Westmont Magazine Prize Poetry
A small book of 24 poems has gained major attention as the winner of a national competition that the Small Poetry Press in Concord, Calif., sponsors each year. Chosen from 300 entries and 13 finalists, “The Deep and Secret Color of Ice” collects thoughtful and refreshing poetry by English Professor Paul Willis. He has received a $1,000 prize and 100 free copies of the volume, called a chapbook.
The well-chosen title suggests the bracing, reflective quality of the poems. The reader senses a kind of poetry of place, as many of the works are set in the Santa Barbara area and feature Paul’s family and friends. Rooted in his life and his love for language, the poetry is deeply personal.
“Poetry is the art of paying attention,” Paul says. “In an age of media bombardment, poetry helps us to connect with ourselves, others and the world around us.”
“Paul Willis’ poems give off a multifaceted, sharp-edged beauty, akin to the light that sometimes glints from the edges of leaves after rain,” wrote poet and final judge Jane Hirshfield. “They look to the places where unexpected treasures lie quietly hidden — a childhood illness, a set of old wooden bleachers, a Sierra juniper’s berries — and bring that treasure richly forward, into a mature, and maturing wisdom.”
Paul considers himself an apprentice to wise and experienced poets like Hirshfield.
“To be recognized by her is more than an honor. It is like the feeling a student gets when he or she receives a compliment from an admired teacher,” he says.