Hearty congratulations to Rowanne Fairchild (’14) and Kaitlin Schmidt (’14), the winners of this year’s chapbook contest.
Rowanne Fairchild (’14) won for her fiction manuscript “Refraction.” Guest judge Esther Lee called “Refraction” “a poignant story about a narrator whose empathy for a childhood friend serves as a reminder to us: that to honor those who have been traumatized requires a refusal to forget them.”
Rowanne is a graduating senior from Whitworth’s English department. “Refraction” is her first published manuscript. An avid traveler, she draws inspiration for her writing from the places she experiences and people she encounters. She enjoys telling stories, and loves being able to communicate with an audience through writing.
You can read an excerpt of “Refraction” below. Rowanne wins the $100 prize and she’ll be the featured reader at the Script reading on May 9. Thom Caraway & Co. will design and print a small run of her chapbook.
Big cheers also to Kaitlin Schmidt (’14), this year’s runner-up.
Of Kaitlin’s poetry collection, “After Babel,” Esther Lee said, “These poems feel like tiny leaves in your palms. Their meditative power begins to accumulate and reveals an intimate address and vulnerable questioning by the speaker.”
Kaitlin says, “I grew up as a quiet person who read all the time, and somehow became an extroverted person who talks all the time. This combination leads to being very open about inward thinking, which is what I explore in my writing. This manuscript deals with how much communication is strangled in any relationship, which I hope comes across as ironic considering I am trying to communicate something to you, the reader.”
You can catch more of Kaitlin’s poems at a reading on Sunday, March 30, at Jones Radiator.
Thanks also to the 2014 guest judge, Esther Lee.
Esther Lee has written Spit, winner of the Elixir Press Poetry Prize (2011) and her chapbook, Blank Missives (Trafficker Press, 2007). Her poems and articles have appeared or are forthcoming in Lantern Review, Ploughshares, Verse Daily, Salt Hill, Good Foot, Swink, Hyphen, Born Magazine, and elsewhere. A Kundiman fellow, she received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Indiana University where she served as Editor-in-Chief for Indiana Review. She has been awarded the Elinor Benedict Poetry Prize and Utah Writer’s Contest Award for Poetry (selected by Brenda Shaughnessy), Snowcroft Prize (selected by Susan Steinberg), as well as twice-nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She recently received her Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Utah. She began teaching as an Assistant Professor at Agnes Scott College in the Fall 2013.
And now, the samples! Here’s a look at Rowanne’s “Refraction”:
I traced my way back from the crossroads after school and managed to find the house without much difficulty. I stood on the edge of the road and watched the piece of glass flash in the sunlight. After several moments I crossed the ditch and made my way back until I was crouched by the wire mesh. With a cautious hand I tugged on the screen, but was still startled when the boy unfurled from the shadows under the porch.
“Hi,” I whispered. I lowered myself to sit cross-legged.
He looked at me and gurgled.
“What’s your name? Do you have a name?” When he didn’t answer I remembered the story I’d learned in Sunday school last weekend, about a boy who was made a slave and then became a prince. “Can I call you Joseph? I’m Jacob.”
Joseph’s eyes were blank and he stretched his arms out towards me. He was wearing my socks on his hands, and had his thumb jammed through the hole where my big toe used to fit.
“Yeah, those are socks, they usually go on your feet.” He inched towards me and I saw he wore a thin t-shirt and a pair of tattered pants. Grime was ground into the fabric. His clothes hung from his emaciated frame and trembled as he shivered. His feet were bare. His hair was so filthy I couldn’t tell what color it was.
“I’m ten. How old are you?”
Joseph’s face was empty, blank. Like Mama’s garden before she planted daffodils in the fall. He looked maybe eight or nine. He made a noise in the back of his throat and tried to push a socked hand through the mesh towards my lunch pail.
I unscrewed the cap and pulled out a crust that was left over from my lunch. “Is this what you want?” I extended it towards him and suddenly the sock came off, he snatched it with dirty fingers, stuffed it past cracked lips.
He gulped and then looked at me as if waiting for more. He reminded me of the stray mutt I used to feed scraps to when he would follow me home from school. He went mad from a coon fight three days before Dad was drafted, and Dad had to shoot the dog from our back porch.
I felt heavy, like a rock that was being shoved into motion and yet still wouldn’t move. “Sorry, that’s all I have.”
And enjoy this poem from Kaitlin’s “After Babel”:
We fishtail apart across ice,
careening legs and arms cut
up with each other’s words.
I try to get to you with language
but malfunction use my hands
to sort out the air but slaughter it
like a nightmare try to pick up
a mouse but squeeze too hard
apart. There are so many things
I want you to know.