As part of the Tennessee Williams Birthday Celebration in Key West, Florida, a poetry competition invited poets to submit a 30-line or less poem about the playwright’s life in the city. The winners were honored and read their poems during a March 26 Birthday Reception at the Tennessee Williams Exhibit.
First Place Winner
Ode to a Slumbering God
by Nicholas Mignanelli
I looked for you,
In the windows of that clapboard cottage,
And I looked for you,
In the crowds on Duval Street,
And I thought I found you once…
At the bottom of a homemade Ramos Gin Fizz.
But my life is a parody of the one you led,
Oh Glorious Bird do you know,
What they do to your visions now,
Vivisecting your dreams and dramas,
As if science can ever quantify,
Evil, envy, or a burning heart.
Prodded, medicated, petrified,
They don’t always die,
But sit waiting in stone relief,
For eyes to resurrect that dormant spirit,
Liberated it leads a Dionysian procession into the sun.
I stand above the crashing waves,
And I look out at those revelers,
Whose eyes glimmer and bodies glisten,
Where yours once did,
Ephemeral sea glass to adorn this island refuge.
As for me: I walk at twilight,
And I feel the ocean breeze,
And I think of you:
Asleep beneath that far-off field,
But contemplating this sacred ground.
Nicholas Mignanelli is a fourth-generation visitor to Key West and a distant cousin of Tennessee Williams through their mutual descent from Edward Gilman, a seventeenth-century settler of his home state of New Hampshire.
Second Place Winner
by Lea Gulino
Outside the window of their first floor flat,
His undershirts, drying on the line, break the tender blue.
Kowalski. And his wife, that poor sweet soul.
The hotter it got, the louder they fought.
Usually ending with a crack, then silence.
The soft weeping that followed could sometimes be heard from the stoop.
But one night the crack sounds like a bell,
The silence lasts longer
And rather than weeping, A dragging sound down the stairs
Thump thump round back to the river.
A distant piano plays slow and blue as moths fill the light.
Mrs. Kowalski quietly closes the screen door behind her.
Lea Gulino is a professional voice actress specializing in characters and commercial work. She studied voice, improv and acting technique at The Academy of the Arts in Hartford, Connecticut, and holds a theater degree from NYU. She currently lives on the West Coast and says Tennessee Williams made an early impression on her acting career so “it seems fitting that my newly minted writing career should start off in his world.”