On March 1st, I received word that I had won the first annual Eudaimonia Poetry Review Chapbook Prize! And I was thrilled. And completely grateful that my second book of poems was going to be published.
I worked on my chapbook, O Dear Deer, , for more than a year. It began in November 2009 as a response to being impaneled on a jury in downtown L.A., on a gang-related murder and attempted murder trial. It is not a retelling of the facts of the trial or even really about my experience as a juror, although the book reflects some of my ambivalence about that job, certainly. It is more like a preoccupation, an obsession even, with the larger questions that were at stake for me during that process, and the questions I imagined might be at stake for the defendant, the victims, the families, the witnesses, the lawyers, the judge, the other jurors. Or not. I don't know. But, for me, the haunting question was about who these people would be if they had never encountered each other on that particular day in the summer of 2007. If they had all walked down different paths to become different people. And the idea that maybe those doppelgangers exist somewhere, out there, just beyond where we can see, leading a life of our own other making. Maybe we live all the lives we make possible to ourselves, even if we live them (only) in our mind's eye, or in our dreams, or in our regrets. Or if our families live them for us. Maybe those other selves keep on walking.
I was likewise grateful for the words of poet Evan J. Peterson, who served as judge for the chapbook contest and wrote the foreword for the book. Here are some excerpts drawn from the press release:
While many of the final selections were strong, the winning chapbook is a "stunningly rendered place of violent simplicity. It bewilders me while asking me to be wilder." The author, he said, has created "a hypnotic landscape of image rhyme that is better than surreal -- surrealism tries too hard. This is the dream space, the real dream space, and it feels effortlessly accurate. This collection shaves slivers from my bones."
That makes me happy. Very, very happy. The press (Squall Publishing) will be releasing the chapbook (which is a short and tightly-thematic collection of poems) on July 1st. It is available for pre-order on Amazon here.
In the meantime, here is an excerpt from the book, a poem that originally appeared in Eudaimonia Poetry Review's issue devoted to the finalists:
What can we say,
O our dear Deer,
but that the bare bodies of trees
spring from your head.
Their winter shape is all
the testimony of the world--
fork after fork dividing in dark
threads, every possible annex
to open sky. From some branch
farther on, we must look lucky here--
so much slant left, so many
yeses and nos--we tangle
ourselves in want, even the heart
crosshatched with artery.