Archive for the ‘Chapbook Finalists 2010’ Category

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

Download the podcast

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.

Download the podcast

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).

Download the podcast

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


August 19, 2010 4 comments

from Dream Cabinet by Ann Fisher-Wirth

—Sleep, says the sea, sleep, says the sea, the birds
thicken in the trees as light glints across the water.

A breeze. Late afternoon, the light growing pewter,
soft Falun red of the ramshackle summer house

soaking up shadows. Out on the water, a motorboat.
I would like to spend the curve of a year

from bird cherries to mushrooms, svamp, in Sweden.
Trace the circle round through lilacs, king’s-blood-lilies,

lilies of the valley, then blueberries, strawberries,
raspberries, then lingonberries, apples.

To gather them as they ripen, wander along
with that rapt purposeful emptiness, every sense alert

for a glimpse of red or blue, the scrotal sponginess
of puffballs, luminescence of chanterelles.

To know this place in the fullness of its seasons.
And watch the light on water, day after day,

empty out of my everlasting self-regard.
Let the sunlight, fog, or rain have its will with me.

“Dream Cabinet” was published online in its entirety in the special Ecopoetry issue of How2, 2008, and in Rampike: Ecopoetics Issue, Spring 2009.

Download the podcast

Ann Fisher-Wirth’s third book of poems, Carta Marina, was published by Wings Press in 2009. Her third chapbook, Slide Shows, placed second in the Finishing Line Chapbook Competition and came out in 2009. With Laura-Gray Street she is coeditor of Ecopoetry: A Contemporary American Anthology, which Trinity University Press will release in 2012. Ann teaches at the University of Mississippi and in the low residency MFA program at Chatham University; also she teaches yoga at Southern Star in Oxford, Mississippi.

drylung (videopoem)

August 18, 2010 3 comments

poem from Watermark by Clayton T. Michaels
video by James Brush

watch on YouTubewatch on Vimeo

Tomorrow we’ll begin showcasing poems from each of the finalists in our 2010 chapbook contest, but to kick off the series, we teamed up with regular qarrtsiluni contributor and blogger James Brush to produce a video for a poem of his choice from the winning manuscript by Clayton T. Michaels. We were extremely impressed with James’ first go at the genre two months ago, God Bless Johnny Cash. It turned out that, in addition to being a fine poet, he also has a degree in film.

We have a strong interest in promoting videopoetry, also known as poetry film and cinepoetry — see Dave’s site Moving Poems, for example — so we decided to do this in preference to a more standard book trailer (itself an interesting new genre). Once the book is officially launched on August 30, other filmmakers will also be welcome to explore videopoem possibilities with the author’s permission. In the meantime, we encourage everyone to link to and share this video. And needless to say, we’d love to get more video submissions to our regular themed issues, too. (You can see all the posts in our Videos category here.)

James Brush lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, cat and two rescued greyhounds, and teaches English in a juvenile correctional facility. His poems have appeared in various places online and in print — see the complete list of publications on his blog. He published his first novel, A Place Without a Postcard, in 2003. He has been fascinated by Martian landscapes since he saw the first Viking images in the mid-1970s.

Announcing the 2010 Chapbook Contest Winners!

July 1, 2010 5 comments

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.