Dispatches | September 24, 2008

Why Enter Our Jeffrey E. Smith Editors’ Prize?

Our former poetry editor Jessica Garratt’s poetry collection Fire Pond has won the 2008 Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry. Her book will be published by the University of Utah Press, and she will be reading in their upcoming guest writer series. Also Jessica will receive $1,000, most of which I imagine will go to pay off her summer of globetrotting.
Here is one of my favorite poems from her collection:

HOME AFTER A WEEKEND WITH OLD FRIENDS

Who knows what will happen to me
if I stretch out beneath these bleached marine fossils
of last week’s sleep,
or sit still long enough, with a book, in this atrophied muscle
of a chair?

Thursday’s hasty arrangement
of old poems in a new order
retires on my desk, a fan of frozen tail-feathers.
It makes my jaw ache, the way an old candid snapshot can:

force your lonely, park-bench gaze
on the lively gloss of its countenance, and the expression
within the expression

falters, tries to turn
back to the coliseum of gossip, being built beyond the precipice
of its shoulder. It’s hard to tell sometimes

if this world we inhabit
is a sacred convent of souls, or merely a convention
of nuns, dressed in plain clothes, driving cars
between prayers. Never mind

these rooms’ melodrama of spells and swoons,
the walls and furniture turning pale on a dime
beneath their ruin,
beneath the fine frost of apocalypse ash

they make-believe—this apartment
still won’t get what it wants from me.

I light a candle,
set it in the window, so someone else can burn
with rootless, night-dwelling envy

as she looks up from the dark street, wishing to stop
herself from wanting
to pass through that keyhole of flame.

Several years before Jessica came to the University of Missouri for her Ph.D. in creative writing, we were the first to publish her work. Her poetry feature was a finalist in our Editors’ Prize contest, which we chose for the 2004 Tom McAfee Discovery Feature.

The Smith Editors’ Prize has a distinguished track record of recognizing and helping launch new talent. When the winners are announced each year, literary agents take notice. Previous winners have earned further acclaim with their entries, which have been reprinted in prize anthologies and collections. Being a finalist in TMR’s Editors’ Prize was obviously important to Jessica’s career. You too can be discovered by TMR. Remember to enter our contest by October 1st. It is one of the most prestigious contests of its kind in the nation; winners in each genre receive $3,000.
Enter on-line today.

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