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The Poetry Winners

So this dirty, sultry, apartment-hived swamp of a city breathes and seethes life after all.

The call went out and you responded. We wanted poetry, we got it. By the truckload.

The blues was the first bona fide American poetic form, and a powerful one at that. Our first-place winner, "A Texas Blues," rambling like a Lightning Hopkins song, took us down that lonesome road with its author, R.T. Castleberry.

While "Ode to Tortillas" author Hilda Botello Bustos uses some traditional, familiar devices to get her message across, the poem amuses and informs and actually engages all of the senses in this, our second-place finisher.

We liked K.A. Thomas's portrait poem, "La Llorona," for third place because of its obvious intelligence and thoughtful poetic craft. It also really creeped us out and made us sad, in the same way that a frightening myth or an episode of The X-Files might.

-- Liz Belile

R. T. Castleberry
If you're not a friend of his, R.T. Castleberry probably won't read your poem. He doesn't browse the books at Barnes and Noble or go to random readings. He figures that in the hundreds of readings he has been to in 25 years he has heard just about every poem there is to hear.

The 43-year-old has been writing poetry since high school. Right now he's starting a strictly poetry magazine, The Curbside Review.During the day he works for AIM Management Group Inc., a mutual funds company.

Hilda Botello Bustos
Sometimes words come to Hilda as short stories, sometimes poems, sometimes plays.

"This piece came to me as a poem," Hilda says. "This piece -- it had a rhythm to it that required it to be a poem."

The 42-year-old works at the San Antonio Water System's Public Relations Department. She has been writing since high school.

K.A. Thomas
"Maybe I shouldn't say this, but I'm a liar," K.A. Thomas says. That's why she likes poetry. It lets her lie.

"It's just one of the places you can lie and manipulate your perception of reality," she says.

The 44-year-old started writing poetry seven years ago when she was working on her master's degree. She took a contemporary poetry class, fell in love with the poems and decided she could write too.

Bill Buetner
"I'd prefer to remain anonymous as much as possible," says Bill, an unemployed 45-year-old stage hand.

His grandmother got him started writing poetry when he was ten.
"We used to sit around her cottage in Canada and write rhyme," Bill says. "There wasn't anything else to do. There was no electricity, no running water. When it would rain we'd just write poems and listen to the ukulele."

Alvaro Saar Rios
Writing poetry's like taking a minivacation for Alvaro.
The UH creative writing major pens mostly fiction. Poetry's just something he does on the side when he needs to take a break from a story he's finishing.

"I can't really say I'm a poet, though," says the 23-year-old. He has only written eight or nine poems he cares about.

"What I love about it is it has no form.," he says. "It's nothing where you have to have a beginning, middle or end. You can just experiment and flow everywhere. You have no rules, you have nothing."

James B. Gavin
How could we resist? A kid who reads! Besides, his poem was pretty good.
He wrote us:
Dear Houston Press,

My teacher gave me information about entering your poetry contest. I am in third grade at River Oaks Elementary. My teachers name is Mrs. Bustamante. I am 9 years old. The name of my poem is Never Ever. My mom helped me with spelling.

Your friend,
James B. Gavin J.B.

First Place
R.T. Castleberry

A Texas Blues

My house is cold tonight,
My kitchen dark.
And Robert Johnson's singing
Will not warm them at all.
We have turned these images
Round and round:
Crow and calling bird.
My gift has been returned.
Her skin has no comfort.
Rain and reputation hound us
From every early morning door.
We are born from vanity and sin
And gathered from that station
Into another's light.
There is no evil in her possession
Though I founder in her wake.
We are left to ponder deuces-
Two gifts in celebration,
Two tricks to let us down.
And Robert Johnson cannot comfort us at all.

Second Place
Hilda Botello Bustos

Ode to Tortillas

You stood near me and I felt
Everything
In me
About you
All at once.

You are one fine man.

It took me a moment to tell,
My own breath woke me
As you stood by me
It was the push
Of the hum
Of life as it came out of my mouth
That told me
A man apart
I understand now, Be still my heart
you are dark and dreamy
Tall and steamy

You are one fine man.

Let me lay down in your honey eyes
next to your heart
Let me caress your Indio Soul
You make being a woman alright
Instantly sangre makes sense
Soooo rrright.
Let me hold you in a Frida-style baby like way
And paint you in colors of the animal jungle
You are one fine man
I bet you look good in a loin cloth too.
Oscar De La Hoya's got nothing on you.

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