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Relationships -- For Better Or Verse

Carl Nelson

The first time we held a writing contest, called "Three-Minute Fiction," more than 100 people submitted stories. Our judge, GK Wuori, selected five winners -- all of whom got to read their stories to WNIJ listeners in October.

With Valentine's Day approaching, we decided to ask for poems about relationships. These could be sonnets about seduction, burlesques about breaking up, or haiku about healthy relationships.

It doesn't have to be a poem about romantic love. If you wrote some free verse for a friend, or a cinquain about Singles Awareness Day, send it along. You might get to read it on our air.

Our judge, Susan Azar Porterfield, says poems are the perfect vehicle for expressing the intricacies of human emotions because they focus on the most intense moments.

"You can write a poem about someone you love and it's so concentrated," Porterfield says. "You could write a novel about someone you love, but those are two different experiences. We go to poetry for those moments of intensity."

Porterfield is an English professor at Rockford University. She also recently won the Editors Prize at the Cider Press Review for her manuscript Dirt, Root, Silk which will be published next Summer.

For Porterfield, the most intense moments make us understand what it's truly like to be human: "Whether we're grieving, or in pain, or in love. Sometimes being in pain and love aren't all that dissimilar," she laughs.

She says the challenge is knowing which moment, of all the moments in a day, to commit to paper. "The poet picks out from the flux of time one moment and says, `This is not going to pass by. I'm going to take this moment out and save it.' And it lives forever."

During an interview with WNIJ, Porterfield read from a collection of poems by Lucien Stryk, a Zen poet who taught at Northern Illinois University. Porterfield calls the poem, "Dreaming to Music," a perfect expression of longing. You can see her read the poem in the video link below.

Now that you have an idea of what we're looking for, here are the contest details:

Email your poems to nprpoetry@gmail.com. You can also send them by post to "Poetry Contest," 801 N. 1st St., DeKalb, IL 60115. One entry per person, please. The deadline for submissions is Friday, Jan. 29; entries will be accepted until midnight. If you're under 18, please tell us the name of your school so we can send a letter of recognition to your teacher.

We'll assign each poem a number before sending a copy to Porterfield with no information that would identify the writer. Porterfield can select up to five winners, with the option of naming honorable mentions.

Winners will get to record their poems for broadcast during the days leading up to Valentine's Day.

Everyone is eligible except paid staffers of Northern Public Radio and their immediate family members.

We hope the Muse visits your writing room before the deadline. You're also welcome to dust off an unpublished poem that's been languishing in your laptop or journal. Whatever you decide to give us, we're looking for your best. So give it one more polish before hitting Send.

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