March 14, 2003: Headlines: COS - Philippines: Poetry: Writing - Philippines: Awards: Santa Cruz Sentinel: Phillipines RPCV Charles Atkinson wins national poetry award

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Philippines: Peace Corps Philippines: The Peace Corps in the Philippines: March 14, 2003: Headlines: COS - Philippines: Poetry: Writing - Philippines: Awards: Santa Cruz Sentinel: Phillipines RPCV Charles Atkinson wins national poetry award

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Phillipines RPCV Charles Atkinson wins national poetry award

Phillipines RPCV Charles Atkinson wins national poetry award

Charles Atkinson, a lecturer in writing at UC Santa Cruz, has won two national poetry contests.

"The Frog Prince in September," won the 2002 Briar Cliff Review Prize from Briar Cliff College. The prize is $500.

Another poem, "Because We are Men," earned him the Emily Dickinson Award from Universities West Press.

Atkinson of Soquel served in the Peace Corps in Manila and earned a doctorate at UCSC.

Charles Atkinson
Lecturer in Writing
Director, Learning Assistance Program in Writing

Kresge College
(831) 459-2155; message (831) 459-2781

Charles Atkinson was born and raised in New England, graduated cum laude from Amherst College, and served with the Peace Corps in Manila, Republic of the Philippines. He completed a Ph.D. at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he currently teaches writing of various sorts. His first collection, The Only Cure I Know (San Diego Poets Press), received the American Book Series award for poetry in 1991; a chapbook, The Best of Us on Fire, won the Wayland Press competition for 1992. He has been awarded several national prizes for individual poems and groups, including the Stanford Prize, the Whiskey Island Prize (Cleveland State University), the Comstock Review Prize, the Paumanok Award (SUNY Farmingdale) and most recently, the Emily Dickinson Award. His work has appeared in half a dozen anthologies and more than thirty literary magazines, including Poetry, The Southern Review, Poetry Northwest, Virginia Quarterly Review, Nimrod and The Amicus Journal. He was awarded a teaching Fellowship to the White River Writers' Workshop during the summer of 1995, a residency at Dorland Mountain Arts Colony in 1996, and another at the Vermont Studio Center in 2000.

Because We are Men

i. awake

Those war-whooping days we retrieved the paper
dog-eared on the steps in the damp, and spread it
first thing on the counter with coffee. What was it
that riveted us to the carnage ahead of politics
(o bitter amusement), the comics, even the sports?

Page one: our helicopter downed in the desert -
engine failure. The entire crew. We dipped our flags -
a tragedy. The President was heartbroken. Visited
the homes in Vermont, in Kopki, to assure the old
and soon-to-be-old each bodybag was cared for.

A few stood, limp placards at a corner: Honk if
you love peace - dancing for a wave. A few picketed
the post office. No one burned the recruiting station.
Where were the remains discovered - in what positions
did they die? It was the details that finally seduced us.

ii. eastbound

Above Chamonix the B-52s would refuel, headed for
desert targets. Farmers rose in the dark. Woodstoves
kindled, tea water singing. Milking time. Hearing
a rumble, they'd look upslope to the sleeping massif;
a good year so far - no slides. Please, God.

Already dawn in the fishing village on Crete.
At the bakery window a boy standing on one foot
choosing, turning the coins over and over.
At the sound he'd squint up - silver winks in a blue
deep as a headache. He'd decide on baclava.

In the sands outside Baghdad the mind stopped - wouldn't
approach the smoldering tanks, their treads flopped off,
big sandbox toys, the stench of hair and nails at a broil;
it wouldn't look inside at the harvest of justice,
the boiled fruits of freedom. But it would, it did.

They lived by a bridge on the Tigris, strategic route.
She woke to the glass caving in; the children rushed
toward her and on past, wearing their shirts of flame.
Dust rose from where the stairway began.
The screaming stopped; where were the children?

Five hundred, baked while they slept in a shelter.
The stretchers carried their charcoal into the light
whether we imagined or not. They kept coming,
piled on flatbeds, carried off through the throngs.
Is this what we wanted to know, why we read on?

iii. on target

More ugly still. Because we are men
we know: when, slate-dark, the Phantoms
lumber to the runway nose-to-tail, lift off
and shudder the earth for twenty miles
the general calls it history in the making

and even though it will shake us awake
years from now on an August night - still,
to imagine we are what makes a desert quake
for hours on end - nothing, besides tumescence
or death's husky whisper, brings a man so alive.

Throbbing east under quiet stars, we're the ones
chosen to separate light and dark, friend and foe
on an amber screen. A line's been drawn and crossed:
who will deliver the promise? For this moment
doubt and the difficult feelings drop away. Go on.

We hum an old song - Brothers, sisters - careful
not to think of those down there who'll evaporate,
astonished, before they imagine what rains
from the cipher we've become in a white noon sky -
pure, potent, far ahead of our incandescent trail.

When this story was posted in December 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Philippines; Poetry; Writing - Philippines; Awards



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