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: