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2017 jeff marks memorial poetry prize winners

december is honored to present audio recordings from our winner and honorable mention for this year’s poetry contest. These poems are featured in Vol. 28.1; to purchase or subscribe click here.

Franny Choi — 2017 Winner Pastoral Poem

PASTORAL POEM

The farmwork isn’t seasonal
in Vermont. They milk the cows

year round. The leaves brown
and only the white people think

of rest. Orchards get pricked
by cold’s first needle, play dead

til there’s something decent to drink.
But the cows stay heavy

with silage, with hands, dark
on the hillside. The hard ground

cracks, and city people paste green
paper on the gaps. Guess what color

the glue dries. Hint: it’s good camouflage
when the weather turns. The geese make

that noise when they’re afraid
they won’t make it back south.

My friend bought a lamp to keep
smiling when not even the earth

seems to want us, or wants us
wrong, dug up by the neighbors

after the drifts melt, limp,
already feeding next year’s grass.

The city tosses crumpled leaves
to say, we can always make more of you.

I want to build us a place
like the house the calf made

when it licked our hands hot,
our breath blued by the moon.

This is how we’ve learned
to grow in midwinter. We curl

into each other’s bark,
boil sugar between our chests.


Teri Elam – 2017 Honorable Mention Counterpoint

COUNTERPOINT
“doris payne, 85-year-old jewel thief, reflects on life of crime” — associated press

my childhood                                         buried beneath this thick skin      blood-encrusted diamonds
got me here                                            
& my living bones      this body underestimated
already                                                   
my heart’s weight      could not be measured in carats
knew how to eat properly                  still polished      even when i felt invisible

liked to dress up                                    this body & my bones      living      underestimated
play a game by myself                        
a sleight of hand hiding fear      but never jewels stolen
called “miss lady”                                 & when made to feel invisible      i remained polished
people say                                              like the ballerina i dreamed of becoming

you don’t act black                               slighted      my hands hid fear      not the jewels lifted
but i was black still                              this refuge from slab fork      paris rome monte carlo
they wanted me out                             & my dreams of becoming a ballerina
i could have been more                       
now distant      like that space between diamonds & coal

then it was punishment                      my refuge      paris rome monte carlo a ways from slab fork
if in my hands                                       no final destination in my mind just moving between
i couldn’t be can’t say                          
the distance between what makes coal & what makes diamonds
didn’t matter                                         though being a thief had nothing to do with values —
 
don’t regret being                                caught in between no destination in my mind      final
i regret getting caught                        
in love      my heart cannot be measured in carats
i didn’t take to put back                      my value had nothing to do with being a thief
i took to keep —                                     & buried      blood-encrusted diamonds beneath my skin

NOTE: italicized words came from her interviews in “the life and crimes of doris payne” and an AP news article, “doris payne, 85-year-old jewel thief, re ects on life of crime”.

december Magazine and give STL day, May 11!

Watch our video!

 

We hope you’ll join us on Thursday, May 11th and help us achieve our mission of nurturing writers and artists at every stage of their careers. At december, we bring readers and writers together and support the local community with important partnerships and projects. Take a moment to learn more about what we do — we are an independent, nonprofit literary organization and twice-a-year magazine, and we couldn’t do all that we do without subscribers and generous donors like you. Every dollar helps us reach our goal of funding another year of “HawkJam,” the spoken-word poetry club we sponsor at an all-girls charter school in St. Louis, and another year of supporting our contributors by paying our writers and artists. Please donate and spread the word. Check out our GiveSTLday.org page here.

december presents…adrian matejka

2016 pushcart nominations

unknownHere at december we are grateful for all our contributors. When Pushcart time comes it’s never easy to select our Pushcart nominations because we love everything we print. After much deliberation between our editors and staff we finally chose our nominees for 2016. Major congratulations to these writers and major thanks to everyone who is part of the december community.

 

Kendra Allen – When You Learn the Alphabet (Non fiction – Vol. 27.1)
José Angel Araguz – Cazar Means to Hunt Not to Marry (Poetry – Vol. 27.1)
Jeff Ewing – On the Death, by Trampling, of a Man in Modoc County (Poetry – Vol. 27.2)
Maura Pellettieri – Whale (Fiction – Vol. 27.2)
Adam Schwartz – Pavane for a Dead Princess (Fiction – Vol. 27.1)
Cocoa M. Williams – Leda on a Stoop in St. Bernard Projects (1974) (Poetry Vol. 27.1)

poetry and prose on the plaza

Don’t miss our event at the Prospero’s Books in Kansas City. Celebrate the release of Vol. 27.2 with excellent poetry by Albert Goldbarth and prose from Thomas Atkinson the winner of the 2016 Curt Johnson Prose Awards (fiction). We hope to see you there. This event is open to the public.

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december uncorked

Don’t miss our event at the World Chess Hall of Fame! Celebrate the release of Vol. 27.2 with great poetry and prose by Jen Logan Meyer, Allison Funk, and Travis Mossotti. A wine and cheese reception will follow the reading. We hope to see you there. This event is open to the public. Complimentary valet parking provided.

december-uncorked-draft-1020

 

four notable essays in 2016 Best American Essays

unknownWe just received our copy of the 2016 Best American Essays and were excited to see four essays we published last year made their notable essay list. A big CONGRATULATIONS goes out to the writers whose essays were included. We’re thrilled to publish exciting work that garners attention and grateful for all the contributors who trust us with their work and the readers who enjoy our pages.

