Announcing the 2011 Chapbook Contest Winners!
We interrupt the Imprisonment issue today to announce that we have a winner, one runner-up, and seven other finalists in our chapbook contest this year. We received 63 submissions altogether — just three fewer than last year’s total — and the first-round readers and judge commented on their high quality over-all. Our deepest gratitude to everyone who entered for your interest and belief in qarrtsiluni and your willingness to support independent literary publishing with your entry fees.
As previously announced, the final judge was Luisa A. Igloria. Here’s what she had to say about the two top winners:
Ice and Gaywings by Kenneth Pobo
The experience I value most in reading this collection is the way its language (never romanticized) and tone (never overwrought) allowed me to settle with increasing depth into the poems’ rhythms and precise observations — about the natural world, now only partially reclaimable from so many forms of artifice; about the intrusions of contemporary urban life and culture; about histories older than us that haunt and shadow place. And finally, its urgent reminder to listen, look, and learn to dwell again.
Periodicity by Iris Law
I admired the dedication of this poet to the subject matter of the chapbook as a whole, and in each poem: women and the scientific pursuits that enthralled them and in most cases became their lifelong obsession and work. The lessons they learned from studying the natural world sound very much like lessons that are also valuable to the poet: attention to the sensuous details of the widest array of material existence, attention to the urge to document, to name, to create taxonomies, to tease order out of chaos and the ineffable. The poems in the collection succeed also because they work both within the metaphorical and gendered frameworks suggested by “periodicity,” and against the fixities inherent in any idea of rules of classification.
Messiah Auditions Saturday by Nancy Devine
a lazarus by Morgan Downie
From the Grey by Susannah Lior
all origins ask why by Irène Mathieu
The Discreet Charm of Prime Numbers by Gail Segal
Inchoate by M.G. Stephens
Chain Down the Moon by Carolyne Whelan
Congratulations to all.
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This year’s first-round readers were Brent Goodman, Dale Favier, Kristen McHenry, Jean Morris, Clayton Michaels, Tom Montag, Pamela Johnson Parker, Carolee Sherwood, Peter Stephens, and Jill Crammond Wickham. We really appreciate all the time and care they put into this, some of them for the third year in a row. Each chapbook, identified only by title, was read by at least two readers. Luisa then read all the finalist manuscripts and picked the winner and runner-up.
As in past years, we’ll feature one poem from each of the finalists in a special mini-issue. This will commence in mid-September, after the conclusion of the Imprisonment issue. Ice and Gaywings will be published online and in a print edition from our partners, Phoenicia Publishing in Montreal. For now, we want to leave you with Luisa Igloria’s remarks about the contest.
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Beginning with the definition of a chapbook as a smaller collection of poetry (smaller than our usual expectation that a full-length book manuscript lies somewhere between forty-eight and eighty-five pages), but not necessarily believing that the chapbook’s more modest length makes it the redheaded stepchild of a “full-fledged poetry book,” I approached the task of judging with really just one important requirement: I read in order to be blown away; or to be dazzled by mystery; or to be brought up short in front of things I only thought I knew.
Perhaps because originally, chaps or chapbooks were assembled by hand and sold cheap in the streets, we tend to assume they are more amateur, fledgling, or untested work by mostly unpublished poets. But more and more, contemporary chapbook publications demonstrate the chapbook’s depth, freshness, versatility, and range — from places like Finishing Line Press, Tupelo Press, Seven Sisters Press, or the Poetry Society of America, among others. Many “established” poets publish chapbooks; and chapbooks are also works of art, incorporating visual works or delicious textures via their choice of heavier papers and decorative endpapers; or digital art, in the case of electronic chapbooks. (Elaine Sexton reviewed some chapbooks for Prairie Schooner a while ago, where she says a little bit too about the range of effects achieved by the contemporary chapbook.)
It may seem that the shorter manuscript would be much easier to assemble. This is just my opinion, but I feel it might often pose a more difficult challenge: to pare, organize, and orchestrate the individual vision of poems, and then their resonances and relationships with each other, in a setting that could magnify the effects of what it pulls together (or doesn’t) because of its compactness.
Reading for the 2011 qarrtsiluni chapbook contest, I found (just as in regular-length manuscripts) a rich and varied range of poetic voices and offerings: lyric poems, narrative poems, meditative poems, poems playing with traditional forms, with sound and found language. In the end, my decision was to go with the two manuscripts from the shortlist that I thought rose above the rest because they were the most organically fulfilled both in language and in vision from start to finish.
—Luisa A. Igloria
August 19, 2011