This is the next in a series on the finalists, runner-up, and winner of the Brittany Noakes Poetry Award, a fundraiser by Soroptimist International of Rittenhouse Square, PA for their Live Your Dream Award, given to a single mother who has experienced hardships to help make it possible for her to attend school.
Finalist Emily Rose Cole is a writer and lyricist from Pennsylvania. She has received awards from Jabberwock Review, Ruminate Magazine, and the Academy of American Poets, and her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Nimrod, Spoon River Poetry Review, Yemassee, and Passages North, among others. She holds an MFA in poetry from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and is currently a PhD student at the University of Cincinnati.
I asked Emily to name a woman she admires, in the keeping of the Live Your Dream Awards, and she had this to say, “In high school, my history teacher had us complete a research project about an American political figure from the early 20th century, and my person was Jeannette Rankin, the first female representative to Congress. She was elected to the House of Representatives in 1916, and she was a huge force for passage of the 19th Amendment. She’s been an inspiration to me ever since, and I’ve always especially loved her pacifism. She used to say, “you can no more win a war than you can win an earthquake,” and she was the only representative in either house of Congress to vote against declaring war on Japan in 1941.”
Emily’s finalist poem can be read online here, at the Winning Writers’ site, where it placed first in the 2014 Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Contest. I loved it just as much as they did over at Winning Writers, so chose it for one of ten finalists out of over 500 poems.
Allegheny County, 1888: Ava Remembers Her Canaries is a haunting poem that takes the reader to another time. My favorite passage (italics mine):
“Weeks later, the chicks burst into the world
like dynamite. I offered them a flaking metal palace
washed in sunlight, volunteered for outdoor chores
to stay close…”
The mine’s explosion revealed at the end of the poem makes that “like dynamite” so startling upon second read of the poem. Its inner rhyme with “sunlight” mirrors the danger of the mine paired with the beauty of the birds, the bonding between father and Ava over the canaries. When Emily further writes, “I taught them rhythm,” I am in great belief at her ability to do so.
The most emotional passages to me are those two stanzas in italics, the dream quality they take on, the surrealism…tell the truth but tell it slant, the formatting allows Emily’s Ava to speak in another tone. The dynamic between the two voices is so evocative again of her subject matter.
Reading this poem, a takeaway might be that life is fleeting and complex. Even beauty is bred and caged. But beauty is in the telling, too. Cole’s words sing just like her canaries.
It is a truly lovely poem. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have. Follow Emily on twitter, to keep up with even more of her successes.