We are pleased to announce Corner Shrine by Chloe Martinez is the winner of our 2019 Backbone Press Chapbook Contest! The final judge, Geffrey Davis’ comments are below.
Attuned to both the insights and the limits of visitation, the poems inside Corner Shrine are ripe with scene and sense as they contemplate the wonders of arrival alongside the worries of transience. As [POET] writes in the poem “Taj Mahal”:
The monks go off to join the jostling, shoeless
queue that narrows as it nears the doorway
where people crowd into the dim chamber
that is warmed and corroded by their breath, their echoing voices
moving through it like wind in many careless languages.
This tension between connection and disconnection returns often, as in “Leaving India, Before the Monsoon”: “I become a tourist. I buy what I can stuff in my luggage,/ and it all ends up a token thing[.]” And the poem closes: “The old transformation is beginning, and everyone// has seen the usual signs: the sky darkens,/ the peacocks dance at the far edge of the field.”
I admire this chapbook’s careful turns toward a poetics of travel—across places and times, even across former lives—sometimes as a means to confirm what’s radical about belonging, sometimes as a means to sound a cultural alarm, but always, it seems, in the name of “a shape you could use.”
In addition to the winning chapbook, we will also publish the runner up, The Other Side of the Mirror by Aileen Bassis. Look for both titles in Fall 2020.
The Backbone Press Chapbook Competition is funded, in part, by the Durham Arts Council.