CRA Nielsen Poetry Winners Announced at Bookplate


The Chester River Association and the Kent County Arts Council announced winners of the sixth annual Pat Herold Nielsen Poetry Award on Wednesday, March 4 at the Bookplate.

Pat Nielsen was a founding member of the Chester River Association and an accomplished poet.  The award was established in her honor as an opportunity to support the arts and to promote CRA’s mission of restoring the health the Chester River.

Award-winning poet James Allen Hall, author of Now You’re the Enemy and associate professor of English at Washington College, judged the contest.

First prize went to Wendy Mitman Clarke for her poem, “Devil’s Reach.” Second prize was awarded to Maddie Zins for “My mother calls the tree frogs in late summer.” Honorable mentions include Emily Klein for “Seen” and Lisa Lynn Biggar for “Our Fathers.”

The evening included refreshments and conversation attended by a lively crowd of poetry lovers and supporters of CRA. Many thanks go to Tom Martin of the Bookplate for hosting and to Bob Ortiz for setting up the sound system.

In April, the Chester River Association will participate in Earth Stewardship Days with an Earth Day Celebration hosting Chesapeake Scenes, a music and oyster event at the CRA office in Stepne Station on April 17.  Earth Stewardship Days is a month-long project supported by local organizations to promote active stewardship of our planet.

For further information about the poetry prize and the Earth Day Celebration, please go to our Facebook page or visit or


(l to r) Meredith Davies-Hadaway, James Allen Hall, Wendy Mitman, Marcy Ramsey

(l to r) Meredith Davies-Hadaway, Maddie Zins, James Allen Hall, Wendy Mitman, Marcy Ramsey



The Winning poem by Wendy Mitman


A disastrous accident took place in Chestertown on Saturday, May 5, 1759 when the brigantine “Sophia,” belonging to Beddeford, England, was consumed by fire to the water’s edge. The flames, it was reported, were effectively fanned by the wind, which was on that day extremely high. The blame for this misfortune was incidentally laid against an ignorant carpenter who, after finding it impossible to go ashore to heat the pitch pot, had the imprudence to heat it on board the “Sophia.”


—The Maryland Gazette


Devils Reach


Always the mirror, this reach in the river.

Wind-whipped or languid, time stretches past

the water’s edge revealing what we want to see


the way a new lover consumed by fire

reflects only love, while in the darkness below

crabs scuttle among her secret ruins.


Some fathom the reach’s riddle—

the fisherman whose gear snags

suddenly, the snapped line leaving


the lure flickering

from a splinter of rib, enticing the fish

to visit her lonely bones;


the scientist whose instruments expose

the misfortune of her solitude,

her presence only an echo


like the slap of salt-worn sails reaching

upriver, port-town bound and content

to skim upon the glass, so close


to home. We find it impossible,

the glimmering sway of the river,

the tidal constancy of its breath.


We cannot help ourselves,

imprudent lovers who grow restless

at our ceaseless reflection, and so we dive


beneath the mirror, and drown in the wreckage

of secrets that this river has always known

are best left hidden within the reach.

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