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Mona-Lisa-Parody as artist

Come on, admit it: The arts make you smile, right?

At noon today, I get to sit down with the Arizona Attorney Magazine Editorial Board and select the winners in our annual arts competition. I’m ready for a bumpy ride.

As I say that, I imagine you’ll think that I dread the gathering. But quite the opposite: Our arts-review meeting is probably my favorite monthly meeting of the year, and board members share that feeling. Let me explain.

When we decided, 11 years ago, to start an arts competition for lawyers, we had a few goals in mind, goals that would aid the magazine and our readers. But we really weren’t sure what was in store for us.

Over that decade-plus, I’ve become a strong advocate for the arts in an otherwise non-arts-centric organization, even though the process can be maddening at times. So as I head to today’s meeting, let me give your four reasons that your workplace (or association or publication) should foster an interest in the arts. (Our magazine’s approach is a competition, but simply developing arts awareness can help, too.)

1.     It builds your team.

Even when staff may not choose to gather to discuss your organization’s strategic (yawn) plan, they may offer views when it comes to art.

I recall a few years ago that a “name-the-art” contest garnered a lot of interest here at work. The State Bar of Arizona staff were alerted to a painting that seemed to cry out for a name. In fact, the automatic title it gained was “Horse With No Name.” But it seemed to demand more.

Bar art horse

The State Bar asked for the ideal name for this here horse.

Ultimately, Bar leaders reviewed staff suggestions and opted for “Charlie Horse,” as named by my colleague Nancy Nichols. And so he has remained. (Whenever I pass him, I am reminded of a sharp pain in my leg.)

At the magazine, the Editorial Board and I do not always agree on what the best art submissions are. In fact, we often start out the meeting by disagreeing. But we look forward to the robust conversation. In that process, we pick winners, yes, but we also learn what each other values, and recognize that those values are not identical. What we each prize ranges from simplicity to flourish, clear explanation to opacity, humor to dead seriousness. The arts competition helps our board interact and grow to know each other better.

board meeting

Yes, board members occasionally disagree about art selections.

2.     It builds your readership or customer base.

Our arts competition is one of our most “liked” issues of the year. It signals to readers that we truly care about all those varied parts of their brains—not just the legal quadrant.

Every year after publication, I hear from readers who want to offer their own views on the quality of the selected winners (they may not always be pleased). I also hear from people who want to chat about a submission, and how it has helped remind them of an event or life lesson they learned, often years before. They thank me and the magazine for spurring the dialogue. Art is evocative that way.

Readers care about art and what it signals about the artists’ ideas. Our members see us engaging, and so they engage—both with us and the winners.

Our readers also have played a role in the competition, even when they do not submit. We have had categories added after members contacted us and said (for example), “So why no sculpture?” Why, indeed, and now there is.

(We still face the challenge of being primarily a print magazine. Yes, we added music, and listening to the winners requires following a link. (Listen to our recent winners here and here.) But we haven’t bit at the idea of a Dance category yet. But we’ll keep thinking about it.)

3.     It helps your organization be part of that STEM to STEAM movement.

Follow trends much? Then you may know that our global economy demands we shift efforts in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) to include the big “A”—arts. Actually, arts and design.

If your association is like ours, you try to be part of the front edge of waves carrying us toward the future. Read more here about getting your STEAM on.

4.     It aids some of your most talented members.

And why shouldn’t it? Your winners are winners, after all. Our publication of their success may beget larger success for them—exactly what most member organizations exist to do.

Over the past decade, I have heard from multiple lawyer–artists about arts success that has subsequently come their way. I like to think that we had some small role in their decision to pursue the arts more deeply and to move that part of their lives to the front burner.

Our lawyer–artist success stories are many. You can read about a few here, here and here.

So we’ll be going through approximately 410 submissions today. But don’t cry for me, Argentina, because it’s our rollicking good arts meeting. Today, I’m the luckiest magazine editor around.

Arts Competition ad 2014 cropped

It was early November when I reminded the world that our annual Arts Competition for Arizona Attorney Magazine had launched. What that means, of course, is that it’s time to let your creative impulses run free.

