Congratulations to Dana Stull (’16), the first-prize winner for the 2015 Chapbook contest, and to Annika Bratton (’18) for an Honorable Mention!
Dana (above) describes herself as one who “writes, reads, bakes pies, pickles and preserves, speaks goat, takes names, and is currently developing a stand-up comedy routine.”
Here’s what our guest judge, Daniel Bowman Jr., had to say about Dana’s manuscript, the girl who says nothing:
“I was a bit torn on this decision at first. the girl who says nothing in some ways lacks the range of some other manuscripts—an experimentation with styles, forms, lines and line breaks, and sound necessary as the true voices and chief concerns of young poets begin to emerge.
And yet…the girl who says nothing resounds with a maturity and sense of purpose beyond expectations. It is, quite simply, the one chapbook that haunted me long after I’d read all of them. These terse, focused poems left me no choice but to reckon deeply and personally with this girl who says nothing, and, by extension, with the terrifying distances between how things ought to work and the realities of our world.
The ‘incident reports’ are particularly effective. Told in an alarmingly clinical voice, they remind us how the stories of the most vulnerable are so often mediated—shaped and controlled—by those in power.
In addition, many individual lines reverberate despite the tight spaces of the poems: ‘she is crossing the small bridges/in me.’ Indeed. That image accounts precisely for the way this character, and these poems, get under your skin, how they disturb and finally transcend niceties on the journey toward truth.
The critic R.P. Blackmur wrote of poetry operating at a high level, noting how it ‘not only expresses the matter in hand but adds to the stock of available reality.’ the girl who says nothing has added a rich and subtly textured experience to my own stock of availability reality, and for that I am grateful.”
Annika Bratton (’18) describes herself as “a first year student from Banks, Oregon, right between Portland and the coast. I am double majoring in Peace Studies and English and minoring in Environmental Studies. When I’m not studying or writing poetry, I enjoy dancing, hiking, going to the beach, and attempting to solve social justice issues. I am beyond excited to have received such an honor in this competition.”
On Bratton’s manuscript, Bowman states that “the poems in Becoming radiate with an attractive zeal, physicality, and longing. Though they sometimes risk abstraction, they nonetheless provide a space where joy and pain coexist in a creative tension.
I came to a nearly instant trust in the poet’s voice, which is clear, inventive, vulnerable, by turns earnest and ironic, but never dull or stilted. And the poems are consistently invitational; one becomes less a reader and more a participant: ‘Hold every echo in the cavern of your lungs,’ the poet bids us. The brand of partaking described in Becoming isn’t for the faint of heart—this poet is all in. And so was I.”
Here’s “Jewelry Boxes,” a poem from Becoming:
she wrung the light
out of a bulb
but not before a kiss of shattered glass
children take longer to die
and less time to be alive
when mousetraps are baited with
hollow models and the expectancy
can’t see how many heartbeats
a day makes;
beat so much faster with
the light stuck in her palms.
she sewed a necklace from her teeth,
presented it to collarbones on one knee.
my heart can’t stop flashing traffic lights
so i had to uncap my brain.
the rocking chair can’t sway
enough to birth some lightning,
but it keeps a kite in its lap
just in case.
she melted some crayons
for the waxing moon
and fingerpainted a new skyline
from all the blood in her mouth.
Thanks to Thom Caraway, Annie Stillar, the Whitworth Department of English, to all of this year’s contestants, and to our 2015 guest judge, Daniel Bowman Jr.
Daniel Bowman Jr. is the author A Plum Tree in Leatherstocking Country (virtual artists collective, 2012) andBeggars in Heaven: A Novel (forthcoming 2015). His work has appeared in The Adirondack Review, Books and Culture, The Cresset, The Midwest Quarterly, Rio Grande Review, Saint Katherine Review, Seneca Review, and many other journals. A native of the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York, he lives in Hartford City, Indiana and is Associate Professor of English at Taylor University.