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2021 Ekphrastic Poetry Winners

National Poetry month is here! 

Last month, SAMA partnered with National Poetry Month San Antonio to invite our community to write ekphrastic poems in response to the painting Mama Ocllo, First Coya from our Latin American collection. Ekphrastic poems are inspired by specific works of art, often focusing on the visual details to paint a picture with words.

We received over 125 entries from South Texas poets! Our judges—Jim LaVilla-Havelin, National Poetry Month Coordinator; Octavio Quintanilla, 2018–2020 San Antonio Poet Laureate; and Linda Simone; poet, artist, and educator—selected three adult winners and one youth winner. We hope you enjoy reading their winning poems here.

Thank you to all participants, and congratulations to the winners for their outstanding poems. 

Mama Ocllo, First Coya, Peruvian, early 19th century, oil on canvas, painting: 19 1/4 × 15 1/2 in. (48.9 × 39.4 cm); frame: 22 3/4 × 19 × 3/4 in. (57.8 × 48.3 × 1.9 cm), Purchased with funds provided by Betty and Bob Kelso, 2003.10.2.

Adult Winning Poems (in no particular order)

"On Her Deathbed, Mama Ocllo Speaks to the Acllas"
by Pablo Miguel Martinez
light & water  /  mother & father  /  never said  /  I am divine  /  never said divine /  said first
I was raised  /  from the lake  /  lifted by gilding rays  /  of sun  /  kept aloft  /  by praise  
songs  /  raised by lake  //  when I look  /  into the vulture stone  /  I see  /  my sons  /  yet to be  feel the phantom cord  /  unspool  /  from this navel  /  a novel place  /  a marvel  //  say I have  taught you  /  my daughters  /  the weaving ways  /  moving thread  /  with reed  /  & spinning
’til cloth cloudlike  /  flutters  /  flies  //  soon I will leave  /  you /  will forget  / sound & feel
& smell  / what you call me  //  but never forget / the miracles  /  cleansing baths & cooked meats & woven fibers & the glories they gave  // o daughters  /  wrap me  /  in the linen
you make  /  with skills I have  /  taught you  //  soon  /  they will burn  /  all this  /  in flames 
hot & bright  /  envious of sun  //  soon I will live  /  in your spirit  /  in your art  /  on the linen
imagined  /  painted  /  cloth & oils & light  /  what I have  /  taught you  /  makes me  /  divine

"The Heart that Fed"
by Wilson R. M. Taylor
Mama Ocllo, I see moonbeams springing
fountain-like from your palms, fertility
at the end of your fingers, a cloaked mistress
no wall could hold. Mama Ocllo, goddess
born as queen, I shade you with strength of arms,
allow your echo to shimmer sweatless
across time. Mama Ocllo, do you see
a human being smiling back at you?
Or will you claim my citadel
with feasts and floating treachery,
sweep me underneath infertile
earth, overgrow me
with vines in crevices of stone?
Mama, cold, are you listening at all?

"Beautiful Chaos Just Landed Us on Mars"
by Claudio San Miguel

What is behind that first shiver of light?  
It was the motion of eye to hand to needle to thread to skin
by our First Mother, Mama Occlo—not an explosive big bang,
but a promise to sew the future to the past, colored thread by colored thread.
Quipu, or Talking Knots, unravel the emptiness.
While we sit silently waiting for the dark,
The hills lose definition, the valley becomes a black, flat sheet,
The adobe rooftop of the house across the field has transformed into
A lifeless rock, the family of trees outside our window
Is a purple, Rothko-painted bush.
But our Mother whispers to us in multicolored knots
Chanting resists resolution.
It is Time to fly to our New Cusco.
Wed 24 Feb 2021 17.44 EST 
We hear the First recorded sounds from Mars.


Youth Winning Poem 

"The Woman" by Zoe Morris

There was a woman in elegant clothing
She holds up an imprint of a face on a stick.
Behind her stands a little man.
Short and squat he stands.
Standing as high as he can,
Holding it for her.