Poetry 99

The 2020 winners of the CN&R’s annual poetry contest

The Chico News & Review’s annual Poetry 99 issue was supposed to come out on April 2. That was before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the paper to suspend print publication, putting many planned stories—including the contest’s winning poems—in limbo.

With the paper back in online-only form, we are proud to finally share the works of Chico’s poets who met the challenge of creating works of verse in 99 or fewer words.

Our judges this year were two members of the 1078 Gallery Literary Committee: Chico State English instructor Sarah Pape and Oroville High School English teacher Marta Shaffer. They whittled hundreds of entries down to first-, second- and third-place winners and honorable mentions in four categories.

Thank you to all who entered. Stay safe and write more poetry!

Note: Scroll down for other categories.


First Place:

Beyond the Ashes
The silken morn
poses in silence
split through bony curtains
formed by death branches

Shards of pottery
broken, blistered
by fire and smoke
topple inward
rigid, cuddled, mottled
by intertwined engines
of the kiln wind
into ashes pops
grey and sooted

Seeking a crocus or lily
hummingbirds disinherited
by smoke will return
but not by the morrow

Alone and poised
the seashell chimney
hails the upward sun
our only timepiece
which replies
it’s half noon

—William Collins, Yuba City

Second Place:

What Passerines Know
passerine claws formed for perching
reading the newspaper of our actions
from a safe branch

conditional kindness—we put out seeds in trade for colors
or power—the BB gun, sling shot, released cats
we please ourselves

windows let in the landscape
a/c units cooking the outside
we please ourselves

we’re in awe of songbirds, recording
their lyrics, fewer singers each year
the silence, a seeping gas

we display colors, too; bright cloths on the nurturer
drab darks of the powerbroker—blending, seeping
we please ourselves

—Wren Tuatha, Magalia

Third Place:

Bird Flash
Birds in flash patterns swarm
Past my windshield
With shutter set for noon light
One click
And the image becomes indelible,

How am I to keep attention
On this mired and pot-holed road?
Starlings in wireless connection
Hack my roadway,
Outpace my GPS,
Befoul my neurons.

—Carol Sue Taylor, Oroville

Honorable mentions:

There’s a music in the machinery
That vibrates
Between the pieces
That echoes
Around the parts

There’s a rust around the windows
That reddens
The places
That are separated
By the panes

There’s a murmur in the holds
That reverberate
With life
After life
Has left them

As the foundations rot
As the beams weaken
As the hinges break

The freighters sit
In their harbors
Waiting to return

To their seas

—Brian Blankenship

i feel things crawling inside me sometimes
mapping my insides with string
binding my vocal cords
taking the place of words

tiny legs traverse my airways
carrying bodies into my lungs
taking the oxygen there
using it for their needs
leaving nothing for me

my body houses horrors
crawling along my trachea
making homes in bronchial passages
replacing alveoli

the web of my insides is a story
woven warnings from parasites to host

my body is dying
has been dying since i was born
this human condition

Arachne was a woman
cursed to weave forever
cursed to smallness

—Brianna Lehtinen, Chico

complicit friction
the devastation when you swipe
your hand across a dusty shelf
galaxies set adrift

when the necklace pops
beads scatter
planets lost to each other

complicit friction
of snapping fingers
slapping laptops at the board meeting

fire enters our dimension

—Wren Tuatha, Magalia

Crime of Sunday Travel/Madonna on the Rocks
A changer—a figure out.
I am inside
The Continent. How to unwrite?
Hang up.
Far away.

There is a baby

There is
a baby

There is
a baby there.

Sky takes “ON.”
white linen cloth –
of reflection
a bluegrey. Dog eyes.
A wave against igneity.

Carried away.

As many as inflation.

