Ars Poetica 2018

Ars Poetica Prize 2018 Winning Poem

The inaugural ARS POETICA prize was awarded to Rasma Haidri for her poem “Practice”. Contest judge Jeannine Hall Gailey called it “a quiet poem, but charming.  Kept me re-reading.” 



Over there the window
shows morning—gray sky 
proves the earth has been turning.                            

Here nothing moves. A cat. 
A child asleep. A pot of tea. 
The closed cover of my writing journal.

I do the tai chi form Preparation… Beginning…
all the way to Single Whip.     
It’s all I know. 

Assume the Spirit of the Crane, the instructor said, 
but the shadow I cast was broken. When is a crane—?
When is unbalance flying? 

I asked a man what he does for a living and 
he said, I used to be a poet. Why used? 
Because I am no longer writing. 

I am a poet not writing. Days of not 
writing turn into weeks, months,
until the taste of poet 

is a wet pill on my tongue, writer
a remarkable piece of clothing I wouldn’t 
even know where to buy.

My child hits her head and sick 
soaks my non-writing hands that hold her to my body.
Her breath is small cranes flying.

When is a poet—?
I slice onions, comb the cat, teach a child
to erase words without ripping.

My hands cup water to my baby’s head. 
In the window—gray sky. Tomorrow
I will start again from nothing.

Rasma Haidri grew up in Tennessee and makes her home on the arctic seacoast of Norway. She is the author of As If Anything Can Happen (Kelsay Books, 2017) and three textbooks. She holds a M.Sc. in reading from the University of Wisconsin and is a current MFA candidate at the University of British Columbia. Her writing has been widely anthologized and published in literary journals including Nimrod, Prairie Schooner, Muzzle, Sycamore Review, and Fourth Genre. Her awards include the Southern Women Writers Association emerging writer award in creative non-fiction, the Wisconsin Academy of Arts, Letters & Science poetry award, a Best of the Net nomination and Vermont Studio residency. She’s a reader for the Baltic Residency program in Sweden. Visit her at


Ars Poetica Prize 2018 Runner-Up


Eileen Mattmann’s entry charmed judge Jeannine (and us) with its “clever metaphor for a lost poem,” securing the runner-up spot. 

Ode to a lost poem

Well, look at you, unexpectedly at the door,
a bit spare, five o’clock shadow, soft jawline, blurred
dark wells under the eyes, graying at the temple
where I sacrifice my hours—haven’t seen you in forever.

You remember the long nights, the endless revisiting,
the close dance of erasure, rearrangement, jazzed
vocabulary, electric lines leaving us exhausted, tearing
hair, the crumpled sheets. Couldn’t tell anymore
if any of it was good.

Ashamed to say, I forgot you existed, consigned
to the B-list, false starts, filed away in that mental closet
with lost socks, no lingering melancholy over our parting

dalliances not worth mentioning with meter, rhyme,
the Old English line, thesauri—then you escaped
well-ordered folders and piles, rose out of oblivion
into fresh light. Let bygones be bygones. I strip you down

word by word to the details, excise clutter. There will be
tears, bandages ripped away, fresh wardrobe
and you’re whole, ready to be introduced to my crowd,
good enough to flash about town, take you home to read, over and over.

Eileen Mattmann’s poetry has appeared in Millwork, Postcard Poems and Prose Magazine, The Wild Word, Red Cedar Review, Kindness Anthology II, and several other journals. She is a retired teacher and is only beginning to get used to calling herself a poet.

The Riddled with Arrows staff and sundry would also like to congratulate
the ARS POETICA finalists:

Alan Walowitz – “Another Longing Poem”
Amanda Moore – “Heroic Couplets”
Amanda Moore – “Sestina for My Students”
David Oates – “Mingus and Mozart”
Erin Batykefer – “Past Perfect”
Jane Kite – “The poet and her companions take lunch”
Jennifer Met – “An Artist Peddling a Blossom”
Nancy Cook – “Meta-ekphrasis”


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