2013 Chapbook Contest Winner Announced: Matt Comi’s “Biography of Early Living”


Matt Comi (above) has won Whitworth’s 2013 Chapbook Contest. You may also remember Matt as the winner of our 2012 Chapbook Contest. He’s on fire! Matt wins $100, a small print run of his chapbook, and a spot as featured reader at this year’s Script reading on May 10. Congratulations!

Our celebrity judge, Tod Marshall, had this to say of this year’s batch of manuscripts:

The chapbooks that I read revealed a wide range of aesthetics that I found particularly exciting to encounter in student work.  John Taylor’s “Calyces,” J. Addison Martin’s “Lies,” and Matt Comi’s “Biography of Early Living” stood out among the manuscripts for their ambition, control of language, and unity of vision and theme.  Each of these three contained exceptional poems and moments of well-crafted writing.  Among the three, though, I chose “Biography of Early Living” as the winner. It blended genres in an engaging manner and maintained an ironic yet somehow vulnerable intensity that seemed a bit like Berryman, a bit like Pessoa, and a whole lot original.  The poems and prose pieces were sometimes funny, occasionally scathing, and, most importantly to my mind, unified in their intense exploration of the world and the persona—one “Matt Comi” of the “enormously wide shoulders.”

Marshall’s first collection of poetry, Dare Say, was the 2002 winner of the University of Georgia¹s Contemporary Poetry Series.  His second collection, The Tangled Line, was published by Canarium Books in April, 2009. He has also published a collection of his interviews with contemporary poets, Range of the Possible (EWU Press, 2002), and edited an accompanying anthology of poems by the interviewed poets, Range of Voices (EWU Press 2005).  He lives in Spokane, Washington, and teaches at Gonzaga University.

Our winner, Matt Comi, describes Matt Comi:
I’m in my third year here, and am at home in the Pacific Northwest. I write (mostly poems & essays) and make art (right now that means constructions made of wood, paint, and symbols printed onto muslin).

“Biography of Early Living” is a narrative root for these constructions: a process of decoupaging, or decorating my life with symbolic and often fictionalized identity.

Some of my artwork and projects can be seen at my internet-home-in-construction: mattcomi.com.

Here’s an excerpt from Comi’s “Biography of Early Living”:

Matt Comi is three years old. He is very close with his lady friend, who while being both petite and delicate, is also adventurous and scarily beautiful. His lady friend’s name is Maggie. She has no second name like Matt Comi. While on a long walk together, near the back of the playground, she confides in him that she would very much love short hair. Matt Comi, being the gentleman that he is, readily agrees to cut her hair at craft time, where he will have access to the appropriate tools—scissors, napkins, and crayons. But before he can finish the deed, earn her love and the subsequent fifteen year after-school-make-out session that would have inevitably followed (and which would lead to their future marriage (at age eighteen they pause to say I do then begin kissing thereafter)) something terrible happens. The teacher, whose name he cannot remember, catches him. She totally misunderstands the situation, calls home, and, at Maggie’s parents’ command, the two remain estranged forever. So far apart that one could not hear the other. Even if the other was yelling at the top of his lungs.

Because it has nothing to do with himself, and it cannot love him back. Except for dogs. He makes a special exception for dogs because petting a dog feels nice.

Thanks to Tod Marshall, Annie Stillar, Diana Cater, the Whitworth English department, and to all of our writers who entered this year’s contest!

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