Well, the agony and the ecstasy, I guess.
I’ll be honest: I really, really wish I had won this one. Last October, I submitted my poetry chapbook, The Panic inside the Stars, to The Comstock Review’s “Writers Group 2016 Chapbook Contest.” A poet whose work I adored when I was a graduate student, and one who has won the Pulitzer Prize and served as Poet Laureate of the United States, won the competition. His name is Ted Kooser, and his winning chapbook is called At Home.
As someone who is very familiar with Kooser’s work–its voice, its pervading preoccupations, the unassuming tone and precision of its language–I think the title suits perfectly the kind of note Kooser has been striking for many years now. His work always takes you home and keeps you there; often, his poems obsess beautifully on the most mundane, and, yes, domestic, scenes and objects. This is a guy who does what Rilke sought rather deliberately to do in some of his work; he makes the ordinary things of your daily experience more vivid to you than ever before by “defamiliarizing” them. You’ve never seen the things Kooser captures as vividly as you will inside a Ted Kooser poem, and you’ll never see them the same again.
I’m thrilled to be able to say I won “Second Honorable Mention” in this contest:
As I said to Betsy Anderson, the Comstock Review co-managing editor who notified me of this, I think I can live with losing a chapbook contest to a Pulitzer Prize winner, no less a Pulitzer Prize winner whose work I know well and respect. Kooser’s chapbook has just been released, and it’s available to order here: https://comstockreview.submittable.com/submit/77278/ted-kooser-new-chapbook-at-home.
The reason I say I really wish I had won this one is–well, there are several, really. Most obviously, it’s pretty damned thrilling to win a chapbook contest. What will be just as obvious to those who take a gander at the winning chapbook’s design is this: It’s breathtakingly gorgeous. See? . . .
Obviously, Comstock Review has served these poems with tremendous affection and attentiveness to detail, and I eagerly look forward to getting my copy of this chapbook. Thirdly, I’ve been laboring over the poems in my chapbook for more than a decade; some of the poems therein are pushing 15 years old. Some poets talk about their poems as their “babies.” At this point, I’ve got teenagers. A gaggle of restless ones, pining for a home. I do hope they find one soon. Here’s hoping the next chapbook contest I send them off to will be–pardon the pun, Ted–home.