Poet Ruth Forman says, “poetry should ride the bus.” More specifically, she says:

poetry should drop by a sweet potato pie

ask about the grandchildren

n sit through a whole photo album

on an orange plastic covered lazyboy with no place to go.

If we think of poetry as a form that should be transported, then we create the spaces where the constant movement of words, sentences, stanzas is not only expected, it is encouraged. If poetry should ride the bus, then we are the passengers–the drivers–who continuously shape this form with/in/through our daily travels. We remember it in a haiku about the morning breeze, a sonnet dedicated to that just-right apple pie, a couplet written–glancing out the window–about the fine brotha’ at the crosswalk, who we really should have pulled over for. No, really.

The winners in this week’s “Writing Down the Bones” 2004 Independent Weekly poetry contest issue are all poems that ride the bus of life. We call them “exercises in remembered moments, growth and memory” because they live in the present, the past; pick cotton, butcher a lamb, go hunting. But what is spectacular about these finalists is not only the imaginative and stimulating ways they deliver their passengers (poems), but the means in which they use their craft to express timeless journeys, both experienced and imagined.

It was quite a task narrowing down the original volume of some 500-plus poems, to the five finalists our judges Renee Jacqueline Alexander, Patrick Herron and Howard Craft have selected here. We thank them for riding the bus with us, even when there were way too many passengers and they were almost out of gas.

And we thank you, our readers and participants, for trusting us with your journeys–we hope it was well worth the fare. As for the poems that didn’t make it into these pages, the route doesn’t end here. We’ll be featuring regular submissions from Triangle writers like you, beginning with our May 3 issue. If you’d like to submit an original poem of your own, please email it to olufunke@indyweek.com, subject line: “Poetry Picks,” or mail to Poetry Picks, The Independent Weekly, P.O. Box 2690, Durham, N.C. 27705. Please include the full name of the author, and anything you’d like us to know about you. But remember, the “picking” is up to us and poems will not be returned.

On another note, due to scheduling conflicts, the April 17 reading we’d scheduled for our winners has been canceled. We’re setting a new date, which we’ll announce in upcoming issues of the Indy. It’ll be an opportunity to hear from our winners, our judges, and you, so stay tuned for more details.

Oh, and thanks for another great year of poetry.