing and so creative. I am in awe of your comprehensive knowledge and use of vocabulary. Congratulations on this AWARD.
    Isabelle and (Bill)