Bennett places third in national poetry competition

A photo of Dr. Marla Bennett

Robert Frost said, “To be a poet is a condition, not a profession.” Dr. Marla Bennett embodies that condition. A member of the English faculty at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville, Bennett recently won third place with her poem “Breaking Through” in a nationwide contest presented by the Poets’ Round Table of Arkansas. Bennett’s poem competed against entries from across the United States as well as Canada and Great Britain.

Bennett is co-founder of The River Poets of Batesville, a local chapter of the Poets’ Round Table of Arkansas, and has been the group’s president since its inception. Her writing has won awards in other competitions hosted by the Poets’ Round Table of Arkansas including a limerick that won first place in a nationwide competition last year. “Breaking Through” started as a response to a writing prompt at a retreat two years ago.

“Our writing retreats are so important because if we don’t schedule time to dedicate to writing, life intervenes and we would never do it,” Bennett said. “I started the first draft of this poem two years ago, and the idea was to incorporate a bunch of wacky elements into a poem. I loved it but the first draft was too wild and disconnected. It wasn’t cohesive. I couldn’t leave it alone though. I would put it down and then return to it. The last revision turned out better than I had hoped. It was very different from the original.”

Bennett said for her, the poem represents the struggle to achieve one’s destiny in spite of the challenges one may face along the way.

“I believe we all have a God-given destiny, and it is up to us to continue to strive for that destiny no matter what emotional obstacles we may face. There’s an inner call that drives us on. In the poem, there’s a woman who is dancing to her own inner music, and she questions if it is worth it to continue the dance even after her family and friends leave her. In the end, she decides it is worth it and she keeps dancing,” Bennett said.

Bennett said she is grateful to the support of her local poetry chapter. “Without this group’s encouragement, I would probably never enter these competitions.”

The River Poets of Batesville meet the second Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. in the Fine Arts Building, room 603, at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville. For more information about the organization, call 870-612-2038 or email marla.bennet@uaccb.edu. Read Bennett's award-winning poem below.

 

“Breaking Through”

 

Her cocoon begins to move,

Spinning, pulsing, still rooted to the branch.

Dancing to inner music, she propels herself repeatedly against

The transparent skin, separating her from destiny.

Exhausted, she stills in restful reflection.

Is it worth it to break through?

 

She shakes her hair around her shoulders, gathers up her skirts

And dances the “Can-Can” on top of the table.

The half-filled glasses sing in harmony with the rhythmic beating of her steps.

The room falls silent.

The onlookers file out of her life, one by one,

For the music she hears is hers alone.

 

Her membrane stretches and thins, threatening to break.

She sees the world through a milky mucosa.

The bitter-sweet reality of birth smells like sweet chocolate and winter spices.

She dares to dream about bursting forth, bulleting upward, believing.

A thin thread holds her cocoon like iron.

 

Resolutely, she returns to the beginning of herself.

The music. The dance. The spinning “Can-Can.”