2011 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Results

I think this is the latest it’s taken me to name a November PAD Chapbook Challenge Champion, but that just speaks to level of competition (and maybe a little to my hectic schedule). 🙂

However, there’s no denying that I found this year’s crop of chapbook manuscripts the best ever. It was quite a challenge for me to just narrow down the field to a short list of contenders. Out of around 100 chapbook manuscripts, I did finally choose eight finalists.

The 2011 November PAD Chapbook Challenge Finalists (in no particular order):

  • Moments of Silence, by Larry Lawrence
  • Surfacing, by Joseph Harker
  • Chapbook, by Toni Giarnese
  • Gathering of Dogs and Men, by Sara Ramsdell
  • Listless, by Maxie Steer
  • Goose Island Under a Mackerel Sky, by Martha Modena Vertreace-Doody
  • Doll House, by Marissa Coon Rose
  • Transformations, by Taylor Graham

Congratulations to the finalists! It’s quite an accomplishment. But then again, everyone who entered should be congratulated for completing the challenge and sending in a chapbook manuscript. I know first hand that it’s no easy task.

<drum roll>

The 2011 November PAD Chapbook Challenge Winner is…

…Sara Ramsdell for her collection Gathering of Dogs and Men.

One thing I love about the chapbook is that Ramsdell never seems to overstay her welcome in each poem. The poems get to the heart, find the message, deliver the message, and get out. Interestingly, Sara’s own words upon learning that she won seem to confirm my reading.

Here’s what Sara had to say of her collection: “This collection of poems was written during a month of transition in my life as my husband and I experienced the uncertainties of selling a first home and buying a second. Throughout the process, writing a poem a day became a grounding practice for me, and common themes of relationship, home, environment, and trust naturally wound themselves among the lines.

“Some poems were written from our old house, some from my grandparents’ farmhouse on the land where I grew up (where we stayed in the interim), and a couple from our new home. Changing locations, reuniting with family and old haunts, as well as feeling our lives shifting in a new direction seemed to uproot emotions that may otherwise have been buried too deep for poetry while lending an urgency to the writing that I haven’t experienced at any other time.”

Here are a few poems from the collection:


“Our homes are on our backs and don’t forget it.” – Molly Peacock

We only live as far as we reach
in this world. In the end, we soar
above the structures that once
held us, remembering the moment
before we were born. We let go
to find the weight we’ve wielded,
our own invention, our own undoing.
What is home, after all, but the place that
watches us fly away and then return?


October Storm

An eerie snap carries through the bedroom window,
and we know it’s come undone. Beneath the maple,
heavy midnight snow cascades down from the muted
sky and from your pushing. It’s not time yet for raking,
not even for ghosts, and snow remembers every clinging
leaf. Sheer surface area magnifies the inescapable
burden. Our big hearts break with tender limbs.



Tethered by phone, trapped by email
and the bank and the real estate agents
behind them, we watch the fox lope
across the upper field, unfettered.
The dark desperation in the coyotes’
whining strains echoes our own
helplessness. It’s always been this way.
We’re caught in a trap, while they roam
freely outside the houses we inhabit.



The end of the road always feels
like the beginning, where the dirt
reaches the pavement: possibility,
someone driving by. This morning,
standing morning mist, low hanging
fog, still view out over quiet mountains,
listing grateful and breathing deep, I
hear the truck coming. I hear the truck
pass. Natural for brake lights on a hill,
but still, my heart skips a beat.


Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer and my personal blog, My Name Is Not Bob.


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25 thoughts on “2011 November PAD Chapbook Challenge: Results

  1. realityspace

    Congratulations, Sara & finalists! Also to everyone who submitted and/or took part in the challenge. April is right around the corner… thanks, Robert.
    Be well,
    Melissa Colleen

  2. Willy

    Congratulations, Sara. All enjoyable, lovely pieces. Congratulations, too, to the rest of the selected writers. Lots of terrific reads. Thank you, once again, for all you do, Robert. You ARE appreciated.

