Introducing Four Outstanding Midwestern Poets01/03/2013
While Patricia Kirkpatrick’s Odessa was awarded the inaugural Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry, we were similarly impressed by all of the submissions, especially those of the contest’s four additional finalists: Sean Hill, Lee Ann Roripaugh, Chad Parmenter, and Sarah Crossland.
With an eye toward inspiring the poets among you and gratifying the rest, we’re excited to share a sample of the poetry that thrilled us during the last round. Below, you’ll find poems from each of the four finalists from the 2012 session.
1) “Distance between Desires” by Sean Hill, from the collection Dangerous Goods:
From the moon to the end of this poem
hums the distance between desires.
In troughs of night Jasmine slept,
numb from the consumption of rays
from the moon. Through to its end, this poem
fends off desire. A toast to the heavy
drum that pulls us daily and pushes us to
hum the distance. Between desires
men scoff at the moon, hung lightly to shine
plum-dark nights, as they measure breaths
from the moon to the end. Of our poems,
ends tossed out to hold them off, we hope
some may say they rumble on and pleasingly
hum the distance between. Desires
bend us and bend. Doff your hat, where I come
from, a show of respect. Desires plumb where we come
from. The moon to the end of this poem
lends soft light. As one desire leaves another
hums the distance between desires.
2) “Irezumi, or Tattoo You” by Lee Ann Roripaugh, from the collection Dandarians:
What happens when someone indelibly marks you, and you become invisibly inked, like the ultraviolet that tattoos the petals of certain flowers?
In the dark, you phosphoresce.
Honeybees read your mind like a neon sign. They swarm, clatter, and hum about you like a cluster of lovesick grapes.
The song you’re usually so careful not to sing out loud now chorused in harmony¾a swelling of sound and polyphonic counterpoint, lyrics prismed into infinity as the graffiti scored onto your body is read through the multiple facets, the ommatidia, of curious, compound eyes.
And really, what will the crickets think of this insurgent, cross-species mating call, when their ears—tiny swollen drums in their knees—begin to throb in response?
Once, a man I thought I loved with all the awful rasp and moan of a Billie Holiday song, even though (or maybe even because) he belonged to another, pulled an apple from his book bag, offered it to me in his office behind a shut door. Simple as tapping a chocolate orange to fracture it open. Simple as peeling off the shiny rind of foil.
(Even though I prefer the flecked grit of pears—especially Japanese pears, that miscegenation of the apple. Their round bottoms cushioned against bruising at the grocery store in white Styrofoam fishnets. Spiral of freckled skin curling in even, green coils onto a quiet plate.)
Once, I left an apple out for the squirrels, and later, it reappeared on top of a nearby telephone pole—red, emphatic point punctuating an upside-down exclamation mark.
Word problem: An entomologist accidentally spills an eyedropper’s splash of moth pheromone on his knee and he’s marked forever. Wherever he goes, he’s trailed in a skirl of moths, skittering and flickering around his kneecap like a three-dimensional tattoo. As in most cases of mistaken identity, he’s mildly embarrassed. The moths, though, remain resolute. In light of this given, is it better to be (a) the marked one trailed by a cloud of moths, or (b) one of the moths . . . so absolutely fixed in your certainty about who and what you wanted?
Lee Ann Roripaugh is a professor at University of South Dakota and the editor-in-chief of South Dakota Review. She’s currently working on a new volume of poems about the tsunami that struck Japan in 2011.
3) “9.20.38—In Notopia I, Nothing, Am” by Chad Parmenter, from the collection Vivienne’s Recovery:
They’re moving me from room to room,
Or dream to dream. In one, I fought
A swamp-thing. One was Juliet’s tomb.
It’s all Northumberland, that wrought
and fact-black name on that black gate.
Is dream. Or memory makes me crash.
Abandon past all ye the State
Disowns into Northumberlash.
Your scourge I—thy hysteric—learn
To savor. Crave. My Master’s Brand
Because it Numbs the ones it burns.
I am your thing, Northumberland.
Or are you more a form of flux?
Mutopia, your walls are all dissolve.
Northumberland, my all in all,
Without an out, your way: In In.
That’s where your angels force their hand
And minds. And mine chants as it spins—
“I’m Gone. I’m in Northumberland.”
Your imaginary gardens burn.
You hold all time: Big Bang, heat death.
It’s I who stay, you who return
Northumberland. Your house is breath.
Once, I escape: I dream I’m high
On ether, abandon fact all ye who breathe its fire
asdfasdfabandon past abandon planet. A band
Of selves—mine—wakes me with this cry:
Save us from us, Northumberland.
Chad Parmenter has a number of projects in the works, including Bat & Man, a collection of Batman-themed poetry; my America, a collection from the point of view of an iconic American photographer; and Rose Wilder, which draws on the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s daughter.
4) “A” by Sarah Crossland, from the collection God Factory:
Among the dead there are thousands of beautiful women.
And we carry them, and we carry them,
arms kept in the cold container of
an ivy bracelet, hair
auburn undone or piled
as if at
a lock could—like
a red bird—take off in flight.
Always we liken them to
animal with wings,
always, we gather them in slub fabric, watch
anxiously the reflet cast upon their cheeks
as if a patch of skin could capture the luster of
a shard of pottery.
As if they are never warm enough by themselves,
and on the morgue table in a room of smells—
akin to what little we remember of grandmother’s lipstick
and the dark plastic lid of the kitchen trash, back home—
among so much metal
all of it tasting like blood, here is where we
Again and again:
a leg as fragile as
a stalk of frozen grass.
A lung buried for so long, now unearthed as to be as gray as
an egg carton.
A mouth that held the hollow piques of language, that
attracted so many times the cast iron kisses of men forever done with themselves.
A single girl’s heart is not so special to us
as the lot of them:
a quilting together of.
Sarah Crossland’s poetry has been featured in Shenandoah, dotdotdash, Weave, and other literary journals. She recently won the 2012 Boston Review Poetry Contest.
We look forward to poring over just as many outstanding manuscripts from midwestern poets when the submission period closes on the second season of the Lindquist & Vennum prize on January 31. (Find full submission rules and instructions here.)