Wabash Poetry Prize: Why We Want Your Poems in the Sycamore Review

By Matt Kilbane, Co-Poetry Editor

Here’s something we know, whether we know it or not: there is only One Poem.

To put it uncomfortably, and in no way plainly: this One Poem burns/floats/transpires always beneath/above/within us, pulsing in all its obscure glory and redolent music, as conduit to the human soul and psyche. When you’re a lucky poet, you catch a bit of the music dying, or glimpse a little afterglow, and this then is your humble poem.

Wonder-Years-the-wonder-years-134367_470_600Similar things have been said before—by poets many times over, by admirers of poetry and the other arts, and most enthusiastically perhaps, by the drunken versifier at your corner bar.

I think my sixteen-year-old self—á la beret and clove cigarette—had some similarly serious ideas on the subject.

But we at the Sycamore Review (or I at the Sycamore Review) say, brazenly: skeptics be damned.

I love the notion of a One Poem world, in which all our poetic attempts are mere snapshots of what’s otherwise uncatchable. A Polaroid’s blur. Everyone’s bad side. Everyone mid-blink. I like to think, then, of any good literary magazine as a bad family photo album, called Best Trip Ever, called If I Ever Forget This, Kill Me Then. Send your photos to the Sycamore Review.

What’s great about this whole One Poem thing is how it engenders variety, because all poets will do their own translation, will glimpse it somewhere and somehow new. And we at the Sycamore Review want it everyway, and from every angle. We have no prescriptions for acceptable poems, because there are no such prescriptions, save for those we’d look like idiots trying to name.

Meaning, we want your six free-verse quatrains on your friend’s new hairdo.

We want your sage haiku.

We want your ode to the way winter happens to your own backyard one Sunday afternoon as your husband hums the Wonder Years theme and all of a sudden your own tongue starts to taste strange to you.

We want the poem you just finished, the poem you’ve been sitting on for years, and the poem you’re about to write.

They are, I promise, the keystone, the missing link, the linchpin, the coup de grâce to this One Poem we’re all working together—but oh so separately—to transcribe.

Submit them to the Sycamore Review. Submit to the Wabash Poetry Prize, judged by the incomparable Nikki Finney.

And a teaser: if you win the Wabash Prize, if you’re published in our magazine, you’ll be knocking (scraping, I’d imagine) elbows with Mary Ruefle. Here’s a passage from her poem “For Carlos,” which will appear in our next issue:

If you are alone with no other company

but that of an old book, if you are telling

the parable of a dozen roses,

the universe shines in splendor

with the silence of fish,

the red glow of the earth below

could be the last chip of nail polish

left on the right hand of your little sister,

whom you kissed, not hearing

the acetone of your own breath….

If that doesn’t have its two fingers square on the quickening pulse of something greater than all of us, some One Poem, well then I don’t know.