KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 11: Spring 2019
Nonfiction: 350 words

“Another cup of Mad Hatter, please”:
Judging The DavenTree Challenge

by Steve Davenport

Judging a contest is seldom easy. Judging a contest that invites multiple genres and hybrid forms is harder still. And when the entries are ekphrastic responses to a drawing of yours from a long time ago, perhaps the only drawing you ever did that rose above a doodle, things get weird fast and stay that way.

How to judge Best Apple? I know what I like. Crisp and tart. If I’m asked to judge Best Fruit, I’m going with Favorite Fruit, which means watermelon or lemon has the inside track, even if inside tracks aren’t fair. This contest feels more like Best Thing Right Now, like one good thing after another right here all around me. A box of shiny marbles. A pair of blue suede shoes. The smell of chorizo frying at 9AM. A bicycle with a banana seat in 1968. An idea about a red wheelbarrow in the rain. Trippy and getting trippier.

What if you’re asked to judge and there’s no inside track you can point to, no way to think in terms of Favorite and all the entries are talking to a tree you drew decades ago and kept for some reason and posted on Facebook for some other reason and then agreed to let it be featured in a friend’s contest for yet another reason? Like I said, things get weird and stay that way. Even after I pick a winner, Best Thing Right Now, and go to sleep on it, the now of Right Now changes, today becomes yesterday, and I pick a different Best Thing. Another cup of Mad Hatter, please.

And then the clock stops ticking and the Right Nows coalesce into one. Trippy drum roll.

“Windfall Wood” is Best Thing Right Now because I keep returning to it, to its intelligence, its ambition. Keep returning to its bark, its odd and rough texture, its edges, the way its form keeps changing from poetry to prose to poetry. It’s a difficult song done beautifully. “Come the day/ she will write runes with flame.” Indeed.

Steve Davenport
February 15, 2019

[The DavenTree], Davenport’s drawing

Results of The DavenTree Writing Challenge

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