  3. DanielAri

    Congratulations everyone. Delighted to see some poets whose work I regularly enjoy in the finalists list like Joseph and Taylor, and to be (re)introduced to Sara’s work too. Great poeming, everybody.

  4. Hannah

    I love the sampling and Sara’s commentary around it, too! Such an excellent choice, Robert!!

    Congratulations to all of the finalists! To everyone who participated, this is a wonderful endeavor.

    Thank you to ALL, (especially to you Robert, much appreciated)!

    Smiles and happy writing all @!

  5. Nancy Posey

    Your poems are lovely, Sara. Congratulations to all the finalists, especially some of my best poetry friends I’ve yet to meet. Keep writing beautiful poems.

  6. maxie2

    Yay! Congratulations Sara. Your poems seem effortless but reflect so much emotion. Well done!

    Congratulations also to each finalist. I am absolutely buoyant knowing I was named among you all.

    Thanks to Robert and the community for making this a safe place to share and read and be inspired. See you all in April!

  7. Dan Collins

    Congratulations Sara, the examples Robert included are truly beautiful.

    ~ and congrats to all the finalists for what also must be some exquisite chapbooks.

    Thanks for all you hard work on this Robert, it was fun just to play along, I enjoyed the contest immensely.

  8. Joseph Harker

    Congratulations, Sara! Each of these poems is a gem, just the right size and shape and shine. Congrats also to the rest of the finalist, and I’m honored to have been included in the mix; and of course, many kudos to everyone who participated in the challenge. (I think this one is harder than the April challenge, personally, especially if you are trying to center the poems on a particular theme/tone.) And as always, thanks to Robert for hosting and making the whole thing possible.

    Speaking of April… dang, that’s only three weeks away, isn’t it? o__O

  9. seingraham

    Congratulations to all 100 who submitted to this contest – I think this is the first time I’ve missed so I appreciate what a big deal that is! And congrats to the top eight, all worthy – special kudos to Joseph and Taylor, familiar names.

    Of course, the biggest felicitations and applause go to Sara – dandelionwine – Ramsdell, well done! From the sampling Robert’s posted, it’s easy to see why you and your work were chosen … just lovely. I look forward to reading “Gathering of Gods and Men” in its entirety.

    Special commendation to you Robert – another challenge under your belt, and finalists and winner awarded beautifully. And more than two weeks before the next one … thanks for doing these for us; I hope you know how much you’re appreciated.

  10. De Jackson

    Congratulations to all of the finalists, and especially Sara. I was particularly struck by these gorgeous lines:

    We let go
    to find the weight we’ve wielded,
    our own invention, our own undoing.
    What is home, after all, but the place that
    watches us fly away and then return?

    I can’t wait to read the collection in full.
    Thanks for all your hard work, Robert. And for continuing to offer us reasons to write, and places to share.

  11. dandelionwine

    Congratulations to the finalists and to all!

    It’s such an honor to have won this challenge and to be considered among such amazing writers.

    Thanks for all of your kind words,
    Sara Ramsdell

  12. PSC in CT

    Ahhh, Sara, these poems are lovely — and all the more so for knowing where they come from! You captured some very common, universal experiences so perfectly and succinctly. (Having seen that October storm firsthand, I can live it again all too clearly.)

    And thanks, Robert, for all your efforts in driving this project! Don’t know how you manage to do it all. :-]

    Would love to go back now and read what I’ve missed of these talented folks — both old “friends” and those new and unfamiliar to me.

    Congrats to Sara and the other finalists — and to everyone who “finished” this marathon. 😉 Well done!

  13. Uma

    Congratulations to all who participated, to the eight finalists and to Sara. Those are lovely poems of Sara, just love this line “The end of the road always feels like the beginning.”

  14. Marie Elena

    Congratulations to all mentioned … especially Sara, of course. Sara, I am unfamiliar with your work, but enjoy this sampling very much. I particular like October Storm’s “Our big hearts break with tender limbs.” Beautiful.

    I’m happy to see Joseph and Taylor getting due mention. Always a pleasure to see talented “friends” being recognized!


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