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Bliss Morehead prize-winning poetry reading Friday

The winner of the Bliss Morehead Poetry Grant competition, Emily O’Reilly of Montauk, will read her poem “Legacy,” (see below) and be awarded the Bliss Morehead Grant of $1,000 on Friday, April 26 at 7 p.m. at the Shelter Island Public Library.

The Bliss Morehead Poetry Grant competition was founded in 2022 by Mike Zisser to honor the memory of Bliss Morehead, a Shelter Island poet and the creator of the annual Shelter Island Poetry Project program. Mike Zisser died last month.

This year’s competition was judged by Irene Cornell, Charity Robey and Virginia Walker.

Ms. O’Reilly grew up in Sag Harbor, a descendant of the founder of the Sag Harbor Express. She has had a career as an educator, and although she currently lives in Montauk, she returns to Sag Harbor often “along the streets that shaped my identity; past the houses that hold memories of a way of life that couldn’t be bought.”

Honorable Mentions go to:

“Five Days Old” by Edward Brennan of Shelter Island.

“Ode to a Single-Scull Boat” by Ella Carriero of Remsenburg.

“Pentimento” by Bethany Moore of Shelter Island.

Here’s the winning poem.



Just before school began
And we reclaimed our town
They would be ready
Purple chandeliers, glistening dusty blue
Like shiny pieces of agate
Entwined with tired, tattered slats
Sagging from the weight of another year’s harvest
Vines and lattice woven together
One bolstering the other
United in purpose
Her father had carried a ball of roots with him across the sea
Tucked away in his leather satchel
Wrapped in heavy cloth
Carefully tended for three months
Grapes for wine
Like home.

We would jostle up the rickety wooden ladder
Under the arbor of tangled vines so dense
We could look straight up and not see the sun
My smart cousin told me the story of Icarus
I remember
The thick skin tasted like Welch’s grape juice
Without the mustache
Inside, the flesh was slimy
Like we imagined a jellyfish would feel
Inside our mouths
We plucked them
Squished them
Hurled them
Spat them
At each other
Until Gram spat from her kitchen
That’s enough
There won’t be enough for jelly
Not jam
She called it jelly.

Giant pots simmered on the stove
Mason jars mustered in place
But we weren’t allowed to help
Boiling water
Hot wax
Glass jars
Demanded too much supervision
And there were too many of us
All of you outside
She would shout
Handing us a paper bag of moldy bread
Go feed the ducks
Take George for a walk
We weren’t old enough really
To free range our way down Main Street
To Otter Pond
To feed ducks stale bread that would bloat their bellies