—Alaina Macarthy, Chico

Any Given Morning
Saliva gains with coffee in brew
Palate crumbs and olio spread
Toast tanned
Shellacked with marmalade

One forefinger wipes after the bite
Which leaves a jagged arc of incisors

Silent drops of orange viscosity
Plop onto the tabletop

Napkins are too proper for this repast

—William Collins

The mandrains fell.
Tee ball sign
ups now open, white or blush
almond orchards. Check. A landline.
Stop the bus, I need a kiwi. Light stuck
inside glass. Middle of trunk
bark secretion.
Tires cover
Tarp cover
soil. Cover
land. A new favorite
month. Skipping winter. Cows
graze. Rolling
stream covered in clear plastic.
Penned key. Roving libel.

—Alaina Macarthy

North Beach 2015
Bald Buddhist monk, yellow robed, one legged
bows and begs, whispers “Namaste.”
He watches passers-by through red veined eyes.
Young texters zip through high finance canyons
towards bistos, hair salons, bars. ”Namaste.”
He takes my dollar, hands me wooden prayer beads,
Drops them. Selfless, he bends down to fetch them
with a quiet face and no grimace. I reach them first,
spare him a jab of pain. His smile is broad
and slight.
This is your turf, Ferlinghetti,
Ginsberg, Kerouac, McClure, Ted Joans.
Reappear. Scream now.

—Paul Belz, Chico

High Up
High up,
near aerial fly-ways and playgrounds,
mistletoe clusters crouch darkly,
looking in the after-image of a grazing glance
like a volt of turkey vultures,
sooty shapes perched above the broad, glittering river’s bank,
above the tidal pull of life and death.

—Lisa Sophie Rhein, Chico


First Place:

a girl with hair the color of stained teeth
calls my name across a field of dead berries
i could barely see her
besides her sunken cheeks
and frizzy sweater with red sparkles

we met up in the middle
her converses sinking into mud
stained knife peeking through her clasped fingers
arms clutching it close to her hollow ribs
‘i’m skipping town,’ she confessed
her voice buzzing with a thousand frantic bees
‘and i can’t keep this.’

her body drops to her knees,
her raw fingers start to unravel the earth
‘i’m sorry,’ she says,
as she uncovers me

—Breanna Dodson, 16, Chico

Second place:

We build obelisks to the sky
We place our hand-prints in stone
And our names on walls
We sing ballads and
Write stories
We tell tales we heard in childhood
The details ever so elusive
To remember, we say
No, not to remember, we think
But to not forget
Since to be forgotten
Is like never existing
And what good is that?

—Annika Presentati, 17, Magalia

Third place:

False Spring
Grey watercolor
Spreading across the horizon
Bleeding into spiderwebs, caramelized strands
Of twisting, writhing oaks
Mammoths crying at the sky
Reaching for the clouds
And below them,
Suspended, frozen in an instant
Ready to flee the enclosure of wintering trees
And return to the earth
A tornado of delicate petals
Softer than dew
Cascading through air in a cacophony of sugary aroma
Perfume as rich as honey and gentle as mist
Dyed with blotched lipstick and rosy blush powder
Ombres of sunset pinks that could drift away in an instant
And join the illusion of a false spring

—Maya Klein, 14, Chico

Honorable mentions:

Perfume Bottle Memories
The glass was warm
Peppered by my milky fingerprints
Liquid since dissipated,
All that remained was citrus, lavender and lilac
And a spirit of someone long gone
A memory, only corporal because I hold onto her
Harnessed forever to this bottle
With the golden cap
and the cheap drugstore fragrance
I remember
Melted sun rays
On a syrupy sweet sugary Sunday
Bare feet sticking to cool wood
Light lying across our bodies,
And filtering through aromatic mist
A memory shrouded in haze
That stings my skin like needles
Piercing every pore
And spreading a sweet smile on her face

—Maya Klein

You watch the moon
Searching for answers in its silence
Hoping the stars will sing to you
And demanding love from the darkness
You sit amongst cherry blossoms
Trusting them to caress you softly
You lie beneath trees
Expecting them to endow you with wisdom
And you cry
Because the world isn’t good enough
And the stars don’t love you
Because they are too busy burning
And the trees don’t care
Because they are too busy growing
And the blossoms will blow away
Because they move on
You watch with smoldering, dazed disappointment
And wonder what you’ve done wrong

—Maya Klein


First place:

Terror is pitch black.
It tastes like nail polish remover.
It sounds like a thunderclap.
It smells like Paradise on November 8th.
It looks like a Black Hole.
It makes me feel helpless.