But it occurred to me that Thanksgiving was such a significant November event, you may have put off the artistic task for another day. Well, today may be it.

We’ve got a raft of cool categories, the deadline’s not until mid-January, and we’ll publish the winners in a great magazine that you can share with your clients, your family or anyone else who may be delighted by the artist in you.

Here’s the data:

Click here for Guidelines & Rules (and look to the right side of the page).

Send all submissions here:

Questions? Contact me at

Deadline: Jan. 11, 2012

See you on the artistic side.

Joni Wallace

Every spring since about 2005, Arizona Attorney Magazine has featured the beautiful work of imaginative lawyers. Our Creative Arts Competition began as a small idea to indulge all parts of our readers’ brains, rather than just the law practice side. Since then, it has grown to be one of our most popular issues.

As much as I enjoy the competition, I enjoy something else just as much: hearing from one of our past winners about progress they have made in their art. In this post and some future ones, I’ll relate some of those successes.

This week, Joni Wallace contacted me. Joni had submitted some remarkable poetry to us for the 2006 competition—our second. Her talent was unmistakable, and I felt privileged that we were able to publish her work. She took first-place in our Poetry category that year.

Now, Joni reports, her collection, Blinking Ephemeral Valentinewas awarded the Levis Prize in poetry and has just been published by New York’s Four Way Books.

The book is available through the distributor, University Press of New England, and also through the publisher, Four Way Books.

Congratulations to Joni!

The publisher’s press release about the book is at the end of this post. But first, here is some of her poetry. This is a poem from Joni’s newest collection:

Uncut year

Wade right out in the Year of Excellent Clouds.

Another evening, another park, another horse

on which to ride. See the sky reflected

on the tear films of an owlet? Paint a thing,

trompe-l’oeil, it comes. Trace the sun,

do not look, see it see it without your eyes.

And here are the poems we were privileged to publish in May 2006, when Joni’s poetry won our annual Creative Arts Competition (the issue is online here):


It could be this or any city.

A man emerges from a taxi

in a sharkskin jacket,

snow breaking against the blue-green

sheen of his shoulders.

It’s a minor scene, almost missed

as the shadow from an airplane overhead

bleeds the image into blankness,

my exquisite wound.

You would ask how I am.

Mostly I am saved by greed and desire.

Greed for the season’s voltage in fur,

desire for the wax-shine of red stiletto heels,

movie prize of some long-ago actress, not me,

and she shall witness our breaths fly out,

never missed, impossibly measured,

this pox on the living,

like ghosts.


Tilt (July 16, 1945, 5:28 a.m.)

In a photograph snapped just before,

their eyes, different in color, show

the nervousness of a herd entered the clearing,

one catching the unfamiliar scent meaning

some will be sacrificed, some will be saved.

But today is their 15 minutes: the staged smash

of the most infinitesimal piece of U 235,

a chain reaction that shines from here to heaven,

drops its veil on every cactus lizard rabbit coyote

within a 250 mile wake. Still, it’s only a makeshift

for other crimes. Those trickle out the canopy

of malignant dust like a virus, in three weeks time

a city incinerated, then two cities.

The sky winks and the general turns to the scientist and says bingo.

This is the part where the credits roll.

Please remove your protective glasses and place them

in the seat back in front of you.

Please exit through the signs marked EXIT.


Fifth Lucky Dragon

There was a dazzling light, and the

sea became brighter than day.

— Yoshio Misaki

Filament of memory:

smooth azure of sea,

nets filled with starry bodies

and more stars above

as he sinks further into

a dream of a woman

below uncontained skies,

a certain turbulence in the air

around her and then her voice

so real it startles him awake

to slap of saltwater, salt mist,

work to be done.

He has no name

for what flowers westward,

asea turned light box

for the terrible boat, dawn

scratched out of the sky.

In the blue/gray light

he moves to contend with the harvest,

heavy and luminous, and it is not yet

that one-millionth of a second

called critical mass,

and the ashen snow

has not yet fallen

on the eyelashes and faces

of the men who will rejoice

like children numbered for their graves.


