Gail Braune Comorat Artsmith Literary Award

Gail Braune Comorat is the winner of the 2012 Artsmith Literary Award for her poem "Summer of Ladybugs."

Honorable Mentions go to Elaine Zimmerman for "Nothing is Still in this World" and Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé for "But I Asked For Continuity And Love, Not The Death Of Memory By Doomsday Naysayers: A Movement in Two Ballades".

Finalists include (in alphabetical order):

  • Nina Bayer
  • Dana Boyer
  • Richard Downing
  • Christine Phillips
  • Marian Kaplun Shapiro
  • Diane Sherlock
  • Claude Smith
  • Elaine Zimmerman

The 2012 judge, Simmons Buntin, who chose the contest theme "It's the end of the world as we know it," said the following about "Summer of Ladybugs":

"Here is a poem that opens with the narrator speaking to her daughter, recalling important moments following the death of the daughter's father, and yet that harsh fact is softened, surprisingly, with the sharp image of ladybugs 'a color closer to dried blood', the metaphor continuing with 'rusted ... leaves' and staining the ground beneath. What is the larger significance of the ladybugs, the reader wonders; of this plague of beetles? Then the context broadens to strange storms, a 'topsy-turvy' world that's becoming apocalyptic. Yet there's hope in the coming of spring (a spring filled with monsoons, but growth nonetheless) and then the monarchs, products of nature even if a nature tainted and harvested. In the end, the mother and daughter make their intervention right by releasing the monarchs, which then, wonderfully, 'redirected themselves homeward.'

"In addition to the movement of the poem, its intimacy and yet impressive, grander scope, I am smitten with the language: lines like 'This plague of beetles, the strange storms / descending into our world--' played against 'Like gravity reversing, they fell to the sky'. So much dynamic movement, the pushing and pulling of living in this world, the risk of forever changing this world, of a fast approach to the end.... And yet, this is 'not the end of it, but something close'. Centered in the middle of the poem, and serving as the bridge between the ladybugs and the monarchs, that really is the line that drives this poem -- and it is superb.

"'Summer of Ladybugs' speaks unabashedly to the contest's theme of the end of the world, claiming rightfully that there is never a true end, but a rather a change that is often, and certainly in this case, a revelation."


Summer of Ladybugs

by Gail Braune Comorat

That first summer, after your father died,
a swarm of ladybugs—not pure divinity

red, but a color closer to dried blood—
clustered on the blackberry bushes
he’d seeded at the edge of our lawn.

The bugs rusted the leaves and stems,
stained the ground beneath. You and I

sat in the damp grass, mother and daughter
worrying over what had happened, wondering
at its meaning, our bare knees touching.

This plague of beetles, the strange storms
descending into our world—

not the end of it, but something close.
Everything that year, topsy-turvy.
Blizzards with thunder; spring monsoons

that matted the grass so it was impossible
to mow. 

   Remember—your biology class raised
monarchs; you fed milkweed to the caterpillars,
watched each one morph into its green chrysalis.

But you toyed with nature, and the butterflies
emerged in weather too cold for migration.

We took them south to VMI, freed them at halftime,