The Poetry Contest Winner: 'To the Bird That Wakes Me'

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By Shaileen B.

Ah, April! You may be the cruelest month, but in Maryland you're a month full of poetry and birdsong. Those two elements came together for Lori Powell, who won the Pratt Library's second annual Poetry Contest, sponsored in partnership with Little Patuxent Review, with this poem:

To the Bird That Wakes Me

Beyond my window,
a stairway floats in the trees.
Three notes up, three down:
your song at first light
climbs to unlock the morning.

How long I’ve followed you
up these stairs and down,
grateful to put one foot
before the other.
Then this morning
you change your rhythm,
add a flourish of notes,
a finial at the end of your stairway.

What do you mean
by this sudden Baroque turn?
Have pity on me,
wedged in this skin of reason,
finger tracing circles in spilt coffee,
while the world shifts
within its speckled egg.

You can hear the poet reading the poem in this video from the CityLit Festival, after an introduction by Gerry LaFemina, one of the contest judges:

I asked Lori Powell to share some thoughts about the origin of the poem with our blog readers.  She wrote:

Poems often begin by focusing on something small. By the end of the poem, though, that small thing is shown to have connections to larger meanings.

My poem starts with a small, ordinary thing: a bird. It was a real bird that woke me every morning one summer at dawn with its loud, piercing call: three notes up, three down. At first I was annoyed and would shut my window. But gradually I came to listen for the bird, to appreciate its persistence. Then one morning, as the poem says, the call changed slightly. Was it the same bird, or a different one? If it was the same one, what had happened? The more I thought about this small mystery, the more I realized how impenetrable it really was. I had come to depend on my bird, but the essence of the bird was mystery.

Our lives are filled with many such mysteries. Most of them we don’t even think about, or we consider them commonplace. But when we really focus on the mysteries around us, the world does shift.

Poetry appreciation doesn't end when April does. Lori Powell and other contest finalists will join the contest judges on May 1 at 6:30pm for a special reading called "The Judges and The Judged." Please come!

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