Home > Chapbook Finalists 2010, Contests and prizes > Announcing the 2010 Chapbook Contest Winners!

Announcing the 2010 Chapbook Contest Winners!

July 1, 2010

What a task! Cataloging, reading, considering, and choosing a shortlist and three top manuscripts from the sixty-six submitted — and then deciding which one was the very best. Our judge this year, Ken Lamberton, called it a challenge and a privilege, and said the overall quality of the manuscripts was “amazing.” Dave and I thank him and our 2010 first-round readers for taking on the extremely difficult job of deciding among such excellent work.

Choosing the poetry that speaks to us will always be, to some extent, subjective. Because our whole purpose here is to encourage written expression, experimentation, and creativity, we’ve always had a love/hate affair with contests. So in addition to celebrating with the winners, we congratulate all the poets, and reiterate Ken’s assessment that the quality of the work — as is so often the case at qarrtsiluni — was very high, and the choice clearly difficult.

In mid-August, we’ll begin online publication of one poem from each of the shortlisted manuscripts, and the winning chapbook in its entirety. The winner will also be published in a professionally designed paper edition, and available for sale.

THE WINNERS, with Ken Lamberton’s comments:

First Prize:
Watermark by Clayton T. Michaels

Above all the others, this author most impressed me with his/her powerful, vivid images and surprising twists in the language, a sophisticated and intelligent — but not intellectual — use of language that moved me emotionally. I could see a mind at work behind the choices of images, but it was my emotions that responded to the images. For example, in the last stanza of “melancholia is a collective noun,” the author writes: “And Saint Denis, of the lachrymose silences,/carries his head with him for all eternity,/artists never quite agreeing/where his halo should go.” This is a beautiful final stanza to a poem that begins with astonishing images like “grey wax in a bowl of water” and “mouth filled with pomegranate seeds/instead of teeth.”

It’s this kind of poetry that I find most gratifying; the kind that uses just the right salient concrete images to elicit an emotional response in me, though I may not necessarily understand why I have this response.

Furthermore, the surprising juxtaposition of many images gives the poetry (see “tantric” and “drylung” for example) a wonderfully controlled surreal and mesmerizing quality — which to me not only holds the manuscript together but raises it to a level above the other submissions.

Clayton T. Michaels is a teacher, poet and musician who currently resides in Granger, Indiana. He has been a featured poet at the online journal Anti-, and his poems have appeared in The Prism Review, Nerve Cowboy, >kill author, Makeout Creek, Slipstream and The Chiron Review, among others. He currently teaches composition, creative writing, and comic-book-related courses at Indiana University South Bend, and can be found online at his blog. This is the first time his work will appear in qarrtsiluni.


itching, itching by Teresa Gilman

I was most impressed with this author’s use of imagistic language and nice turns of phrase. Some of my favorite lines include: “my chest/filled with caged starlings” and “her wilted dress moaning after him” and “receptive as a peach left out all afternoon.” Wonderful expressive language that carries emotional weight, which seems to be the theme of the manuscript. In fact, it’s this theme of relationships, love, and loss that holds the manuscript together. The chapbook holds some of the most vivid “love poems” I’ve ever read, my favorite being “The Moon-colored Flesh of Leaving.”

Alchemy and Atrophy by Tim Lockridge

This author came very close to having the winning chapbook. I was struck by the very first poem, “Something Unfolds in the Distance,” my favorite of the collection. The poem’s metaphors (“her voice is a nest of poppy seeds” and “your heart is a plastic bag and your desire a streetlight”) hold your attention as the poem’s line breaks drive the images line to line, stanza to stanza. And the author sustains this kind of writing throughout the manuscript, holding to interesting line breaks and vivid, fresh images. Some of the poems have amazing energy. The short lines in “The Inertia of Failure” really work — like a long, final exhale. Other poems — “Did You Know We Made Love Through the Worst of It?” — masterfully employ the natural rhythms of the language, in this case the poem feels like moving water. And I love the nature imagery which holds the manuscript together.


boygirlboygirl by Leslie Miller

Do Not Go Gentle by Jill McCabe Johnson

Dream Cabinet by Ann Fisher-Wirth

Evening Sun by Aline Soules

(E)vocation by Tiel Aisha Ansari

The Last Pub on Earth by Peter Murphy

The Narrative House by Janet McCann

Winter Horse by Nellie Hill

Bios of all the winners will be published with their selected poems in August. So stay tuned: we hope you’ll anticipate reading these poems as much as we look forward to publishing them.


Qarrtsiluni Chapbook Contest 2010

Final Judge: Ken Lamberton

First-round Readers: Teju Cole, Dale Favier, Brent Goodman,  Leslee Masten, Kristin McHenry, Tom Montag, Jean Morris, Pamela Johnson Parker, Susanna Rich, Carolee Sherwood, Peter Stephens, Jill Crammond Wickham.

Contest Coordination and Print Publication: Beth Adams

Qarrtsiluni Managing Editors: Dave Bonta and Beth Adams

THE PROCESS: Twelve first-round readers, all accomplished writers and many of them former guest editors of qarrtsiluni, read the submitted manuscripts in order to narrow the field to a shortlist. Each chapbook, identified only by title, was read by at least two readers. A shortlist of eleven anonymous manuscripts was then advanced to Ken Lamberton for his final decisions.

THE JUDGE: Ken Lamberton‘s first book, Wilderness and Razor Wire (Mercury House, 2000), won the 2002 John Burroughs Medal for outstanding nature writing. He has published four books and more than a hundred articles and essays in places like the Los Angeles Times, Arizona Highways, the Gettysburg Review, and The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2000. In 2007, he won a Soros Justice Fellowship for his fourth book, Time of Grace: Thoughts on Nature, Family, and the Politics of Crime and Punishment (University of Arizona Press, 2007). Ken’s fifth book, Dry River: Stories of Life, Death, and Redemption on the Rio de Santa Cruz, will be published by the University of Arizona Press early next year. We’re happy to note that Dry River will contain some stories first published in qarrtsiluni! Ken holds degrees in biology and creative writing from the University of Arizona and lives with his wife in a 1890s stone cottage near Bisbee.

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