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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Poems in the scales, 2013: two contests

While my 2013 bouts of judging were not so arduous as the prior year's National Book Award stint (316 books plus rereads), they were illuminating. This time it was poetry in the scales.  For the Alrich Award I read a winnowed group and chose a winner and two finalists. I found all five to be interesting reads, and that's an encouraging thing for poetry!

Winner 2013 Aldrich Press Poetry Award 
Overtipping the Ferryman, R. G. Evans 

Judge’s statement 

While reading for the Aldrich Poetry Award, I tripped and fell into the world of a skeptic obsessed with what he doubts—who takes the symbols and stories of creation and wrests them to his own uses, though God and the skeletons under our skin are never far away, and lend power and support to his poems. The collection by R. G. Evans has the virtues of energy, largeness of subject, strong narrative, and humor that begins with the double meaning of the title, Overtipping the Ferryman. He surprises us in story and in metaphor, giving us the child who leaps from her crib like a toad, the man plunging beneath the sea like a bone anchor, the forked lightning of a woman’s body, the fusing of plucked music and apple. Wandering in his harsh, lively world, we may desire more hours, more life. But in that realm, spiky thistles and flowers of gall blossom along his path, that “seam between belief and what I know is true.”

 Marion Considers the Cello, Annabelle Moseley
 The View From Here, Sally Cook

Honorable Mention
A Lack of Sound, Cynthia Neely
The Ways I Lost You,  Rosalie Sanara Petrouske
Small Chimes, Julie Brooks Barbour
Before There Were Barbies, Lianne Spidel
Poetry With a Vengeance, Russell Bittner

All finalists and honorable mentions were offered a standard contract for publication by Aldrich Press. The winner receives a monetary award and 50 copies.

I did know one of the finalists, having been on a panel with her and owning one of her books, but I recognized none of the writers that I read, and the names had been removed from the manuscripts.

Dads of Disability

Alexander Dietz
The other contest I judged his year was for a forthcoming anthology (mostly essays) that will also include some fictions and poetry. Gary Dietz's 2014 anthology, Dads of Disability:  Stories For, By, and About Fathers of Children That Experience Disability (and the Women Who Love Them), offered $75. and publication to four poets, parents of disabled children. With this one, parents who were long-practicing poets had an advantage, and it is surprising how many of us know what it is to raise a child who is very different from other children. 

I found this one hard to judge in one way; many of the poems were heartrending, and I wanted to give all the parents who submitted poems about their disabled children a prize. All the poems were spilling over with news of ordinary grace and painful truth. There is no proper response to such heartfelt work except gratitude for the parent who sees his disabled child through the eyes of mercy and witnesses his or her love to the world. Thank you to all the parents who submitted poems.

In ABC order:
Patricia Wallace Jones, "Adapted Views and Inveterate" 
John C. Mannone, "The iPod" 
Robbi Nester, "Letter To My Son"
Sam Smith, "The Prosthetic Fitting Suite"

Through this book, long-time single dad Gary combines his love of Alexander (a child with an interstitial deletion of the lower arm of chromosome 13) with his experience in marketing and interest in writing. I hope you will support the book and give or suggest it to people you know who care about the subject--or who might do so, given such a book! 

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.