"The White Doe of Nara" by Joshua Gage
I was extremely proud when I wrote this piece, and promoted the heck out of it for the "Preditors & Editors" award, which it won. Now, looking back, after having read through a few dozen speculative poems, I'm not sure it's working. For me, it is immediately too ekphrastic. I'm not sure this piece makes much sense without the accompanying art. I'm not sure that this means it fails as a work, but certainly discounts it as a "best of the best" in an anthology, especially when that anthology will not contain the art piece which inspired this poem. Also, I'm wondering if this is a bit too dependent on the Galvin poem from which I took the form and syntax. This may or may not be something to worry about, but I don't know if I've added anything new. Also, as it's presented, some of the lines are off. Particularly "When I leave/I know" which is actually one line, not two; in a reprint, these lines will seem abitrarily broken. In addition, I'm not sure the imagery has the weight which it might for a different audience. For example, knowing that "oranges and evergreen branches" are part of Buddhist purification rituals adds a layer to this poem. Without that knowledge, the image doesn't add anything to the poem, and seems random. There's too much that isn't working here to be a "best of" piece.
"The Dispossessed" by Lyn C. A. Gardner
This is a very interesting poem, and one that carries a lot of weight, packing stanza by stanza another horror to the point that the reader is on the verge of shuddering by the end of the poem. A lot of the images are really working here--"And that shadow stretching out behind each one—/Brothers whose hearts soon fail,/Sisters who succumb to disease"--and carry a lot of power. At times, there are no images, but the psychological coldness of the statements--"Failed bodies, not human at all,/Never were, never will be—/In order to continue,/We must insist the courts define those dross./They are abortions, allowed, just fit for study."--simply adds to the horror of the speaker's psychology, and the world view they are promoting. There is a lot happening in this piece, and some powerful statements on human rights, cloning, women's rights, the nature of life, scientific ethics, etc. This is a really haunting piece, and one working on many levels. "The Dispossessed" certainly will be one to consider for Rhysling voting."Hungry: Some Ghost Stories" by Samantha Henderson
This is completely a personal thing, and one I've wrestled with for years, but I really don't believe in the concept of "prose poetry". Here's my logic--the essential unit of poetry is the line, the essential unit of prose is the sentence. If there are no lines, but sentences and sentence fragments, then it's prose. It may be prose which is informed by the lyric sensibilities of poetry, which challenges and breaks the normal narrative arch of traditional story telling, but it's still prose. So, for me "Hungry: Some Ghost Stories" is not a poem. These are rich vignettes, and there is a lot working here. The circular form works, and the questions at the end echo ideas of haunting and/or seances. I think this is a really, really successful piece, but I don't read it as poetry. Again, completely a personal opinion, and one worth discussing or debating, so to readers for whom this piece works as a poem, I ask "Why? What makes this a poem, not a prose piece?" This might open up the definition of prose poetry a bit more.
"Search" by Geoffrey A. Landis
For me, this has a lot working for it. First off, there is some hard science fiction. Lines like "Writing a new algorithm to implement frequency-domain filtering/Sorting out a tiny signal of intelligence" add a real, tangible science to this science fiction. However, this is tempered with hints of pop culture, even humor--"(He doesn't look anything like Jodie Foster)/He's not listening to the telescope - his headphones are blasting Queen" or "He has a beard like Moses/Glasses like Jerry Garcia/A bald head like Jesse Ventura". This balance works, and is more balanced by lines like "His fingertips are doing the search" or "Patience like Job" or even "If only his filtering algorithms were more incisive." which add a depth to the character of Jeremiah. The idea, two groups of intelligent beings sending signals back and forth, and simply waiting to connect, perhaps even missing each other across the void is simple, but one that, explored in this way, creates an ache and longing in the reader. This is a straight forward piece, but one that has a lingering tone, and should be considered for voting.