Thank you so much to everyone who entered our Micro-Fiction Contest, held in conjunction with CHEAP POP and judged by Phillip Sterling! We received over 250 entries from across the globe, and we're grateful that so many of you allowed us to read your words.
Our official award announcement and celebration was held at GLC at the end of October, and we want to again say congratulations to all of our finalists! If you'd like to read each of the winning entries, as well as some commentary by judge Phillip Sterling, be sure to visit CHEAP POP.
And the winners are...
First Place: “Shawl Pattern” by Melanie Dunbar
Second Place: “Anna Karina Floats in the Ocean” by David Joseph
Third Place: “Arch Made of Codfish” by Linda Nemec Foster
Honorable Mentions (in no judgmental order):
“Saturday Night” by Bernard Grant
“The Before” by Amanda Chiado
“Oology” by Elodie Olson-Coons
The following conversation took place between GLCL's Events Coordinator, Z.G. Tomaszewski (author of All Things Dusk) and Chris Dombrowski (author of two volumes of poetry, By Cold Water and Earth Again, and most recently, Body of Water, a nonfiction book forthcoming from Milkweed Editions)
ZG: From whom did you receive early poetic mentorship, and what, specifically, has resonated?
CD: My high school teacher, Jim Colando, read and encouraged my early poetic efforts; he pressed books of poems into my hands, and the lyrics of great songwriters into my ears. Early on in college, I had the singular fortune of meeting Jack Ridl, who befriended me and treated me like a writer and a human being first, then a student. I remember Jack’s bookshelves, and Colando’s records/disks; they read, listened, to everything. Conversations with Jack went like this: “Did you see last minute of the ballgame last night? Holy smokes! You know, Billy Collins is coming to read next month—can you pick him up at the airport? You’ve read PICNIC, LIGHTNING, haven’t you? Oh, man, you’ve gotta come by the house and taste this new rye bread Julie’s made!” So poetry was a necessary, integral part of life, like food or the ritual of sport: organic, the hippies might have said—never something precious, or something to be doted over. Air. Water. Bread. Light streaming over the dune behind his house.
ZG: There was another title in place before deciding on Earth Again, is that right? Why the change?
CD: My friend Melissa Kwasny read an early version of the manuscript, which was indeed titled FIRE’S BRIDE. Melissa sent me hunting for another title – she said, correctly, that the phrase had no real resonance with the book, and I have only in the past few months, long after the publication of the book, found out what “fire’s bride” means to me. EARTH AGAIN resonated on a number of levels. For a long time I thought I first heard the phrase from Milosz’s long poem “The Garden of Earthly Delights,” but then I was thumbing through an old journal and found an entry quoting Jeffers: “A little too abstract, a little too wise, it is time to kiss the earth again.” Since I had already excised Jeffers’ “Shine, Perishing Republic” as the book’s epigraph, it made me happy to know that this note of influence still stood.
ZG: The poems in Earth Again have departed from the more pastoral poems of By Cold Water. What influenced this change? What poets have you been devouring between the two?
CD: Life influenced the poems: children, hopes, fears, circumstance, interruptions. There’s a great short essay by David Rivard, called, if I remember right, “The Interrupted Now,” in which he describes his relationship with “interruption” as a generative and inevitable one. Also this question reminds me of Raymond Carver’s essay “Fires,” about influence. He asserts that his strongest literary influence was, for a longtime, his children. I’d have to agree with that on some level. For many reasons: poetic, philosophical, instigative, and pragmatic. As for the second half of the question, I will have to go back to my bookshelf because I’m very moth-like as a reader. Once there, though, I see Melissa Kwasny’s THE NINE SENSES, the aforementioned Rivard’s OTHERWISE ELSEWHERE, Robinson Jeffers, Robert Hass, Denis Johnson, Jericho Brown, Sarah Gridley, Laura Kasischke, Czeslaw Milosz, Spanish Translations of Jaime Siles made by poet Miles Waggener. Other than poetry, lots of East Indian “philosophy,” also Dogen and Eckhart.
ZG: So, family has a major role. Can you talk about the desire to record the whimsical musings of your children?
CD: You bet, but I don’t know that I’d call them “whimsical musings.” The other day our daughter Molly, who’s 5, told me, “You know, Dad, I’m actually half elf-princess.” She wasn’t being whimsical, but dead serious, and the question I was left with was: How do I help our child, who connects with the natural world on a very rare level, sustain that kind of wonder in a world that seems to want to squelch it. So I see those “whimsical musings” as possibility, as charge, where our attention might lead us if we adults weren’t so drunk on our own blood.
ZG: Many of your poems point to or derive from such experiences as hunting and fishing. What is this for you and how does it translate into poetry?
CD: Well, I like to hunt because I am not a vegetarian and hunting game is a good way to procure healthy, sustainable meat. Of course I am mindful of the life I am taking and try to do justice to that life in the kitchen, and afterwards as it feeds me and my family, and increases our lives. “Getting close to your food source,” is the hip phrase, and it resonates with me. Perhaps if we hunted and gathered all of our food we would take better care of the earth from which our food grows. Hunting also takes me to wild places, places of deep solitude, what the Psalmist called “desolations,” and I return from these places revivified in body and spirit. The Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset wrote a slim book called Meditations on Hunting that says all this much more articulately than I am managing to do so here. As for some poems in the new book deriving from experiences in the field, I think this is inevitable, as I hunt a fair bit. I’m sure to some readers these poems might seem “exotic”—but to me the city poet’s poem about riding the L is rare air. Furthermore, metaphorically, I guess you could say that sometimes we stalk our poems, and other times they stalk us.
ZG: It is evident that rivers are important to you, they appear in many poems, both in Earth Again and By Cold Water. There’s a prominent sense of captivation with drowning. What, metaphorically, might this suggest?
CD: Again, water’s presence in the poems is really a matter of course. I have worked on wild, free-flowing rivers for the better part of 17 years, spending 100 days each season in the boat. When one spends that amount of time around water, I suppose drowning crosses one’s mind now and then. As Mike Delp has written about his home water, “This river could kill you.” Eliot: “Fear death by water.” I addressed some “close calls” in an essay called “Chance Baptisms” that Orion published, but otherwise I have a hard time talking about it.
ZG: Irony is a powerful emotional and linguistic tool. Why is irony so compelling to us humans?
CD: Is it? I truly have no idea. Irony is one thing, one end of the spectrum, and earnestness is the other—both are overused in poetry. Maybe this has something to do with why Basho once told a disciple that most poems are either too objective or too subjective. We’re attracted to the ironic in literature because we recognize it as true; Irony “exists” and we encounter it all the time in our lives, and yet, as a device it’s cliché. Isn’t it easier to dwell within what Baron Wormser called “the confines of irony”?
ZG: Here’s a lighter one: Your preferred letter of the alphabet? Why?
CD: L and O, a consonant and a vowel. Love and wonder, I guess.
ZG: Next, could you make a list of four of your favorite verbs? Adjectives? Nouns? What about least favorite? Now make a sentence using a word from each category.
CD: Verbs: Fish, light, live, drink.
Nouns: Mother, mountain, wine, music.
Adjectives: Deep, mirthful, wet, ???
Sentence: The mountain is the mother of the shadow that spills like deep wine across the valley in which we live, drinking occasionally, fishing often in the ankle high music of the creek, our wet lines lit with late day and mirthful laughter which may be the current’s, our ours.
I never could follow directions.
Look for Dombrowski's book of nonfiction, Body of Water (Milkweed Editions), in 2016. Stay tuned here for more news.
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