We are so excited to announce the release of Conor McNamara’s When I Think of the Randolph Mountains, a Debut Series Co-Winner and the third book in our lineup selected from 2019’s contests to be released. The book may be ordered here, or under the Books menu, in case you’re looking for some other new reads to pick up.

This collection received the following praise:

Conor McNamara has written a powerful portrait of West Virginia, mountain roads, pipeline work, cold nights, loss and enduring hope. Beautiful and understated, When I Think of the Randolph Mountains is a masterful collection of stories that stay with you long into the night.

Vincent Chu, author of Like a Champion

 

In aching bursts of spare, understated prose, Conor McNamara captures the loneliness of working as a pipeliner in wintry West Virginia. When I Think of the Randolph Mountains is at once a moving portrait of a young man—heartsick, far from home, deep in debt—and a searing look at the brutal emotional and physical toll that simply staying out of poverty takes on American workers. Though rooted in the particulars of small towns like Burnsville and Buckhannon, the story taps powerfully into the anxiety of placelessness, its narrator in every sense disoriented, always at risk of losing traction. Yet he never misses an opportunity to name the people he meets as he follows the pipeline—Ms. Amanda, the Exxon station clerk; Yogi, owner of the Motel 79; Mike Workman, a land inspector from the gas company—and we sense that no matter where the work takes him next, his alertness to human connection will come with him.

Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, author of Madeleine is Sleeping and Ms. Hempel Chronicles

Conor McNamara is out there at work. He’s Studs Terkel and he’s the guy Studs Terkel is asking what the job is really like. He’s a poet and this is his American dream with a bloody nose. Come in close. He wants to tell you how to pass your drug test, how to swing a machete, how to be in love with the dirt and the grime and the rain and the unexpected sunshine bursting out from behind the dark clouds hanging over the piece of shit roadside motel that is tonight’s temporary home sweet home.

We have three more titles to be released this season, and are looking forward to announcing them, as well as spending more time with the 400+ manuscripts we received for our 2020 contests.

We are so excited to announce the release of Sarah Cooper’s Permanent Marker, a Debut Series Co-Winner and the first of our manuscripts selected in 2019’s contests to be released. The book may be ordered here, or under the Books menu, in case you’re looking for some other new reads to pick up.

These poems received the following praise:

Sarah Cooper’s Permanent Marker is a stunning elegiac sequence for a brother and the family he’s left behind.  But the chapbook is also about living through tremendous pain with grace and generosity, honest anger, and empathy. The poems are elegant in their imagery, evocative in their details, and artistic in their narrative focus.  Sarah Cooper is a superb poet of witness. Denise Duhamel 

Put simply: Sarah Cooper’s Permanent Marker enchants us. In “Grandma’s House,” we find the young Cooper siblings playing Ouija in the basement, casting spells with pebbles and bird feathers, hypnotized by the “oranges and pinks and blues of the jams glistening on shelves.” Such youth can’t be preserved. And though Cooper’s poems make this gut-wrenchingly clear in narrating the loss of that brother from the cellar, all the mystery of youth — that strange potion of great joy and deep sadness — is carried into these poems like a talisman. Like the BB left in the sister’s chest, forgotten, until years later she steps from the shower, runs her wet fingers over the lump, “and remembered your face / in shock as you realized you had shot me.” D. Gilson

Sarah Cooper’s Permanent Marker is about the ways we are marked by loss and all the forms that loss may take. The ephemeral smell of her brother’s cologne. His number and birthday, which she refuses to remove from her phone. Her brother’s baby teeth, which her father keeps in an Aleve bottle, suggesting the links this book traces between memory and pain. This is not a book about PTSD or addiction or brothers and sisters. It is about the collateral damage, the reverberating impact of loss on those left behind. Ed Madden

We have five more titles that my interns and I are preparing for production, and we can’t wait to have them ready for the world. And if you have a manuscript of your own, keep in mind that we’re open for chapbook submissions in poetry, fiction, literary non-fiction, and anything in between until April 20th!

Our annual chapbook contests are open this year from January 20th – April 20th, 2020. This will be our 9th year (!) of running an annual contest, and I had to count each year slowly on my hands a few times before I really believed it. We have published 34 titles during that time, six of which are forthcoming in the next few months. Be on the lookout for release announcements for some really amazing books in the next few months.

As in years past, the Vella Contest is open to all; the Debut Series is open only to writers who have yet to publish a book or chapbook (and for our purposes, this also includes if you’ve signed a publication contract but the book is not released yet).You can also go right to our Submittable, which should give you all the information you need once the contests go live on Monday.

This Spring, I’m lucky to have four wonderful interns to help with running the press. I’ll be gradually getting a little about them posted under our Staff tab.

As always, I am so grateful I get to do this. I’m excited to see what amazing work we’ll get to read this year!

We received nearly 220 submissions this year, making our selection incredibly tough. These decisions are difficult every year, and if we had unlimited resources, we would have accepted several more. