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The Bellingham Review – Spring 2005

An incredibly strong awards issue with work that is funny, moving, surprising, and memorable, and, though I mean this in the most positive way imaginable…strange. If you’re tired of coming-of-age poems or skeptical about poems that work to be humorous, Christopher Bursk’s “E Pluribus Unum” (chosen by Lucia Perillo for the 49th Parallel Poetry Award) will forever alter your view of poems about adolescence and the use of humor in poetry. Creative Nonfiction Judge Paul Lisicky says Bonnie J. Rough’s winning essay, “Slaughter: A Meditation Wherein the Narrator Explores Death and the Afterlife as Her Spiritual Beliefs Evolve,” “shines with its fusion of gravity and wackiness.”

An incredibly strong awards issue with work that is funny, moving, surprising, and memorable, and, though I mean this in the most positive way imaginable…strange. If you’re tired of coming-of-age poems or skeptical about poems that work to be humorous, Christopher Bursk’s “E Pluribus Unum” (chosen by Lucia Perillo for the 49th Parallel Poetry Award) will forever alter your view of poems about adolescence and the use of humor in poetry. Creative Nonfiction Judge Paul Lisicky says Bonnie J. Rough’s winning essay, “Slaughter: A Meditation Wherein the Narrator Explores Death and the Afterlife as Her Spiritual Beliefs Evolve,” “shines with its fusion of gravity and wackiness.” And indeed it does, thanks to Rough’s carefully balanced tone and the intersection of the real and the imagined. It’s hard to remember, happily, that this is a work of nonfiction, which makes it all the stranger, and all the more appealing. Bernadette Smyth’s award-winning story “Kissing” is not so much strange as disturbing. Judget Rosina Lippi praises the way the story employs both compassion and detachment. That detachment is created by a masterful control of emotion and economy of language that treats a difficult and dangerous subject (sexual abuse) with a kind of haunting lyricism. 

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