Among all the forms of writing, the poem is perhaps the most personal. It’s interpretive, reliant on imagery and lyricism, with beauty in the mind’s eye of the beholder. What moves one reader may irk another.

That makes judging our poetry contest such a challenge. We have six editors, all with different sensibilities, so consensus is elusive and compromise de rigueur. We discussed for three hours, across two days, the poems that ultimately made it into this issue.

Turns out, I happen to love all the winners and most every honorable mention. Other pieces tickled my fancy, too; so, as I did last year for the inaugural Poetry 99, I’ve made Editor’s Picks to recognize poems that struck me more strongly than my colleagues. They appear online with the poetry package here.

What I’m sharing here is the best piece of poetry I’ve heard in a while. I say ‘heard” because it’s a song by Lucinda Williams, from the album I reviewed for In The Mix. I’m feeling cautiously hopeful with Barack Obama as president-elect—so to those who question whether anyone should make a conscious decision to continue the cycle of life in these times of trouble, I offer ‘Plan to Marry":

When leaders can’t be trusted
When heroes let us down
And innocence lies rusted
Frozen beneath the ground

When the destitute and isolated
Have all been forgotten
And the fruit trees we planted
Are withered and rotten

The abused and magnificent
Suffer from infection
And promises are given
But never with intention

War becomes commonplace
Secrets overheard
Violence big business
And love is just a word

Why do we marry
Why do we fall in love
Keep on believing in love
Because love, love is a mighty sword,
Love is our weapon
Love is the lesson
And we, we are the conquerors
We are the soldiers
We are the lovers
That’s why we fall in love
That’s why we believe in love
That’s why we marry

More poetry: Along with gift certificates to Lyon Books, all the Poetry 99 winners will get a chance to read their work at the CN&R Poetry Slam, Dec. 10 at the 1078 Gallery—where our spoken-word contest will take place. Four performers have accepted the 99-second challenge; there’s still time to join them by e-mailing <script type="text/javascript" language="javascript"> </script>.