My imagination makes me human
and makes me a fool;
it gives me all the world
and exiles me from it.
--Ursula K. Le Guin

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April, 2004

Amazing things happen when you least expect them. I was recently named one of 7 first-place winners in the co-sponsored Poetry Society of American and Olay Fine Lines Poetry Contest for women! The seven judges were Julia Alvarez, Jill Bialosky, Lee Ann Brown, Marilyn Chin, Sandra Cisneros, Sonia Sanchez, and Sapphire.

Winners each received $2,000 and an all expense-paid trip to New York for readings at the Tishman Auditorium at The New School and dinner at the Soho Grand Hotel.

Incredibly, I was almost disqualified because the contest administrator D. L. Blair, Inc., could not find me. I had sent my submission 8 months ago and moved during Christmas holidays. The Fed-Ex package sent March 19 was misdelivered. On March 30, vacationing in St. Augustine, FL, I received an email from Blair saying that they had not heard from me and, because the prize was so large, were giving me a second chance to respond. Whew! A new Fed-Ex with affidavits to sign and have witnessed was over-nighted to St. Augustine and I over-nighted them back the next day. I must admit, given that the package was due to arrive on April Fools' Day, I was a bit disbelieving.

The awards event in New York April 20 was memorable. Five of the 7 winners (Jendi Reiter, Anna Panszczyk, Simone Muench, Patricia Clark and myself) and five of the 7 judges (Bialosky, Brown, Chin, Sanchez, and Sapphire) were able to attend. We were treated royally--put up at the Soho Grand, chaufeurred about in private limos, photographed, gifted with Olay Total Effects products, and lusciously fed.

The DeVries Public Relations firm in NYC, which manages the Olay account, coordinated festivities, and their young, talented, and energetic staff members were fun and professional and did a beautiful job. We arrived at the Tishman Autditorium an hour early for photos and to chat with the judges, DeVries staff, Olay General Manager Michael Kuremsky, and Alice Quinn, Poetry Editor for
The New Yorker and Executive Director of PSA. Quinn joked about having just had makeup applied for the event.

Quinn also did part of the screening, reading hundreds of poems. The contest garnered 22,000 entries. About 8,000 were rejected at the outset for various reasons: author too young, line length exceeded, no zip code provided, etc. Remaining 14,000 were read by members of PSA. The final round of 200 poems went to the 7 judges.

The poems will become part of PSA's Poetry in Motion program begun in 1992 in New York City. The program, which places poems in subways and buses, is now in some 20 US cities. That's a nice thought, a worthy afterlife for my poem, transiting an urban landscape.

Poems can be read on Olay's website and will soon be announced on the PSA website along with the destination cities.

Entering the Tishman foyer, we saw our poems mounted on stands spaced before the doors into the autditorium. The stage had been "Olayed": shimmery gold drapes, the Olay logo on a long banner and also projected in lights on side walls, a huge vase of giant arum lilies, and spaced along the rim of the stage like floodlights small silver vases of white hydrangeas.

The DeVries photographer took many group shots onstage. Kuremsky briefly described Olay's incentive for sponsoring the contest. Quinn gave the introduction and the judges read the winning poems and their own poetry, all, I must say, dramatic and dynamic. Chin had her entire reading memorized, Brown sang parts of one poem, and Sanchez chanted.

Given that it was National Poetry Month and scads of poetry events happening in the city, there was a good audience. A reception outside the auditorium followed the readings, and I got to talk with several audience members. There was wine, hors d'oeurves, and a PSA book sale.

About 30 people attended the dinner at the Soho Grand--Olay and DeVries staff, judges, winners, and guests. The private dining room had 3 tables decorated with the same white hydrangeas. Menu include a white salad (endive, goat cheese and walnuts), entree of either pan seared salmon w/braised cabbage and onions or roasted chicken with mushroom ravioli, and for dessert vanilla creme brulee with raspberries accompanied by coffee and trays of cookies and chocolates.

The evening ended just before midnight, before the glass slippers disappeared and the pumpkin bumped along the curb at 310 West Broadway.

fr l-r:  Panszczyk, Reiter, Muench, Kuremsky, Loest, Clark

fr l-r:  Sanchez, Panszczyk, Reiter, Chin, Muench, Bialosky, Kuremsky, Loest, Quinn, Clark, Sapphire, Brown