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Denise Hill

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American Life in Poetry: Column 548

This may be the only poem ever written in which a person claps the mud from a pair of shoes! Michael McFee's poetry is just that original, in all of his books. His most recent is That Was Oasis (Carnegie Mellon Univ. Press, 2012), and he lives in North Carolina.


He stood on his stoop
and clapped her sneakers together
hard, a sharp report,
smacking right sole against left,
trying to shock the mud
from each complicated tread,
spanking those expensive footprints
until clay flakes and plugs
ticked onto the boxwood's leaves
like a light filthy sleet
from the rubber craters and crannies
where they stuck weeks ago,
until her shoes were banged clean
though that didn't stop
his stiff-armed slow-motion applause
with her feet's emptied gloves,
slapping mate against mate
without missing a beat,
half-wishing that hollow sound
echoing off their neighbors' houses
could call her back.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by Michael McFee, "Ovation," (River Styx 83, 2010). Poem reprinted by permission of Michael McFee and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2015 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

Pittsburgh Poetry Houses

September 29, 2015
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sarah-jeff-boyleIt was only a matter of time before the Little Library idea got hijacked and starting showing up as other cool community Little House outreach. Three Pittsburgh poets, Sarah B. and Jeffrey Boyle [pictured] of Flashbang! Writing Studio and Tess Wilson, received funding from Awesome Pittsburgh to get the Pittsburgh Poetry Houses started.

The concept is simple: tiny wooden houses will be placed around town; inside will be four poems, each on its own postcard - poem on one side, artwork on the other. The poems will feature one local and one national student poet and one local and one national adult poet. Every two weeks, a new set of four poem postcards will be placed in the Poetry Houses. An archive of poems will be housed on the PPH website, and print collections (bound by a big rubberband) will be available for purchase as Summer and Winter volumes.

The current editors are also looking for readers to join their team, actively searching for "readers who are not: cis, straight, white." Readers don't have to live in Pittsburgh, and they should be willing to volunteer about an hour a week to the effort.

Submissions for poetry are currently being accepted, with previously published works considered. See the PPH website for full details.

This seems like another great way to share the love of poetry and reading that I hope will be as equally inspriational as the free libraries!
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JaniceRedman-BuoyancySeriesThe editors at Broadsided Press continually act on their belief that art and literature belong in our daily lives and that they inspire and demonstrate the vitality and depth of our connection with the world. Their latest effort is no exception to this. They write, "We have watched the news and images of people fleeing, in a large part, war in Syria (the Syrian Civil War)—nearly four million individuals—and the complicated reception of those refugees globally."

Acting on this event, the editors hope to help writers and artists collaborate to create action outreach. "Five Broadsided Press artists have provided images they've created that, for them, speak to the Syrian refugees in a wide sense. We also reached out to artists abroad, and the Syrian artist Moustafa Jacoub offered one of his pieces. We now ask you to respond with words." [Pictured: Janice Redman, "Buoyancy Study"]

If your piece is chosen, the editors will have a short question or two to ask you about your process and will ask for a photo of your collaboration up in your community. The broadsides will also be available for others to download and post in their communities as well.

The images and specific guidelines for submission can be found on the Broadsided website here. Deadline for submission is October 25, 2015.

Twitter Poetics

September 16, 2015
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francesco levatoLast month, Francesco Levato, a new media artist, poet, and director of The Chicago School of Poetics, started #pxc001 to create a collaborative, long-form poem using Twitter as the interactive platform for writers. Although Levato started the work and appears occassionaly throughout thusfar, the poem is driven by its participants, with some using previous entries to build continuing lines. The Poem Twitter Wrote by Emiko Jazuka on VICE Motherboard explains the project.
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Poetry magazine awards eight annual prizes for the best work published in Poetry during the past 12 months.

THE LEVINSON PRIZE $500 awarded to Rae Armantrout for her poems "The Difficulty," "The Ether," "Followers," and "Taking Place" from the January 2015 issue.