 

 

The notable essays:
On Locker Rooms and Looking, Doug Paul Case (Vol. 26.1)
Proximity, Gary Fincke (Vol. 26.1)
You Have Me, Wilfredo Pascual (Vol. 26.2)
My Magpie Mind, Mike Smith (Vol. 26.2)

2017 poetry contest judge – adrian matejka

MatejkaWe are excited to announce Adrian Matejka as the judge of our 2017 Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize. Mr. Matejka was born in Germany and grew up in California and Indiana. His second collection of poems, Mixology, was a winner of the 2008 National Poetry Series and was a finalist for a NAACP Image Award. The Big Smoke was awarded the 2014 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was also a finalist for the 2013 National Book Award, the 2014 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and the 2014 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. He is the Lily Professor/Poet-in-Residence at Indiana University in Bloomington. His new book of poems, Map to the Stars, is forthcoming from Penguin Random House in April 2017.

2017 Jeff Marks Memorial Poetry Prize submissions open October 1st. For more information and contest guidelines click here.

albert goldbarth… on topic

photo by Michael Pointer

photo by Michael Pointer

(Jump to Audio)

We were fortunate to spend a whole afternoon and evening with poet/essayist Albert Goldbarth a few months ago. It was a great day with passionate talk across a wide spectrum of subjects. We decided to share his views on a variety of topics, excerpted from the recording of a long, informal conversation. We hope you enjoy his insights as much as we enjoyed the time we spent with him. The same day, he came to our studio (aka the office) and recorded the work he has published in december from 1971 to now. You can listen to him read his poems here.

On living in Wichita: Wichita is a blue-collar town. In the old days, it was an important city on the cattle drive; it used to be a rip-roaring, shoot-’em-up, bordello kind of town. Eventually, the cattle began going around Wichita, and Kansas City picked up all the cattle-drive business, and Wichita started to die until a stroke of good luck – World War II – came along, and Beechcraft and Boeing made a new economic life for the city. They’re still major players on the Wichita economic scene. Wichita State University is the largest university in the largest city in the state, and Friends University and Newman University are located there as well, but it doesn’t have the feel of a college town. Still books can be bought (I live near the locally owned Watermark Books) and microbreweries serve up their product, and a writer’s life can be made here. At least, mine can.

On shopping: I understand the politics of commerce. I could happily browse at Walmart at 2 in the morning and immerse myself in the real America.

On reading: I read all sorts of nonfiction, from physics to celebrity bios. I do read genre fiction, a lot of science fiction, mysteries, but literary fiction, too. I’m rereading some Bellow and George Eliot right now. I pick up magazines all the time, an occasional issue of Discover, National Geographic, anything from Biblical Archeology to Hustler, if it calls out to me. Also an occasional Walt Disney’s Comics & Stories. Nothing wrong with the Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge stories. I just joined the Carl Barks Fan Club – he’s a true American popular culture genius, and he created Uncle Scrooge.

On poetry readings: Readings are not a good index of the quality of anybody’s work. Why should a writer have to be a good reader of his or her own work? Some people simply aren’t. I think I give a good reading, but the human voice is a very limited medium. Words done well on the literary page are larger than anything the human voice can give utterance to. Plenty of poems almost by definition can’t be read well out loud for any number of reasons. And, of course, inferior writing projected by a good performer can be very misleading. Literary talent and theatrical talent are two different things.

On a favorite assignment: A number of years ago, as Halloween was approaching, I told my undergraduate class to dress up as a poet or a poem for Halloween. Two people in unison dressed up as Wordsworth’s Daffodils poem (I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud), one guy was a daffodil and a woman was a cloud with a little sun breaking overhead. And one woman dressed up as Sylvia Plath, by which I mean she brought into the room an entire, full-size, three-dimensional cardboard stove she had made, with foil burners and actual dials that could turn and a door that could open. When I came into the room, there was a complete tableau. She was on the floor with her head in the oven, one shoe off, one shoe on, a vial of pills on the floor, carefully spilled out, with a prescription label on it for an anti-depressant popular in Plath’s time. It was extraordinary. Did it help her grade? Hey, I’m only human.

On collecting: I could talk in a loving manner about the kinds of things I like to collect – the vintage outer space toys, the manual typewriters, and more. I suppose you could psychoanalyze some writers by their collections – all the more reason for me to clam up now.

On book recommendations: A few weeks ago I recommended to a few friends a new book by Sven Birkerts called Changing the Subject. It’s a soulfully deep, richly written book that is not only a very eloquent questioning of where technology is taking us and of how internet reading affects our lives, but besides being just cautionary, it is a lovely paean to the life of reading traditionally – slowly, deeply, undistractedly, and understanding the pleasures of narrative.

On interviews: I’ve rarely read an interview that didn’t make me cringe. Whether I live in Kansas or Paris, whether I collect ancient Mesopotamian cylinder seals or old Pepsi bottles…none of it matters, including what I’ve said here. The poem is the poem, the essay is the essay, and, to slightly paraphrase Keats (who never gave an interview in his life), “That’s all you need to know.”

albert goldbarth reads

photo by Michael Pointer

photo by Michael Pointer

We were fortunate to have an entire day with Albert Goldbarth. While he was visiting with us, we asked him to do us the honor of reading all the work he has published in december from 1971 until now. Click below to hear the poems and read along. To read more about Albert Goldbarth’s views on poetry, life and more check out our interview here.


Poem from Iowa — Vol. 13 1/2 (1971)

His Creatures — Vol. 24 (2013)

Untitled — Vol. 26.1 (2015)

Where It Came From — Vol. 26.1 (2015)

The Before Song — Vol. 26.1 (2015)

Gina D. / Donne / Cleopatra — Vol. 26.1 (2015)

The Persistence of Memory — Vol. 27.1 (2016)

Moon — Vol. 27.1 (2016)

Mångata — Vol. 27.1 (2016)

Jesse is back this summer, — Vol. 27.1 (2016)

The Law of the Universe — Vol. 27.1 (2016)

Vol. 26.1 & 27.1 are available for purchase in our bookstore.