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2023 Valentine's Message in a Bottle Poetry Contest Winners!

By Flapper Press Poetry Café:

"I am here to love you, to hold you in my arms, to protect you."

— Nicholas Sparks, Message in a Bottle

We are ready and excited to announce the winners of our Third Annual Valentine's Day Poetry Contest!

It all started in 2021 with our Juliet Letters contest and, as always, the poets who submitted this year did not disappoint. Indeed, we had our largest number of submissions to date!

We are so grateful and appreciative to these poets who dare to share their work. Thanks to all the poets who submitted!

We change up our judging and prompts for each contest, so please continue to submit in the future. We are not bound to any one way of writing and consider all submissions. Your chances are always high to receive one of our monetary prizes!

In our desire to highlight poets through our Flapper Press Poetry Café, we have devised many staple projects, including our poet and writer interviews as well as our contest offerings consisting of a variety of multi-themed prompts. In the coming year we'll unveil even more Flapper Press initiatives. So stay tuned!

As we continue to nurture a community of poets and informed readers here at the Flapper Press Poetry Café, we hope that you will recognize that Flapper Press is a work of love. So it is only fitting we express love through this 2023 Valentine's Day collection of poetry.

As a reminder, this year's Valentine's poetry call instructed to:

Write a poetic letter or poem of any form—rhyme, free verse, sonnet, pantoum, etc. The "message" may be to a loved one, to someone you haven't met yet, to a grandparent, to a child, to a stranger—your choice!

Now on to our 2023 Valentines' Day Poetry selections! Thank you to all our winners (presented in alphabetical order)!


1. Sherri Buerky

Aren't We Made of Love Ourselves?

My child,

Do not weep and bemoan the absence of love,

For what is love?

Is it as some believe

just an act of our cerebral cortex

firing up our neurons and synaptic connections,

a conjuring up of emotional sensations that is purely a chemically induced reaction?

Could love possibly be

residue from galactic collisions

Minerals, molecules, stardust,

a recipe,

for cosmic creme brulee

that embodies centuries old memories

drawn from all cosmic forces

Deep in celestial space,

residing in our very bones and tissues,

held for generations thru out time in our DNA.

Aren't we made from love ourselves

my child?

Isn't love our very core that nutures our souls?

A gift given to root and grow flowering the essence of who we are.

Blooming with sight, sound, taste, feel, smell

enkindling all the wonderous sences

causing an augmentation of cherished love seeds

dispersing amongst us.

Do not weep my child

For aren't we made of love ourselves?

Love is our environment,










And extensions

Our molecular makeup.

Do not weep my child

Love is always present,

It is the treasure bulb

ensconced within each creation,

and metastasized to eternity,

the ambrosia to existence.

Do not weep my child

For aren't we made of love ourselves?


2. Angelica Esquivel

a collision

& i cling to you

losing my gaze

in the neon light.

the bright red

glass looks

softer than it is,

gently bent

into fresh berries

that flourish.

we gain so much

honey. oil

pastels friction

into paint, paint


into steam

& i’m focusing,

my love, on



3. Brooke Herter James

Temperatures Rising

Settled here on the stoop,

winnowing summer’s heat

shimmering with vibration—

out over the long prairie grass

a tiny cricket whispers of lust,

in the riverbank cottonwood

a yellowthroat warbles with desire,

even the wild blue flax unfurls

her petals wide for the honeybee,

and so it is that I see you

in your broad-brimmed hat

walking the road to my open door

and, baby, I melt.


4. Katherine Keeney

"This is a fictional letter from a 21-year-old Irish immigrant in New York

to her best friend back home in Donegal in 1916."

