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Summertime Locker

September 21, 2011 1 comment

from From the Grey by Susannah Lior

When they took me in
under wings of prestige, white feathers
glowed like new
shelter sprung from darkness

I thought I had found
home in a park picnic
with the seniors,
older siblings I never had making
hamburgers and lemonade

On the grassy hill,
afternoon idols clutched
stories of hallway hijinks
like war medals or
debating trophies,

prizes plucked from memory’s shelves and
pooled with their comrades’
for a richer treasury —

On display behind glass, small
museum in the school foyer,
it was a show they curated laughing,
arms grappled like hoops of steel.

 

The stories that didn’t fit:
edited out
of the yearbook

The public record of portraits:
laminated name tags, matching faces
for wearing to lockers

Little fish in my summertime locker —
last gasps ballooning, deflating a
see-through sandwich bag —
breathed the last
idea of home
out of me;

I was submerged in a sea
of pulled faces,
dead girl’s float

where schools of guppies swim by
in cafeteria formation:
no vacancies.

 

This is the place
where enchantment with the stars
ends, and we
must begin:

break-and-enter
in this sallow
hall, school of eroding
Edwardian brick, asbestos resting
three feet thick
in the walls,
the city’s best and brightest swimming
upstream to arrive

 

This is the place

where the stars in my eyes
are gouged out

where I begin to doubt
the best in me,

where the smell of the threat and Lysol
teaches me hate,

drowns me in waves.


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Susannah Lior lives in Montreal, where, in addition to writing, she sews, pets stray cats, and studies law.

The Discreet Charm of Prime Numbers

September 20, 2011 2 comments

from The Discreet Charm of Prime Numbers by Gail Segal

1.
Sky that promised to fall
hangs on, not clear of its pick
on the wheel of color.
No cars, no buses,
trucks asleep
in the highway stops
and they call this morning?

2.
You think of nothing
but death and its probabilities.
When the mind relaxes, drifting
to weather or fashion
you are called back by numbers
on the door of the hotel room,
or numbers on the cabana
at the beach, or the young man
at the next table
bereaved by his bride
dying in her sleep. You are sure
it belongs to you as nothing
ever has, to hold and to have.

3.
The night will fall out
with mint crushed in a glass
over lemon and rum,
mermaids lounging by the pool,
men with puissance toasting — what?
the moon, of course, full —
and you will wear sandals glittering
with rhinestones, the night
with its long table of candles,
the heat lamps,
an orange buzz like people
milling about sharing
what’s left of their faces.

4.
Rumors stir — a woman
set in motion by
a “system of vibrations,”
the story events of her life,
a “map of endless resonance.”
And hearing of her,
you want to know what accounts
for her destroying
every concrete goodness
with a will to be acted upon
seized unexpectedly
by an agent of magnificence.

5.
You dream as if worn
by days of vacation,
his arrival, even in dreaming,
an intrusion upon a life
with the man you will marry
and you notice a glass
tipped to breakage, the wine
puddled beneath it,
a bed unfolds from the sofa
and he plants himself there
for a long stay.


Note: Section 5 originally appeared in
Chelsea 80 (2006) under the title “Prime Numbers.”

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Gail Segal is a poet, filmmaker and teacher. Her first book of poems, In Gravity’s Pull, was published in 2002. She teaches in the Graduate Division of Film at NYU.

Tom Kessler, Stockton Island, 1887

September 13, 2011 1 comment

poem from Ice and Gaywings by Kenneth Pobo – video by Swoon Bildos


watch on YouTubewatch on Vimeo

Again this year we decided to produce a videopoem for a piece from our winning chapbook to serve as a video trailer and help build anticipation for what we think is a very engaging collection. The book will be released early next month, and this film will have a permanent place in the online version. In the meantime, please feel free to share either the Vimeo or YouTube version of it far and wide, to blogs, Facebook or other social sites, with or without a link to this post. (It’s embeddable media. That’s the point.)

Swoon Bildos, A.K.A. Marc Neys (website, blog) is a Belgian artist and filmmaker who has made some 35 videopoems, in English and in Dutch, in little over a year. Montana-based poet Sherry O’Keefe recently interviewed him about his videopoetry, asking about his process, philosophy, background and more. Marc blogged (in Dutch) about this project at the beginning of the assignment and also after completion. He remarked that he found Kenneth’s poems at times reminiscent of the atmosphere conjured up by David Vann in his book Legend of a Suicide, in the devastating, raw beauty of these remote forests.

Kenneth Pobo, the winner of qarrtsiluni’s 2011 chapbook contest, has four full-length collections of poetry and, including Ice and Gaywings, twenty chapbooks. He teaches creative writing and English at Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania. He and his partner and two cats enjoy gardening, music, and the Wisconsin Northwoods. You can catch Ken’s radio show, Obscure Oldies, on Saturdays from 6:00-8:30 pm EST at WDNR 89.5 FM.

Announcing the 2011 Chapbook Contest Winners!

September 1, 2011 7 comments

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:

First Prize:
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.

Runner-up:
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.

Other Finalists:

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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