By Flapper Press & Clayton Clark:
The Best of the Net is an awards-based anthology that highlights the work of writers, poets, and online publishers. The project was created in 2006 by Sundress Publications for the ever-growing digital literary landscape to bring together online magazines, journals, and creators toward honoring digital publishing.
"We believe this effort is integral in decentering the literary canon as well as promoting and amplifying voices that are imperative to good literature, responsible culture, and the understanding of today's social climate." — bestothenetanthology.com
Over the past year, the Flapper Press Poetry Café has had the honor of featuring an outstanding collection of poetry and interviews from poets around the globe, and we are excited to announce our nominations.
With the help of poet & painter Clayton Clark, serving as guest poetry editor, Flapper Press is proud to present (in alphabetical order) our nominations for Best of the Net in Poetry for 2022! Congratulations to all our nominees!
Flowers on a Train
Flowers fall off her shirt
onto the floor a sea of flowers
as she texts into her phone.
And because like her I’ve cried
under sunglasses, into my tea, under
the shower’s hot water,
at the top of the steps between classes
I inhale the violet, the tangerine,
Flowers fell off my skirt one Christmas,
punch at a party, attentions of the bass player
staggering to get more
into his glass. I needed
a refill, staring at white lights
hung on the kitchen’s bare walls.
Then the band started up
and he took his place
next to the piano, the drums,
and my saxophone boyfriend.
As we drove back over the Bay Bridge
I compared musical temperaments
while the punch wore off, like coming out of
Flowers on a Train, why do you cry,
a saxophone player in your coffee or did you wake
in the middle of an impermeable song,
honeyed sweater, sunglasses on your curly crown.
You can reach me a few seats away—
your flowers crawl up my legs,
thick velvet pile,
— Laurel Benjamin
CC: I loved the surreal reality of this poem. Such wonderful, striking imagery, and the empathy is contagious. The language is surprising and the scenes, so vivid, yet they feel slippery as memory. It’s beautifully drawn, tender, and colorful. I love that the speaker asks, “Flowers on a Train, why do you cry, a saxophone player in your coffee.” It’s such a unique way of seeing. I feel it all as I have joined them on the ride.
She doesn't sleep, or so she says—catnaps, dozes in fits
in her world chair by the east window, witness and some say
conjurer, but they don't know—I know—I see through the blinds
the way her eyes burn like roses. God’s awake, she says,
when the rest of you are sleeping on porches, in alcoves,
under highway on-ramps or in city parks—let's just say
she's not without sympathy, but she's seen it all—even that
horrible summer they came out of the sewers with code
marks on their foreheads, bumping into trees and fences
until one found an opening in the fabric of your dream
and they all started filing in. All she does is snap her fingers,
and up in smoke they go. So, call her crazy, call her an old bat,
but I tell you, you’d have been burned at the stake or thrown
in a lake of fire if it weren't for her and that eternal laugh.
— Douglas Cole
CC: So many great images and sensations in all three of his poems, but I kept coming back to the “Old Woman.” It haunted me in a great way. I felt her, so alive yet beyond what we think of as real. I loved that she sits in “her world chair,” such a great phrase, and I loved that the speaker feels he knows more than all those who comment on her existence. He sees “through the blinds the way her eyes burn like roses.” I felt (still feel) that burn and blossom. I liked the conversational language with an off-kilter, otherworldly aesthetic that kept me completely grounded there or, at least in my head. I continue to hear her “eternal laugh.” Fantastic!
Zelda, Westport 1920
Your friends have gone back to the gray clapboard shack
where the spirits of witches with cats
conjured yesterday’s revelry in the dark—
the stars reflecting on the Sound
and everyone dancing to the sound of the fizz
in the gin and the waves like music
rolling off ragtime, cooling to a jazzy trot—
woodwinds and brass pulsing above the static
of the phonograph, and now you, damned, beautiful girl,
sit on the shore and see the glimmer of orange blossom light,
your wild heart beating the dirge of fading night.
Today. Today you will live as you please,
thump in a junk—zozzled, fried,
high on hopes, not thinking of tomorrow and tomorrows.
If only. If only there were so many tomorrows.