Coney Island—Showing Some Skin

Dearest Margaret well sometimes I feel like Ill never be able to leave this house of work though I am grateful for the employers. They are kind and pay me well enough I still cannot save much or start me own life away from here and Joe do not have much income yet as he writes articles mostly about Ireland and maybe the newspaper will buy them and maybe they will not so we cannot be sure and our future is stalled because of money and that is the way of the poor and working people everywhere we have no future and it is struggle but at least here there are more people more business than in Ireland still it is no gold stairway that some like to believe or an easy ride like the ones on Coney Island where Joe and I went though it were too much money for us but we needed a fun day and went to the beach and I even went into the ocean to swim in me bathing attire so Joe got to see more of me than he ever has and I liked taking off me shoes and stockings in front of him and bend down and around so he can see some parts of me and he stuck his face into me chest and left his cheek there with his stubble beard on me soft skin and we enjoyed each other and it were a perfect warm day not too hot and I felt a little bad about enjoying meself when Joe were talking about the bloody war going on in Europe but the air and breeze and sky and water were all I could think about and Joe of course and our future and it were a wonderful day away from work something we do not get to do often and I ate a hot dog and after the long day I were blissfully tired when Joe dropped me off and he came inside to say hello to the McCormicks and I pinched a tin of meat and a couple of biscuits from the kitchen and slipped them in his pocket and he went on his way to the boarding house where he lives a couple miles away and it were a day to remember and dream about so few in this vale of tears but there I go talking too much about meself and I wish ye was here to have girl talks with. I do not have that here but I can write to ya me dear Margaret and almost feel like ya are in the room with me like when we was kids love Rose.


5. Jane Martin


Bear with me while I tell you about love,

Not the Disney movie love,

Not the Diana Ross love

Maybe not even what you think about love.

Bear with me while I tell you what I think of love.

The world we live in ties love up in pretty boxes, wrapped with flimsy bows offered up for sale.

The world we live in sells cards written in words like syrup.

The world tries to bottle love and fills your mailbox and magazines with strips of scent.

They come in like snow in December and February when love is a word scattered like bird seed, and gobbled up greedily by lonely souls.

These are but tokens, pieces of love.

Bear with me while I tell you we hear about love in churches, mosques,

temples, synagogues, and street corners.

But love is not those things for it is as large as the sky.

Love cannot be contained in a bottle or spoken only in holy places.

Love cannot be boxed and tied with ribbons, those are tokens.

Bear with me while I say

Love is the blanket of sun warming the land,

Greeting the purple crocus after a long winter nap.

Love is the joy of planting seeds with hope in our hearts.

Love is the laughter of children eating watermelon and spitting seeds just for fun.

Love is touching others with tenderness without desperation for return.

All these things are just pieces of love for as Rumi said,

"Love is the whole thing. We are only pieces”

Love is as big as the sky, uncontainable.


6. Martin Pederson

Love ids ...

Flavors of a country to take home

in your bag with the flavor of a person

odors on awaking will

this last forever, for ever, ever for

all the travel restrictions

inviolable border and checkpoints

obstacles big as moons, oceans

with no shores, cannot keep me

from you, so far away

touching skin to skin and yet

the human condition

so far away, the illusion

of the senses, the confusion as

we'd never met merely passed

in the mall like black spaceships

in black space, no lights since

everything here is frozen while

melted back on Earth never

to return, never to womb

I do not accept never

I do not accept you

accepting never

why you -- when any dude will do

-- you at that new Jamaican Barbeque

laughing at my bullshit

and spit some food on me

we cracked up, they stared

anyone else spits on me

nobody spits on me

I knew we'd be okay together

until the world ends

which seems imminent.


Presenting a wide range of poetry with a mission to promote a love and understanding of poetry for all. We welcome submissions for compelling poetry and look forward to publishing and supporting your creative endeavors. Submissions may also be considered for the Pushcart Prize.

Submission Guidelines:

1. Share at least three (3) poems

2. Include a short bio of 50–100 words, written in the third person.

(Plus any website and links.)

3. Share a brief backstory on each submitted poem

4. Submit an Author's photo and any images you want to include with the poems

5. Send all submissions and questions to:

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