THE BESS HOKIN PRIZE $1,000 awarded to Terrance Hayes for "How to Draw a Perfect Circle," published in the December 2014 issue.

THE FREDERICK BOCK PRIZE $500 awarded to Tarfia Faizullah for "100 Bells" in the January 2015 issue.

THE J. HOWARD AND BARBARA M.J. WOOD PRIZE $5,000 awarded to Jillian Weise for her poems "Future Biometrics" and "Biohack Manifesto" in the March 2015 issue.

THE JOHN FREDERICK NIMS MEMORIAL PRIZE FOR TRANSLATION $500 awarded to Ming Di and Jennifer Stern for their translations of Liu Xia's poems "Empty Chairs" and "Transformed Creatures" in the November 2014 issue.

THE FRIENDS OF LITERATURE PRIZE $500 awarded to Amy Newman for her poem "Howl" in the July/August 2015 issue.

THE EDITORS PRIZE FOR FEATURE ARTICLE $1,000 awarded to Jenny Zhang for her essay "How It Feels" in the July/August 2015 issue.

THE EDITORS PRIZE FOR REVIEWING $1,000 awarded to Maya Catherine Popa for "Forever Writing from Ireland," her review of The Architect's Dream of Winter by Billy Ramsell, This Is Yarrow by Tara Bergin, Scapegoat by Alan Gillis, and Clasp by Doireann Ní Ghríofa in the September 2015 issue.

The prizes are organized and administered by the Poetry Foundation in Chicago, publisher of Poetry magazine. Read these winning entries and browse all past issues of Poetry magazine since 1912 online.
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American Life in Poetry: Column 546

They say that when undergoing cancer treatment, the patient's attitude is all-important. Here Robert King, a poet now living in Colorado, looks with wit and bemusement at his chemotherapy. His most recent book is Some of These Days, (Conundrum Press, 2013).

The Cancer Port

It's called a port, a harbor, haven, home,
a city on the coast of my chest opened
for a passage into my heart—which we say
is where emotions live—and it's embedded,

slipped into a shallow nest of flesh, a bump,
a lump under the skin on the right so
the narrow street can reach the marketplace
of the aorta, receptive to any

incoming ship, needle, boat, barge, unloading
its spices, crates of dates, barrels of poisons,
Etoposide phosphate, amethyst, amaranth,
Cisplatin, amphorae of wine and olives.

I carry it secretly under my skin
because it is easier. I carry
everything under my skin, so lightly
I barely notice, watching from the ramparts

the dangerous rocky anchorage below
where goods and evils, bundled together
and tied, arrive, waiting to be unloaded
and poured out into a welcoming country.

We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2015 by Robert W. King, "Embedding the Cancer Port," from Nimrod International Journal, (58.2, 2015). Poem reprinted by permission of Robert W. King and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2015 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.

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Glimmer Train has just chosen the winning stories for their June Fiction Open competition. This competition is held twice a year. Stories generally range from 2000-6000 words, though up to 20,000 is fine. The next Fiction Open will take place in December. Glimmer Train's monthly submission calendar may be viewed here.

Caleb-LeisureFirst place: Caleb Leisure [pictured], of Martinez, CA, wins $2500 for "Atlantic on Sunday." His story will be published in Issue 97 of Glimmer Train Stories.

Second place: Steven Polansky, of Appleton, WI, wins $1000 for "Obsequies" and publication in a future issue of Glimmer Train Stories.

Third place: Andrew Robinson, of Singapore, wins $600 for "Greater Love." His story will also be published in a future issue of Glimmer Train Stories, increasing his prize to $700.

A PDF of the Top 25 winners can be found here.
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richard-mathews-letterpressThe Tampa Book Arts Studio has launched its first-ever Kickstarter campaign for a project that brings an unpublished story of notable American woodcut artist J. J. Lankes into print in a limited letterpress edition.

