Announcing: Lit Shark Magazine’s December-January Poem of the Month!


Happy Tuesday, readers, writers, and shark fans! I hope your week is off to a wonderful start. Tuesdays are a popular day for entertainment releases, and Lit Shark is getting in on the fun today, because we (at long last!) are here to announce the winners of our December-January Poem of the Month contest!

Submissions for the December-January contest were accepted throughout the holiday and New Year season to give everyone ample time to enjoy their holiday festivities, rest, and submit their work, too. Like many families, my family and I went through a serious sick spell right after our holidays wrapped up, so it was wonderful to have the opportunity to cozy up with submissions and read incredible poems about nature, identity, love and loss, dreams, and nightmares. The work I received was an incredible measure of thoughtfulness, depth of craft, and talent, and I feel blessed to have read them.

For those of you who would like to submit to one of Lit Shark’s Poem of the Month contests, you still can! Submissions are considered on a rolling basis, and it’s always free to enter. Submit here up to five poems or ten pages of poetry. If you want to be considered for our current contest (March), please submit by Friday, March 1! Submissions will still be accepted after that date, but they’ll be considered for the April Poem of the Month Contest instead. 


Now, For the Honorable Mentions!

I read so many great poems during this round, and I accepted some for publication in Issue 5 of Lit Shark Magazine, coming in March 2024, but there were two that I HAD to nominate for an Honorable Mention. And they are: 

Victoria M. Johnson – “How to Buy a Toilet”

I know what you might be thinking. Don’t let that title fool you. This poem unflinchingly examines domestic life, yes, but also problematic and potentially abusive relationships. Though the title references buying a replacement toilet, the poem goes through the purchasing and repair of multiple common home devices, all while commenting on problems and obstacles that are unique to an imperfect and harmful relationship. It was like looking in an understanding and confronting mirror, but where there were bitter truths, there were also beautiful and hopeful elements that made the experience more than worth it. This poem absolutely deserved the shout-out.

Doug Van Hooser – “An Octopus Hug”

Doug has been submitting to Lit Shark since the very beginning, and across the board, I have loved his work. Doug has this unique ability of employing natural elements and making thoughtful observations about the world around us as a way to explore the human condition, especially love and grief. But where this poem surprised me was in its nautical elements; most of his work that I have seen has explored the views many of us have in our backyards and the birds we’re sharing that world with, but this poem deftly dove into the water and explored complex human emotions through an equally (if not more so) complex marine animal. It absolutely deserved a shout-out.


And the Winner Is…

I am so pleased to announce that the winner of Lit Shark Magazine’s December-January Poem of the Month contest is none other than Sandra Noel. Accepting her poem and later choosing it as the winner felt like a full-circle moment when I discovered she was the one who wrote it (I read all of our submissions on an anonymous basis), because Sandra also submitted the very first marine/nautical-themed poem that I read and accepted for Lit Shark’s SHARK WEEK Edition issue, called “I Am the Wanting Blue,” which felt like a little confirmation for me that the issue’s theme was a good idea!

Sandra’s contest-winning poem, “Bioluminescence Flashes in the Pull,” is similarly ocean-themed, and they both loosely are written from the perspective of the beach, toes practically plunging into the waves already. But where “I Am the Wanting Blue” emphasizes nature, people-watching, and how we can be reminded of love through common things and occurrences, “Bioluminescence Flashes in the Pull” focuses on something beautifully rare, something that many of us will never witness in person: the marine world aglow at nighttime with natural glow-in-the-dark matter, bioluminescent algae. The poem is this beautiful observation of the phenomenon, but it also comments on diving into the unknown, the perplexity of a dark, even opaque, ocean surface, and the wonder and pride found in diving in anyway. It’s a beautiful, brief poem that packs a lot into a short read, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Sandra NoelAbout Sandra Noel:

Sandra Noel is a poet from Jersey, Channel Islands.  She enjoys writing about the ordinary in unusual ways, her passion for sea swimming, and her love of nature often weaving their way through her work. Sandra has poems featured online and in print magazines and anthologies. Over the past year, she has been longlisted, shortlisted, and highly commended in various competitions. She has poems on buses in Guernsey from the Guernsey International Poetry Competition 2022 and 2023.  Sandra is finalising her first collection which will be published by Yaffle Press in 2024.

In 2023 and 2024, Sandra has been putting hard work into growing her poetic presence in the literary world—and she is absolutely someone who you should keep your eye out for.


“Bioluminescence Flashes in the Pull” by Sandra Noel

Bioluminescence Flashes in the Pull by Sandra Noel

where blackened sea sleeps.
We wait at low water’s lace
for the fullness of moon
to release its tide hold.

Racing the hurrying hairline
we swag up the bay in shadow-light.
Liquid silver licks into corners,
quickens over night-white sand.

Salten spray spins its witchery.
I swim under the cellophane skin,
a trail of clothes left in silk dark.
The sea raises all boats.


“Bioluminescence Flashes in the Pull” Broadside Created by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

For each contest, the winner will receive a unique digital broadside of their winning poem, and the one I created can be found below. I put a lot of thought and love into every broadside that I create, no matter how simple or complex they turn out to be, but it felt particularly important to create something that was as striking as a bioluminescent experience proves to be. I hope you enjoy it and can feel Sandra’s poem through it the way I do.

Bioluminescence Flashes in the Pull by Sandra Noel


On the Lookout For the Next Winner!

Since February is a shorter month than the rest, we only have 9 days left in the month! If you’d like to be considered for our March Poem of the Month, please submit your poems for consideration as soon as possible! The absolute deadline is Friday, March 1st, 2024.

One winner will be selected, and they will receive $20, a unique digital broadside of their winning poem, mentions on our social media and our website, and a feature in our next issue of Lit Shark Magazine.

Honorable Mentions will also be considered, and they will receive a mention on our social media and website, and they will be featured in the next issue of Lit Shark Magazine.

Submitting to the Poem of the Month contest also counts as a general submission, so even if your work isn’t selected as a winner or honorable mention, your work may still be picked up for an upcoming issue! With it being free to enter, what do you have to lose?


Happy Writing and Happy Submitting, readers, writers, and shark fans!

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. You will not be charged extra, but a portion of your purchase will help support Lit Shark’s causes in inclusive and accessible literature and writing resources, as well as our growing movement in conversation education, rescue, and revitalization.

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McKenzie Lynn Tozan (she/her/hers) lives and writes in Europe with her family (originally from the Midwest). In addition to being the Editor-in-Chief of Lit Shark Magazine and the Banned Book Review, she is a novelist, poet, and book reviewer. She received her MFA in Poetry from Western Michigan University and her BA in English/BS in Education from Indiana University South Bend, where she began her work in publishing. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, Young Ravens Review, The Birds We Piled Loosely, and Encore Magazine, among others; and her book reviews and essays have appeared in The Rumpus, Green Mountains Review, Memoir Mixtapes, The Life Collective, Her Journal, Motherly, and more. When not writing, she enjoys reading, appreciating nature, and spending time with her husband and three children.




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