Archive for the ‘Chapbook Finalists 2010’ Category


August 30, 2010 6 comments

Watermark by Clayton T. MichaelsWe’re very pleased to announce the publication of the first-place winner of our 2010 poetry chapbook contest, Watermark, by Clayton T. Michaels, in dual print and electronic versions.

The print edition, published in collaboration with Phoenicia Publishing in Montreal, is 32 pages long and has a full-color, glossy cover with a black-and-white interior. The list price is $7.95.

The online version features a minimalist design to foreground the content with thumbnail-sized images from the same artist who did the cover for the print edition, Nancy Botkin. An audio player with a reading by the author accompanies each poem, for those who prefer to absorb the book in increments rather than listening to the full-length audiobook-podcast. The latter includes a guitar theme written and performed by Clayton specially for this project.

The book is Creative Commons-licensed (Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives) to encourage the sharing of its content on blogs, Tumblr sites, Facebook, etc. Let us know if you write a review — we’ll link it up in the Watermark news blog as well as in qarrtsiluni’s Twitter stream.

In case you missed it, we wrote about the chapbook contest selection process in the announcement of the contest results on July 1. If you entered the contest, you’ll be receiving a complimentary copy of Watermark shortly. Thanks to everyone for supporting independent publishing on the web.

—Beth and Dave

The Moon-colored Flesh of Leaving

August 28, 2010 Comments off

from itching, itching by Teresa Gilman

His easy singing pulls
honey through the August air, and gilds
her attention with sweat. It rusts
a scream onto bare arms, fills
her chest with moths
in the early rising darkness. A blood-tinged moon
blows straws into her dreams, and he robs
the fullness from her voice, absconds
under a firefly sky, her wilted dress moaning after him.

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Teresa Gilman has had poems in The Comstock Review, Peregrine, Kalliope, Lake Affect, Illya’s Honey, and others. Gilman has two books out, Fumbling for the Flesh of Song and Roses in the Sand, Your Hand, both from FootHills Publishing. She has received first prize in the CNY National Penwomen’s Poetry contest, the Abacus and Rose poetry contest (Museum of Science and Technology, Syracuse, N.Y.) and the Rebecca Eddy poetry contest (Canastota Library, Canastota, N.Y.). In Fall 2007, she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for “Metal Artist”. She lives in Syracuse, New York.

Something Unfolds In The Distance

August 27, 2010 1 comment

from Alchemy and Atrophy by Tim Lockridge

Some days you say the word meadow
and the meadow is not actually
a meadow but the memory of someone
you haven’t heard from in years and now

her voice unwinds in your answering
machine. And her voice is a nest
of poppy seeds and her words are pollen
and you realize this when the sun splits

the window and you only want to fold
your hands and let doves loose in the snow.
And your hands are sidewalks that miss
the kiss of her skirt-hem each morning

and you imagine a city block, her daily
walk: cafe, newsstand, parking meter.
And there’s a lull in her speech, a pause
in her plea and here you build a new

rendition of the past: untilled fields
and buildings unbuckling. You consider
confession, maybe admit your heart
is a plastic bag and your desire a streetlight.

Or is your desire the autobahn? No
matter. You erase the message and spin
dials on the stove, bring water to boil.
Your mind is clover covered, your thoughts

are worn fence posts—your desire:
long mornings that sink into noon.

First appeared in Mid-American Review, Vol. XXIX, No. 2 (Spring 2009).

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Tim Lockridge’s poetry has recently appeared in Passages North, DIAGRAM, The Cimarron Review, and many other literary journals. He lives in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Feeding the Invisible Cat

August 26, 2010 4 comments

from The Narrative House, by Janet McCann

I miss my animals, here in this strange house,
so I put out food
the dinner’s leftovers
hoping something will come.

And something does, a shadow
on the porch of the rental house
sometime after midnight
every night.

What you’re feeding, you say
is nothing you’d want,
a raccoon, maybe even a rat.

The guest does not like mushrooms
or onions. It licks them clean
of gravy. They lie on the dinner plate
like a still life.

What I am feeding
is something of distinctive taste
and a certain feel for art, I say.

