Yes, I said winners–and I’m not including the honorable mentions (mentioned below). There were more than 80 chapbook submissions for the 2013 challenge, and I narrowed these down to a short list of 17. Those 17 became eight, and I finally got stuck on two manuscripts. So this year’s challenge ends in a draw with two very worthy chapbooks:
- Exit, Pursued By a Bear, by Joseph Mills
- Lost, Found, by Taylor Graham
Both winners have been competing in the challenge for years. That’s not why I chose them, but it may explain why they rose to the top. It was obvious from reading both manuscripts that they were focused on a specific topic or theme.
In Exit, Pursued By a Bear, Mills uses Shakespeare and stage directions to guide his poems while still trying to incorporate the November prompts. Here are a couple of my favorites:
Enter the Duchess in a white sheet, by Joseph Mills
Those working wardrobe know
there are two kinds of sheets
in Shakespeare, white and bloody.
The first often becomes the second
and then becomes the first again:
wedding to wounding to winding.
It’s a common progression,
perhaps, the fundamental one;
still, each time he must start,
as every writer does,
contemplating white sheets,
then staining them, one by one,
until by the end, ink-crammed
with rhymes and bodies,
they sail ever graveward.
Enter Hamlet, by Joseph Mills
She gives the remembrances back.
The letters. The birthday cards.
His dress shirt she wore in bed.
The stuffed animal from the fair.
The mix-tapes. The bracelets.
She boxes them all, an act of strength
since she’s the one being jilted,
and he can’t bear to look at them,
these objects that bear witness.
He wants to walk away. Deny
he gave her aught. But here it is–
scarf, earrings, ticket stubs,
postcards, photo booth strips–
a world of too too solid things.
In Lost, Found, Graham plays with the concepts of things lost and things found. In fact, the opening poem is a triolet titled “The search continues for a missing boy…” And she doesn’t stop with the triolet, Graham uses several poetic forms, including haibun, lunes, sonnet, and more. Here are a couple of my favorites from Graham’s collection:
Lovers in November, by Taylor Graham
It’s snowing up there,
you’ve been kept away so long.
And so I write you
of rain that never comes here,
my drought. I’m waiting for you.
A cup of loose-leaf
tea by the stove. Your letter
warms the cold evening.
Our sun sets southerly now
under clouds, beckoning home.
Half-Moon Lunes, by Taylor Graham
We’re halfway between
the new moon
and its full silver.
It’s just risen.
Come outside, walk with me
under this moon
in its cold shiver,
Our garden’s frost-bit
but our woodstove
blazes with the fire
you built me.
The moon’s just at half,
like our lives
moving toward some whole.
Graham and Mills put together my two favorite chapbooks, but there were others that put up a good fight. These honorable mentions made it through multiple readings, and I’m not complaining one bit.
Here are the honorable mentions for 2013:
- Needs, by Barbara Young
- Salt Water (and other solutions that sting), by De Jackson
- Traveling Alone Together, by Jane Shlensky
- Love Torn, by Pearl Ketover Prilik
- The Wild Gospel of Careening, by Steve Brightman
- Some Birds in Hand, by William Preston
Congratulations to Taylor, Joseph, and everyone who made honorable mention! And congratulations to everyone who went through the process of putting together a chapbook manuscript!
That is a real accomplishment!
A few notes:
- First, there’s a WD Poetic Forms challenge underway at the moment (deadline: February 23). Click to continue.
- Second, there’s a free Remixing the World’s Problems challenge with a $500 prize (deadline: May 15). Click to continue.
- Third, the next poem-a-day challenge will start on this very blog on April 1, 2014. Prepare to poem.
- Finally, a new interview with me just went live today over on Jessie Carty’s blog. Click here to read.
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Robert Lee Brewer is Senior Content Editor of the Writer’s Digest Writing Community and author of Solving the World’s Problems (Press 53). He edits books like Poet’s Market and Writer’s Market, manages blogs like this one, edits a free weekly newsletter on publishing, writes a poetry column for Writer’s Digest magazine, and much more. He lives in Duluth, Georgia, with his wife Tammy, who helps him keep track of their five little poets. Follow him on Twitter @robertleebrewer.
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