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Meringoff Writing Awards

The Meringoff Writing Awards have deadlines of February 1, 2021. Everyone who enters the Meringoff Writing Awards competition must be a member of the ALSCW or sponsored by a member. Membership information is available on the ALSCW website (alscw.org). Only previously unpublished submissions are accepted; if a submission is accepted by another journal, please inform us immediately by e-mailing alscw@cua.edu.

Meringoff Writing Awards (February 1st deadline)

An incursion into the oppressor’s mind that led to writing a novel-in-verse

Carmen Bugan discusses working with Cold War surveillance family archives and the process of creating literary characters from secret police transcripts, in order to understand the narrative of oppression. In the course of locating an appropriate form which could transform historical documents and personal experience into literature, deeper questions about what constitutes literary language surfaced, both as challenges and solutions to understanding the language we use when addressing historical trauma.Click here to read.

Swan Song

from the Persian of Mehdi Hamidi Shirazi

They say when the time comes for a swan to die,
it goes where other swans have gone to die.

They say as the last night begins to fall,
it trails behind the setting sun to die.

And it sings ghazals, as though it wished between
the pages of its own diwan to die.

They say a swan loves only once and will
return to where its love was won to die.

Making its deathbed where it first made love,
it can forget it has withdrawn to die.

Sappho Asks a Favor of a Friend

Immortal Aphrodite on your throne
So richly ornamented, hear my prayer:
Don’t overwhelm my spirit with despair,
…………Nor leave me here alone;

Sly daughter of great Zeus, in my distress
Spring into action as you used to do
When you would have my distant call put through
…………And swiftly acquiesce;

Leaving the golden palace in your car,
Your sparrow-powered chariot at speed
Brought you to earth in answer to my need,
…………From heaven through mid-air;

And with a smile on your immortal face,
You’d ask, “Oh, dear, what can the matter be
This time; this time, why do you call on me,
…………And how may I erase

Ovid: Tristia 3.7

Go to Perilla, hastily scrawled letter,
trusty caretaker of my words, and greet her.
You’ll find her with her lovely mother, sitting,
or with her books, among the verse she’s writing.
When she sees you, she’ll drop whatever task,
and why you’ve come, and how I am, she’ll ask.
Say I’m alive, but do not wish to be;
time passing hasn’t soothed my misery;
I’m back to couplets, making the words fit,
though verse has never brought me benefit.……………10
Address her: “Are you working in our line,
still singing in your key instead of mine?
Besides good looks and manners, native talents,
you have a rarer dowery—your brilliance.
To keep that fecund freshet sluicing on,
I first led you to drink from Helicon.
I saw it first, when you were young, and tried,
father to daughter, to be your friend, and guide.
So, if you still burn with the same desire,
Sappho alone will show a brighter fire……………………. 20
I fear, though, that our fates may prove aligned,
and my downfall will dull your lively mind.
Time was, I’d read your work, and mine to you,
and weigh your lines, and teach you what I knew.
I’d listen to your drafts in their first flush,
and, when I caught you loafing, make you blush.
Perhaps the harm my writing’s done to me
has made you fear the selfsame penalty?
Courage, Perilla! Only don’t attempt
to teach the art of love; you’ll be exempt.………………..30
……So, put off indolence, sweet prodigy!
Keep practicing your sacred artistry.
Long years will spoil the freshness of your cheeks
and wrinkled age will crease your brow with streaks—
old age, that meets all loveliness with violence,
and steals upon us in a pall of silence.
You’ll hear, “But she was pretty once!” and grieve,
and what your mirror shows, you won’t believe.
Your fortune’s middling (though you merit better),
but let it be immeasurably greater— ……………………. ..40
Luck, at a whim, will still increase or fleece us,
and we’ll be Irus, who were lately Croesus.
No, we have nothing death will not inherit,
except the blessings of the mind and spirit.
Look, I—I’ve lost you, lost my land, my home;
I’m one whom no more can be taken from;
but my mind’s left, my sole delight and friend,
where Caesar’s sovereignty does not extend.
And should death, by a sword’s cruel stroke, arrive,
my fame, though I have perished, will survive.………..50
While Mars’s Rome from seven hills shall spread
her rule the whole world over, I’ll be read.
On you, though, may our art more kindly smile,
and may the pyre spare you for a while!”

Giuseppe Ungaretti: San Martino del Carso

Of these houses
there remain
only a few
pieces of wall

Of so many
who resembled me
there remains
even less

But in my heart
each has a cross

My heart is the most
broken country

Lone Tree Gully, August 27, 1916

San Martino del Carso

Di queste case
non è rimasto
che qualche
brandello di muro

Di tanti
che mi corrispondevano
non è rimasto
neppure tanto

Ma nel cuore
nesssuna croce manca

È il mio cuore
il paese più straziato

Valloncello dell’Albero Isolato il 27 agosto 1916

from This Broken Symmetry

(Marmot)

And so for a figure of the creature consider the marmot,
Clawed probing forepaws more accomplished than pickaxes
At parsing stones from earth, carting each off in its teeth,

Rock pile like a mound builder’s where its burrow tunnels
Under, spread mat of grass at the entry, in the “living rooms”
Where only one family lives, where the generations follow

There on the high meadows with the other families together
Slowly expanding underground their lone itinerant systems
As one stands sentry: whistles, chatter, a warning beat of tail.

The Osprey

High water sucked the beach clean of debris.
High winds downed boughs and the high osprey’s nest.
She perches on a driftwood log, half-dead,
eyes on the tide, without her fledglings now.

All June she dropped fish in the crowded aerie,
its crown of twigs topping a patchy pine:
the racket then, like bagpipes on the sea
blown by a piper still drunk in the morning.

We wondered if without her nest she’d go.
She was our bird, her cry our intimate,
a siren-wail each time we crossed the beach.
Rebuild, poor mama bird, we thought. But no.

Sinkhole Oracle

after a line by Wallace Stevens

I, bummed, looping my tinny beat,
alone by my mud pit, into big men,
numbly begin to empty an idiom.
I’m playing Me, bound not by time
but type—moody, benign, minimal—
implying I’m done, but maybe not.
I’m a dim bulb, empty, tying one on,
but I’m beyond my longtime pain.
I may begin numbed in to my plot,
a poet in limbo, but end mymying,
bumping my one byline to admit
I AM TOO DUMBLY IN MY BEING PENT.