It will show itself, I will make friends with it.
The shadow flickers
under the distant streetlight.
I put out Beef Burgundy.

A thunderstorm shudders the house
windows rattle all night

and in the pale washed morning
a haiku:
two button mushrooms
on the blue translucent plate
under clear water.

Included in the just-published chapbook House from Plan B Press.

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Janet McCann has taught at Texas A&M University since 1969. A version of the chapbook submitted to our contest won the Plan B Press Poetry Chapbook Contest, and she has won three other chapbook contests over the years. Her work has appeared in such journals as New Letters, Kansas Quarterly, Parnassus, Nimrod, Sou’wester, New York Quarterly, Tendril, and Poetry Australia.

Brood X: Part III

August 25, 2010 Comments off

from boygirlboygirl by Leslie F. Miller

You were 6 the first time—
sweet scent of lilacs
perfuming a sleep
punctuated by banshee wails,
cluttered with clicks, incessant,
the night crawling with sound.
You dodged them
on your way to school,
the air littered with locusts
flying kamikaze drills
into your wavy hair,
your limbs quaking
as you pulled them,
hissing like firecrackers,
from tangled strands.

By 23 you had forgotten them
their redundancy,
the multiplication of eyes, red,
the crunchy footsteps,
the suffocated shrubs—
forgotten how they’d threatened
to detonate in your hand
(get them off me get them off)—
forgotten how they’d suck the holes
out of silence
and fill them with shrieks
that kept your windows closed nights,
that made you crazy with a heat
all your own.

At 40 you wait for them,
their awful sameness,
with your girl, just 6,
her wide brown eyes open
to embrace the world,
her long, brown hair
just begging for it.

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Leslie F. Miller (website) likes to smash things and put them back together in a random, yet tasteful, order. Her first book, Let Me Eat Cake: A Celebration of Flour, Sugar, Butter, Eggs, Vanilla, Baking Powder, and a Pinch of Salt, was published in April 2009 by Simon Schuster; it is about eating, not baking. Her poetry has appeared in publications across the country, and she is the former editor of the poetry column in Baltimore’s City Paper.


August 24, 2010 Comments off

from The Last Pub on Earth by Peter E. Murphy

Garry Morgan walks the Cardiff streets
looking for art. The night before he got tapped
out at a dive on Tiger Bay when the onion breath
next to him knocked him off his bar stool
and took his change.
Garry longs for renaissance
but knows his chances are not good.
He’s not sure he exists.
If he does, he believes he will die soon.
Art lives.
Garry would like to become art.
Barred from the National Museum
after he tries to enter a huge landscape—
It was so realistic. Apple trees. Soft grass.
A stream he could sink his feet into—
But the guard stops him as he climbs
onto the frame, escorts him to the exit.
Poor Garry.
He reaches a studio where he will remove
his clothes for cash so the blokes
who paint him will not have to imagine.
On another gig, he is covered in wax
for a show called Pyrotechnicality.
At the opening and closing—
there can only be one performance—
the artist waves a blowtorch over his body
parts, making them move.
One limb drops slowly from waving hello.
His back bends when the master-hand points
to it with fire. Garry feels nothing,
even as the audience applauds when his knees
melt away, even as the floor of the gallery rises
up to meet him in one helluva sloppy kiss.

Originally appeared in The Literary Review, Vol. 53, No. 2, Winter, 2009/2010.

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Peter E. Murphy was born in Wales and grew up in New York City where he operated heavy equipment, managed a night club and drove a cab. Recipient of a 2009 Poetry Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, he is the author of two books of poems, Stubborn Child and Thorough & Efficient. He directs the annual Winter Poetry & Prose Getaway in Cape May, New Jersey.

Sleep Song

August 23, 2010 Comments off

from Do Not Go Gentle by Jill McCabe Johnson

If whales can find themselves in the wrong passage,
directionless, swimming in their sleep, then who is to say
we are not floating in our own slumber, years into emptiness
with nothing but the day-in, day-out, sway.

