James Davis May’s poem “Ed Smith” won the 2016 Cecil Hemley Memorial Award from Poetry Society of America, selected by judge Laura Kasischke. The poem may be found at the Poetry Society of America site.

Additional poems by James Davis May may be found online:

A Culture,” published in Birmingham Poetry Review and reprinted on Verse Daily.
A Lasting Sickness,” published in The Missouri Review
Two Angels,” published in Birmingham Poetry Review
After Basho” and “Basil,” published in StorySouth
Dispute,” published in Pleiades
Fringe Tree,” published in The New Republic

Sample Poem:


Out running one morning in early October, at the top of a hill,
I found myself ten feet from an owl perched on a fencepost.

In its beak, a thick cord of taut tissue still attached to the squirrel,
which twitched beneath the talons until the owl, seeing me, dropped it—

and we stood, staring at each other through the cold, barely lit air.
I have told this so many times, but no one, I understand, will understand

the original rapture (yes, I’ll use that word) of that moment.
Do we report stories like these—my mother calling me

to say she and my father saw a white (“not an albino!
It had brown eyes”) deer in their yard; or Chelsea, almost breathless,

keys still in her hand, describing the sprinting shadow of the coyote
she may or may not have seen but is pretty sure she had

near the train tracks less than a mile from our house—
do we report them because they are stand-ins, almost,

for grace? And what cynicism keeps me from saying
that we do so because we love, and are surprised by, the world?

“The Reddened Flower, the Erotic Bird” first appeared in New England Review