— Heather Nanni
CC: I was so happy to be introduced to Zelda and love when poetry teaches me something without being didactic. The language and sound in this poem captures the time and feeling so beautifully. I felt the music, the gin, “yesterday’s revelry in the dark.” The poem feels like a dance full of pleasure, sorrow, and longing. It’s a wonderful step into another’s life or dream, and that melancholic ending rolls out like a wave that won’t return.
"It seems that we have both together by chance turned out of the beaten, crowded way and come to stand face to face with that infinite and unfathomable thing which is the wilderness; and here we have found OURSELVES—for the wilderness is nothing else." (Rockwell Kent)
If you're living in a goat shack
for an adventure of the spirit
thinking of two women and
death a hundred times a day
on Fox Island, Resurrection Bay
between Bay Harbour and
near what is today Kenai
Fjords National Park
just you and your son of nine
thirteen miles from Seward
at the open end of the Bay
painting like one possessed
cooking playing flute cutting wood
and motor-boating the area round
on rare hours of decent weather
temperatures above zero °F
no incessant wind storms, drenching rain
squalls of hail or snow, you're hungry
in need of a pick-up
tired of fishing or corn-meal mush
try Barwell Island, many
gulls breed there, their eggs
— E. Martin Pedersen
CC: To begin a poem with the question, “If you’re living in a goat shack for an adventure of the spirit thinking of two women and death a hundred times a day,” what’s at stake? Everything! And, it takes place on “Resurrection Bay.” As a reader, who could ask for more? The imagery and struggle are there from the get go. I’m so in it, right off the bat; I feel like I need a jacket, maybe a life-jacket. This short and powerful poem is so intense that when I get to, “at the open end of the Bay painting like one possessed,” I’m trying to catch my breath and continue to do so, nearly freezing, until I get to, “try Barwell Island,” phew! And finally, that beautiful ending, it’s humorous, a great image and in such contrast to the fervor of the previous lines. I can breathe now. I just love the humanity in this fantastic poem.
I was also glad to learn about Rockwell Kent and his wonderful paintings. I’ll now have to read Wilderness.
I have been invited to a free luncheon
at Chop Suey Palace to discuss my golden
years. Also, a complimentary steak dinner
and tour of Summer Lake Village,
retirement Mecca for active, older adults.
My father got similar missives in the mail
when I cared for him at his Oklahoma home
among slide-rules, ledgers,
and Grandpa’s Civil War diary.
Summer Lake Village must wait –
while I poke the fire into blaze,
my fishing tent its only protector. The jagged
portal into Lake Nipawin drips liquid threads.
Under ice, a restless shadow ripples.
The Walleye circles. My exhaled breath –
a white spike – and the moaning winds pray
for the biggest one I’ve ever seen
to take the bait, thirty pounds, at least.
The arctic gale snarls, billows canvas.
The pegged shelter’s four corners ping,
snap free, and the Walleye strikes like Sedna,
goddess of the sea. In the storm’s howl
my meek pavilion soars away. Twenty yards
down-wind, the discarded cape of it
collapses from sky, slides across the lake.
and my now snared fish begin
their death-thrashing. Sedna help me!
I can’t lose this trophy,
can’t die of hypothermia –
The fire needs tending.
I rise from the rocker,
retire the poker from its stand,
settle into my hassock by the hearth.
The dropped missives blacken in flames.
I consider an active retirement
in Manitoba where the largest Walleye
of the season can win twenty grand,
about the price of membership
at Summer Lake Village.
— Alan Proctor
CC: I loved his take on the unwanted mail starting with an invitation. It invited me into the poem. I fell into the story of caring for and losing a father. In the heart of the poem, I felt the cold wind and struggle out there with the fish, the loss of his “meek pavilion,” and the plea for help from Sedna. “I can’t lose this trophy, can’t die of hypothermia” resonated with me, as it’s how I felt when my mother was dying. It was fun at the end to return to the Summer Lake Village. All of his poems were beautifully rendered and heartfelt without falling into sentimentality, and I enjoyed the depth and humor. They feel honest.
Clayton E. Clark is a poet and painter, born and raised in San Pedro, California. Her poetry appears in SALT, a literary magazine edited by Christopher Buckleyand, and WHILE YOU WAIT, an anthology edited by Laure-Anne Bosselaar. Find more on her website purelies.net
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