(For August Week 1 Print Only) Poetry Contest Winner

Reading like classic Americana literature, about the sprawling patchwork of landscapes and spiritual voices that echo through the mountains and fields, “Blue River” by Eleanor Panno, is in love with its time and subject; an often lyrical portrait of the land that is America, in an age when the old romance of the open road and the vastness of nature was still thriving. 

The poem’s spirit is not an affectation but rather a motif which can be found not only in its words but also in the author herself. It was written while she was walking, but is inspired by a trip she took by train to California making it not only a kind of surreal dream of wandering but also a product of it. 

When asked about her influences she said that individual people were not really relevant to her. Inspiration comes more from “just specific poems and things I get really obsessed with. [...] When I started really writing poetry I was reading Jack Kerouac and Allan Ginsberg which I enjoy and then mostly just people I’ve met. I met some poets in New York who I think were mostly my main influence. I read a lot of poetry that doesn’t really stick with me so much. It’s more just things I hear, like listening to patterns of speech and characters.”

Kerouac and Ginsberg seem especially relevant to “Blue River,” with a lot of the slang and spirituality that saturates works like On the Road or Howl, weaving its way through Panno’s work. 

She is a third year student about to enter the Creative Writing BFA program on both her poetry and screenwriting. Funnily enough she has never taken a poetry class before, though she has been writing since high school and more seriously in the last two years.

When writing, her preferred drink is— rather impressively —straight vodka, rarely with a chaser and when asked what time period she would go back to if the scenario from Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris were real, she said either the time of the Beat Generation or maybe Versailles during Louis XIV's reign. 

Panno was not going to submit her poem for the competition but did so at a friend's insistence. So on behalf of the Ubyssey thank you also to Eleanor’s friend for getting her to submit her poem. We appreciate it!

"Blue River"

by Eleanor Panno

Blue river winds through mystery sauna flatlands

Blue-raspberry Nile curling over the backs of

tanned American babes like a grinning python

under a violet sky


Say baby,

what’s with the Patagonia mountain crests and

hundred dollar hiking vests when 

we could be a new age colour

I’m as charming as a snake 

the way I hiss, the way I ssslither

I’m the old blue river.

chillin like a chesire

coddle rocked to salty tongues of

sea water where Zephyr 

dips his body in the quagmire

and lathers up in mud

like he’s a body rockin’

pistol cockin’

hot debaucherin’

son of a gun

and with my belly to the sun

I’m going all the way to San Francisco

tasting the land with a wet blue tongue.