—Mona Hendriks, 12, Chico

Second place:

I miss her
I am still waiting
Silver ribbons on the floor
Shadows dancing
across the hall
Outside a swing set
Something is broken inside me
Need a little help
Eighteen months of nothing
The clock is still ticking fast
Seasons have changed
Memories flow through my brain
She hasn’t come back
See her in a pink tutu
I know she not coming back
I want my little sister back

—Sarah Alba, 13, Chico

Third place:

Leaving for College
She’s going to college next year
So no more sister sleepovers in her room
No more school advice
No more stealing her clothes
when i have nothing to wear
No more staying up all night talking
No more annoying our parents out of their minds
No more company during our
Long car rides
I’m even going to miss our fights
Because at least
I wasn’t alone

—Aveline Travis, 12, Chico

Honorable mentions:

The Buffet
I look and see a buffet across the street.
Being so hungry, I ignored the name of the buffet, only taking a glance.
As I step in, I use only my hood to be discreet, thinking of what I should eat.
I then pay for my table, and I look at the meat.
As I smell and smell, I got no scent of beef.
I look everywhere! Place to place, scanning for some meat.
But I then found salads, with croutons and a beet.
As I lost hope, I realized what the buffet’s name was.
The Vegetarian Buffet.

—Tomomitsu Aldan, Chico

The World Isn’t Perfect
I’ve been seeing some things
and it’s got me wondering
maybe the world isn’t perfect

as people pass on by
half of them laugh, half of them cry
leading artificial lives to satisfy somebody else

but these fake lives they lead
are filled to the brim with corruption and greed
but the truth is buried deep inside

if only we had known
the scholars had learned
the teachers had shown
that the world isn’t perfect

if we had only known
then we wouldn’t have crashed
and we wouldn’t have burned
when we found out

the world isn’t perfect

—Donovan Bonea, 14, Chico

He stood there people
surrounding him
and yet he felt alone
where was he
everywhere he felt empty
people pushed by him
barley looking up
it was like he was invisible
he wondered why he was even born
why he was even here on earth
he was alone inside and out
then it happened
she walked through the crowd
she heard him she heard him cry out
and she went to him
they walked through the crowd together
they felt alive no longer alone

—Selah Paulsen-Wentzell, 12, Chico


First place:

Leeches of the Lake
A lake is like a playhouse for blood sucking leeches.
So beware
Your ankles aren’t safe.

—Isabella Reiser, 8, Chico

Second place:

Destruction in the city
A sudden black spot caught a dude’s eye. Taxi drivers get blinded. Police men cower in fear. A boy riding a skateboard trips. Everybody has noticed it. Something is swelling. Something huge. Suddenly with no warning the air starts to feel thin. People vaporize on the streets. Screams of terror shake the buildings. literally. All of a sudden everything is swallowed up in the bright dark vortex and the universe is silent. The swirling vortex goes dark. It gets smaller and smaller. Sucking its self into thin air. Nothing is left. It was a black hole. In the city.

—Santiago Winton, 11, Chico

Third place:

Happy is blue

It tastes like fresh baked banana bread

It sounds like a water fall

It smells like pine trees in the winter

It looks like a field of powdery snow

It makes me feel like a Wolf

—Livia Cioban, 10, Chico

Honorable mentions:

Adventure is rich brown
It tastes like savory lentil soup
It sounds like a burbling brook
It smells like sweet fresh air
It looks like grassy hills and meadows
It makes me feel like I live in a forest.

—Tobin La Bar, 9, Chico

No Home
People with no home
Give money to the homeless
Over the sunrise

—Jet, 9, Chico

A glowing light,
Like a candle at night,
Singing their song, and doing their dance,
Around the sky they prance,
Guiding the way,
Throughout the night,
As they rise, and rise,
They greet the moon,
Then tell the sun goodnight.

—Isa Tupy, 12, Oroville

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