Brittany Noakes Poetry Award, Finalist: Faith S. Holsaert

Faith SHFaith S. Holsaert is one of the eight finalists for the Brittany Noakes Poetry Award. Her entry fee, and that of the over 140 other folks who submitted over 500 poems total, went toward funding a Live Your Dream Award, a grant given by Soroptimist International of Rittenhouse Square, PA to a single mother who has experienced hardships and wants to pursue her education.

When I asked Faith about a woman who inspired her, she gave an answer that touched me greatly.

“A woman I admire is my adult daughter who is ‘near homeless’ in San Francisco. She has made a full life for herself despite the inner and outer pain which she confronts daily.”  

Many past winners of the Live Your Dream Award from Soroptimist chapters around the world have battled homelessness. It is an issue close to Soroptimists’ hearts.

Faith submitted a poem that has not yet appeared in print or online, and as a result I cannot share here. But please rest assured it is amazing. The poem is called “Diaspora;” allow me to wax poetic about it for a bit, akin to when someone describes a movie you haven’t yet seen, but will.

“Diaspora” was a singular poem among the over 500 poems I read in the span of a few weeks. It opened from a place of negation, describing what wasn’t to the narrator so masterfully I was immediately engaged. The poem is expansive as the journey the characters take. It mixes high and low vernacular. When it is published, I will link to it, and urge you to follow the berries within the poem.

Now that I’ve indulged in spoilers (at least it wasn’t Game of Thrones), I want to turn to a poem I can share with you: “The Ponies.”

The Ponies” reminds me of something I wrote to Faith in an email about why her poem “Diaspora” was chosen…that she made the process of writing a poem seem so simplistic it was a bit like watching an ice skater. The ice skater makes a triple axle look effortless, and when I try and get my feet on the ice, my rear has immediately joined them. “The Ponies” seems simple, but the first lines alone,

“The ponies show up for the picket line
on the snakey company road,”

are masterful in their sound (those punctuating Ps!), the narrative evolution through its linebreak, the evocative “snakey,” the absent pony handlers and the mystery it creates!

I’d take you through to the close, raving at every syllable, but there is such pleasure in simply reading and seeing Faith’s poem here, not stopping to analyze it but just enjoy it for the pure pleasure of poetry.

I encourage you to read “The Ponies” and revel in her imagery. She is a master. And one I’ll keep you updated on!

Faith S. Holsaert has published fiction in journals since the 1980s and has begun to also publish poetry. She co-edited Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC (University of Illinois). She received her mfa from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. After many years in West Virginia, she lives in Durham, NC with her partner Vicki Smith, with whom she shares ten grandchildren.

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