"In 1950, nearing the end of his career as an illustrator and woodcut artist, Lankes wrote an allegorical fable that takes place in the lives of two mice, a story that emphasizes the snares of materialism versus the redeeming strength of love and forgiveness. Lankes also completed two illustrations to accompany it, but both the story and the cuts were set aside. They were never published or even publicly known, and they were nearly lost." (TBAS blog)

The TBAS is home to Lankes's c. 1845 Hoe Washington hand press, No. 3126, on which he proofed and printed his blocks for Robert Frost and others. Now, Director Dr. Richard Mathews is overseeing theprint production of Lankes's story, The Rich Mouse, with illustrations. The book will be set in a special casting "Village" private press typeface in celebration of the 150th anniversary of its creator, Frederic W. Goudy.

Clearly, there is much to celebrate here! And donors can get in on the celebration by contributing to the Kickstarter campaign and receiving some excellent premiums – including a limited letterpress edition of the book itself, broadsides, and a companion paperback copy The Rich Mouse.
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The Modern Dickens Project starts by posting an opening chapter online then invites other writers to continue the story by submitting the next chapter in the developing story month-by-month for the next twelve months, resulting in a thirteen chapter book. The curators behind this project are Chris Draper, Executive Director; Rachel Vogel, Managing Editor; Kali Van Baale, Editorial Advisor; Tracey Kelley and Murl Pace, Editorial Board.

Starting in 2011, the project posts a starting chapter by an established guest author, wetting the "tone and style of the following chapters." While supported by the Iowa Arts Council, submissions are open to all writers; however, the overall story "must be distinctively Iowan."

Submissions are due by the 21 of each month with the winning chapter selected and published online by the first of the next month to keep the story contributions going.

Previous Modern Dickens Project books are The Devil is Done Sinning, Defining Darrell, and Woman, Regardless. Each is available in paperback and kindle formats.

Able Muse 2015 Winners

August 19, 2015
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Able Muse is pleased to announce the winners of the Write Prize for poetry & fiction. The winning writer and the winning poet will each receive a $500 prize.

Write Prize for Fiction
Final Judge: Eugenia Kim
Winner: Andrea Witzke Slot - "After Reading the News Story of a Woman Who Attempted to Carry Her Dead Baby onto an Airplane"

Here is what Eugenia Kim has to say about Andrea Witzke Slot's winning story: The first line of this story presents a character, setting and situation with a rare and satisfying command of storytelling. Using perfect details balanced against rapid pacing, the voice of this writing has an air of stern and simple elegance, and reveals how the narrator's experience of a newspaper story becomes a parallel challenge to her own ambivalence about motherhood and love. In the way that great stories open larger questions, within its brief timeframe this story questions culture and society, and how we are so quick and sure to judge the tragedies of others, yet with less capacity to examine the perils in our own judgments.

Honorable Mention
James Cooper - "Strangers on a Cliff"
Albert Liau - "With the Clarity of Hindsight"

Scott Sharpe - "Dance Among the Dogwoods"

* * * *

Write Prize for Poetry
Final Judge: H.L. Hix
Winner: Elise Hempel - "Cathedral Peppersauce"

Here is what H.L. Hix has to say about Elise Hempel's winning poem: The formal qualities of "Cathedral Peppersauce" are elegant: slant rhymes throughout, until the final couplet clicks the poem closed with a perfect rhyme. Even more elegant, though, is the poem's way of grasping the beauty of its subject, by looking simultaneously at the bottle and through it into history, from which it recuperates, through sympathy and particularity, a life lost long ago.

Elise Hempel - "Jockey"
Jeanne Wagner - "On Watching a Cascade Commercial"

Jim Bartruff - "Meditation on the Wake of the Winslow Ferry"
Midge Goldberg - "On Learning the Harvest Moon Is an Optical Illusion"
Trish Lindsey Jaggers - "Jaybirds Feeding on Robins"
Miriam O'Neal - "Bottle Journal ? Meditation on Transformation"
Gabriel Spera - "Blessed"
Marty Steyer - "The King of Lightning"
M.K. Sukach - "About an Alligator"

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