Bohr’s Dream

In the beginning there is an idea

as if a dead thing stepped out of a man.

Lawyers prepare their witnesses and briefs.

Invitations issue. The judge arrives

with his gavel and his furs.

God, a hangman on the piazza, sends his archangel.

In the great white courtroom lunch is served,

a feast of pheasants and pearls.

Applause, flourish of trumpets.

O nearness of night. Windless starless night.



Four Way Books announces the publication of Blinking Ephemeral Valentine, by Joni Wallace, winner of the Four Way Books Levis Prize in Poetry. Publicity measures include readings, conference & festival appearances, and radio appearances. For information, e-mail

“In these poems, the valentine (i.e., love) is a many-faceted metaphoric machine that is endlessly active—forever drag racing with the dark—after which it sputters, clangs, trails off, goes out, and returns to post itself like a “shadow pterodactyl.” Of course, the fact that it’s blinking (on-again-offagain) predicts its own inevitable extinction. Until that time, however, the heat is fierce and fanatic: “If it snows I’m dressed like Christmas, I’m lit, / I’m drinking Red Rockets and oh how they glare.” There’s flicker and flame, and things flung: “my goodbyes, flywheels and marigolds all, of those midair/still hanging souvenirs and petals I’ll press into pies.” These poems are brilliant: the language is excited, the syntax ever-shifting, the images inventive. Every line feels irrefutable, and charged— electric, like love is, and glittery, like valentines are.” —Mary Jo Bang, judge

Winner of the Four Way Books Levis Prize in Poetry, Blinking Ephemeral Valentine, by Joni Wallace, is a collection that seeks to resuscitate the concept of love amid modern-day landscapes and events that undercut the possibilities of genuine emotion. “Remember our best night?” Wallace asks, “Not the drowning, not the self-same gasping as a makeshift blast broadcast through gaping windows…” Through collage and syntactic experiment, as well as fragmentation, Wallace recreates the break-neck speed of modern life, while clinging onto moments of transcendent emotion, however “blinking” and obscured. “Let’s meet back here in 5 minutes, you say, you always say. / I’ll bring the lite-brite. / I’ll bring the hole in my heart…” Tough and edgy, these poems relinquish the worn and hollow paths of traditional romantic poetry for an approach that tells it slant, articulating the hidden: “Here is where I think of you. / Here is a picture, negative, x-ray, reverse.” A poet flexible with the main tool of her trade—language—Wallace’s diction is energized and fresh: “waxshine of stiletto heels, / fur voltage, radiant / ringlets ringed in smoke.” Void of stanza breaks and favoring enjambment, Wallace’s imaginative leaps yank us through each poem with little time to breathe, or blink. She moves from “hairpins” to “saint-shaped scars graven / into arms outstretched” to “glass-eyes” and “a trayful, / the holy-shit-fires,” within five lines. Such fast-paced, whiplash movement accentuates the ephemeral in these blinking valentines while also allowing us to see the negative space we might have otherwise missed. “Sometimes I think I understand / love like an image I don’t cast,” Wallace writes, “but when I run toward it my shadow contorts: crippled king, queen of knees.”


Joni Wallace grew up in Los Alamos, New Mexico and Moab, Utah. She is the author of Redshift (Kore Press, 2001) and her poems have been published in Boston Review; Barrow Street; Conduit; Cutbank; Forklift,Ohio; Laurel Review; Connotations Press and She holds an MFA from the University of Montana and a BA and JD from the University of New Mexico. She currently teaches poetry in Arizona and Colorado. Joni is also a musician and co-founder of Arizona’s Poet’s Studio.

Editorial Office: PO Box 535 Village Station, New York NY 10014 • Phone (212) 334 5430 / Fax 5435 /

Publication Date: March 2011 978-1-935536-09-3 / Poetry • $15.95 • Paper, 68 pages • 6 x 9

Publicity: • Orders: UPNE • 1-800-421-1561 /