Combing through tide-swept marriages, we pluck remnants.
The strewn toys, refrigerator schedules, plans to go camping,
and the promise of a second honeymoon ebbed.
Whales do travel in their sleep. Passive echolocation

alerts them to rocks, ships, lost jobs, and the rank wounds
of the disgruntled dear. We sleep in front of the television.
We disregard tsunami tremors, and the salt-stained traces
of desolation. No wonder whales beach themselves.

No wonder they linger in the receding tide of whatever
luck that has carried them this far will now leave
them languishing among driftwood and broken shells.
Beautiful whales. Please, please, wake up.

Originally published by Sea Stories in their Winter 2009 issue.

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Jill McCabe Johnson is the recipient of the Paula Jones Gardiner Poetry Award from Floating Bridge Press, and was recently nominated for a Pushcart. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing at Pacific Lutheran University, and is pursuing a PhD in English at the University of Nebraska. Her poetry and prose have been published in various publications including The Los Angeles Review, Boston Literary Magazine, and Harpur Palate. Jill is the director of Artsmith, a non-profit to support the arts.

A Date with Ben Franklin

August 22, 2010 Comments off

From (E)vocation by Tiel Aisha Ansari

“why me,” he wonders

Because I wanted to know
what it was really like

feeling that lightning strike
run down the string

handling the hot slag lump
that had once been a key

and now, shapeless and smoking
nonetheless turned in your hand

and opened so many doors
even though it wasn’t really like that

Because I wanted to know
if your legend has ballooned

like the sails on an outer-banks schooner
running before a storm

and needs to be trimmed for accuracy
And I wanted to know if you

would rather be remembered for
the Declaration, the glass harmonica,

the Gulf Stream, abolitionism,
political satire, chess, refrigeration,

being right about the wave theory of light―
most of all I wanted to know

what was it like, just what was it like

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Tiel Aisha Ansari is a Sufi, martial artist, and data analyst living in the Pacific Northwest. Her work has appeared in Islamica Magazine, Mezzo Cammin, Untitled Country Review, The Lyric, Barefoot Muse, and the VoiceCatcher anthology from Portland Women Writers. Her poetry has been featured on KBOO, Prairie Home Companion and MiPoRadio and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her collection Knocking from Inside is available from Ecstatic Exchange. You can visit her online at

The Shell

August 21, 2010 1 comment

from Winter Horse by Nellie Hill

Reverberations hum across fields
and tops of trees like flights of birds
I catch with my net of reckless hearing.
I hear what I want. I make what I can
of wave lengths.

Now I’m the beach and my skin the sand
rolled and kissed and blasted
into glass that separates filaments
of imagined knowledge from the real
and consoles the viewer, calms
the listener. The empty shell
really holds the ocean.

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Nellie Hill’s short fiction and poetry has appeared in a wide variety of literary journals. Her most recent chapbook is My Daily Walk (Pudding House, 2008). She lives in Berkeley, California.


August 20, 2010 5 comments

from Evening Sun by Aline Soules

I’ve given you away.
I don’t know who got
your lungs or eyes or
bones, but your heart
went to a young woman
with two small children.
She wrote to say that it will
slowly give way to her body’s
disease, but not before
she sees her children grow.

You’re a busy man,
living in so many places
at the same time. Maybe
you breathe in the chest
of a man just down the street,
or look at a lake through the eyes
of a boy who has only known
its sound or the chill
of its lapping waves. Perhaps
you hike up a mountain
in the now-sturdy legs
of a woman on the other side
of the country.

Yet, the more those legs
take you away from me
and your heart pumps in another,
the more you breathe
to a different rhythm
and each of us sees people and places
the other will never know,
the more my empty heart
wonders if we have met again,
neither of us able to recognize
that we are together still.

“Apart” first appeared in The Houston Literary Review, May 2009 (PDF).

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Aline Soules’ work has appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies. Her book The Size of the World was published as a flip book by Plainview Press in tandem with Nancy Ryan’s The Shape of the Heart. Since then, she has written a manuscript of prose poems which have appeared in such journals as Kaleidowhirl, Tattoo Highway, Boiling River, and the Kenyon Review. Other poems from her chapbook manuscript Evening Sun have appeared in Shaking Like a Mountain and Inertia. Visit her writing blog at

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