Brain Poetry Contest

Winners of our 2011 contest

August 18, 2011

 from the Dana Foundation blog

In February 2011, we announced a brain poetry contest. In April, National Poetry Month, we revealed the five winners, chosen by Michele Kotler, executive director of theCommunity-Word Project.

These poems convey thoughts on the brain in a range of ways—from verse inspired by injury and recovery to explorations of the senses and functions of the three-pound organ.



Son’s Story

By Catherine Morocco


I’m shaking scarves over my mother’s bed,

where there’s no evidence of thought.

In one of seven silken scarves, lithe women

sway around a mandala. Their skirts are painted

amber, apricot, and blue. Each sylph is named

after a continent: Antarctica’s fur headdress flames,

blue dolphins leap, swim at her feet.


My mother’s eyes are closed, while Oceana’s

teasing head is crowned in grass and leaves.

She holds a plate of purple fish. I spread

Toros Magnifico around my mother’s feet. A picador

thrusts his pic to pierce the bull into the ring.

In corners, matadors and bull horns’ swelling.

Velvet ladies hurtle roses to the bloody kill.


Just lying here, my mother is a dreamless spot

without a nerve. I cannot stir her. Is she struggling

with shades?  Will she open up her eyes to see the golds,

smell fish, flowers, blood?  I tie a corner

of the bull fight to a corner of the dance, join seven

scarves into one rope, lands billowing. If I throw it,

she must cling. I’ll pull her to her body, knot by knot.



“Son’s Story” is one of 60 poems written by Catherine Morocco while she was recovering from hematoma surgery. These poems are part of an as yet unpublished collection that she has titled Brain Storm. Recovering from Brain Injury. She has published in numerous poetry journals and collections of poems. She currently writes and teaches in Newton Massachusetts. 



Non Compos Mentis

By Ann Freggens Flynt


My narcoleptic brain must be

full of synchronicity

Nightmares never fail to sneak

up on my time in bed till

sleeping comes

and casts its spell

until I make another sojourn and awake

Memories lurk just out of reach

I memorize but it retreats

Amygdala strains

and tries to climb

a black monolith

fresh out of time

Its pain

Its drain

upon my soul is withering

like the glares

of those who

cannot see that brains

are mostly mystery

and those who suffer

its many foes

must muddle through

and makes it so



not illuminating

not exacting

but stupefying

making me feel

stupid from

a wiring synapse or ruined

part that makes

Me who I am and not just part of me.



A resident of Jackson, Tennessee, Ann Freggens Flynt is currently pursuing a post-graduate special education certification with an emphasis on mild-to-moderate children at Union University. She is married, has two daughters, and was diagnosed, finally, with narcolepsy in 2003 after many years of wondering what was wrong.



The Cave

By Julie Atwood


Devoid of awareness

I once was blind

Lost in darkness

Within the realms of my mind

A ray of light

Entered my tomb

Sudden warmth

Within my womb

Shadows flickered

Before my eyes

A dance of fools

Living by lies

Amidst the chaos

Of wailing cries

I loosened my tethers

Severed my ties

Faltered and stumbled

A drunken knave

Walked to the entrance

The mouth of the cave

A wave of knowledge

I did greet

It eddied and pooled

Surged at my feet

A reservoir of wisdom

I did save

Enlightenment of time

Spent in a cave

The sage of Plato

Speaks of my plight

From a dwelling of darkness

To embracing the light

Released from bondage

Freed from my chain

A well of creativity

 Now my new domain

Pastoral passages

These chambers of my brain

Eidetic images

Over which I reign



Julie Atwood has been a cartoonist and writer with a newspaper in Vermont for more than 24 years. 



Picture the Mind

By Myra Sklarew


It’s not a pretty sight—Vesalius’s  folded surface

of the brain. Or da Vinci’s ventricles, spinal cord


trailing down like a braided afterthought.

Or each hemisphere bed down in its cubicle,


parted by the corpus callosum, crossing guard

for traffic back and forth. Now Descartes comes


on stage, appoints the pineal gland—trusty messenger

between matter and mind. Hard to say when beauty


slipped into this equation. Axon and dendrite.

Molecules dancing across synaptic space. 


Receptors hungry for their messages.

Cascade of ions in their chrysalis of light.



Myra Sklarew worked in the 50s at Yale Medical School under Karl Pribram studying frontal lobe function and delayed response memory of Rhesus monkeys. A collection of poetry, Harmless, was published in 2010, and study of trauma and memory is forthcoming.



Mantle Mind
By Christopher Boone

From exterior to inner depths
The flux of the hidden
Dark dynamo core sets it
Converging, diverging:  transforming
Motions form and modify
As mind grinds against itself,
Passive margins become kinetic --
Formations extruding along yawning rifts
Subducted at deep-mind trenches.  Tension
Shreds and fragments once solid thought.




Matt Ramsey

10/13/2017 11:19:50 AM

What is going on, now?