A remarkable thing happened last week: One of my poems won a writing contest!
“Lament of the North Atlantic Right Whale” received first place in the Poetry category for the Blue Institute‘s 2020 Words on Water Writing Contest. The main criteria for this contest, which also has categories for prose and playwriting, is that the entered pieces should involve water, since Blue Institute’s mission is clean water and ocean conservation. You can read “Lament,” as well as the other winning pieces, now at BI’s 2020 Words on Water results page. (Once the page loads, “Lament” is the first piece below the contest logo.)
About the poem: I got the idea for “Lament” after reading a news article about North Atlantic right whales in late 2018. There had been no confirmed sightings of new calfs that year – a finding that deeply worried conservationists. As of 2018, the North Atlantic right whale population was hovering around 400. And when a critically endangered animal species like these beautiful, gentle giants goes a full year without new births, it brings us all one year closer to losing that species forever. (Scientists believe that, at the current rate of decline, the North Atlantic right whales will be extinct in about 20 years.) Reading that article saddened me so much that I knew I needed to write a poem about the whales. So I did some research, then wrote about the species’ threat of extinction from the perspective of one of their own. I think that approach allows the poem’s message to hit home in ways that wouldn’t have been possible if I used a human narrator.
If I sound calm right now, it’s because I’m still in disbelief about the news. Yes, I’m SCREAMING and CELEBRATING inside. But I’m also thinking, “Wow. Did that just happen?” It probably won’t sink in for sure until the prizes are fulfilled (a bookstore gift certificate, plus the opportunity to read “Lament” at Blue Institute’s upcoming World Oceans Day Interdisciplinary Festival, which will be held virtually in June). But what matters more is that this poem is now out in the world, and I hope it helps Blue Institute’s mission as well as the survival of the North Atlantic right whales.