Monday, May 6, 2013

Susan Okie Wins Bethesda Poetry Competition

Susan Okie's poem "Perseid" was selected by Michael Collier as winner of the 2013 Poetry Contest organized by Bethesda Urban Partnership and Bethesda Magazine.  Ms. Okie is a member of The Writer's Center, and she has taken many workshops over the years.  We're glad to post her blog entry and winning poem. - The Editors


            I am a family practice doctor and medical writer who rediscovered my love of writing poetry in a workshop at Chautauqua about 15 years ago.  I am enormously grateful to the Writer’s Center for its role in helping me develop as a poet.  I’ve learned from the center’s gifted teachers, including Rose Solari, Judith McCombs,  Charles Jensen, Sue Ellen Thompson and, especially, Stanley Plumly. Friendships with other local poets have been an enduring gift of my studies there.

            In January, 2012, I embarked on the low-residency MFA program in poetry at Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa, NC. Although I questioned the wisdom of entering graduate school at 61, I can say now (as I near the end of the third semester) that it has been a transformative, joyous experience.  Each term, we work intensively with a single faculty member. My supervisors – Maurice Manning, Alan Shapiro and Marianne Boruch -- have nurtured my craft, expanded the breadth and depth of my reading, and helped me learn how to begin, how to be patient with a poem, how to revise.

            As a journalist who spent almost twenty years as a reporter and editor for the Washington Post, my greatest challenge has been moving away from linear thinking and narrative, toward the lyric and the unexpected. I wrote “Perseid” in late 2012, after my husband and I watched the August meteor shower with our younger son during a visit to  the Wind River range near Lander, Wyoming.

            My poems have been published in The Bellevue Literary Review, The Gettysburg Review, Passager, and the Journal of the American Medical Association. One is forthcoming in Hospital Drive, the literature and humanities journal of the University of Virginia School of Medicine. I am still active in medicine, volunteering weekly in a Montgomery County clinic for uninsured adults and teaching first-year medical students at Georgetown University about how to talk with and listen to patients.

                                                                                                            -- Susan Okie



Three of us in plastic chairs,
wearing all we brought, legs
under a quilt, tipping back.
The galaxy’s rim spins
above, silver churning
on starless black. That dark
is interstellar dust, says
my husband, not nothing.
I choose a black hole
in the wild white river,
and let my eyes unfocus, till
stars at my vision’s edge
brighten and burn,
steady in this high air.
Then a rushing spark,
a wake that glows and vanishes.
Under the blanket, Jacob
squeezes my hand. Nothing,
then another spark, another,
and on our right a flash
aims right for us and
goes out, burned to ash.

                                    --  Susan Okie




May Kuroiwa said...

Gorgeous images without a hint of saccharin. Movement, human contact with physical sensations and emotions, and definite place in space.
Lovely work!

Tea norman said...