I’m thrilled to present the winner of the Stephen Dunn Prize for 2022, “Polar Bear,” by Carol Hobbs, selected by our poetry judge for this issue, Tomás Q. Morín. He writes, “‘Polar Bear’ stopped me in my tracks. It slows down time to an achingly slow pace, the bear’s pace, which is to say the pace of our mutual doom. Carol Hobbs makes a poem with enough room for loss, hope, and the living that comes in between.” Congratulations to Carol, and to all of finalists.
This summer is breaking hot and sullen, and daily headlines we face are mostly grim. The poems that have converged for this issue, the finalists and the editor’s picks, all seem to reflect this somber mood in some way. But they also manage to do the thing that poetry does best, that is, to drill down or slither by the harsh monotones of headlines to illuminate some more precious aspect of the human experience, from the brilliant night skies in Tamako Takamatsu’s meditation on the devastating aftermath of the Fukushima tsunami, to Kate Allore calling down the natural elements of her native world to restore a healing calm in the wake of centuries of colonial exploitation, to Jed Myers bearing witness to the opening moments of a devastating new war through the filter of a liminal tidal space between forest and ocean. These poems do not look away from the woes of this moment, rather they offer us scraps of insight and nourishment to carry on.