Judging for the Fischer Poetry Prize
Winnowing them down is not easy —
even to fifty, then forty, thirty —
still harder twenty, ten, & finally one.
“. . . so much hope lies in your hands,”
a colleague writes, the words carrying
more meaning than she meant. Each entry
speaks its own voice, probing reality
with imagination, with the heart. I read
each once, twice, thrice, four times,
five or more, return to it. The voices mingle,
mix, tangle — a cacophony, a counterpoint.
How to single out the one voice? One no better
than the other, just different — there is no best.
Each opens a door, tears down a wall, says
a truth I have always known in my bones,
or a truth I had not known but now I do.
I look for a honed sense of justice, compassion,
an openness to beauty that wrenches. I could say
that I choose for precision of diction, choice
of metaphor, syntax, but we would all know it
for the bull scat it would be — I choose by my own
history, my own memories, joys, pains, betrayals,
awe — by what I ate last night, drank, smoked,
dreamt. I choose by what I am most vulnerable to
as the deadline falls — I cannot tell you how;
there is no best, only what now moves me most.
The biggest prize worth having is already theirs:
the gift of widening the vision, empowering the heart.
© Rafael Jesús González 2019
City of Berkeley, California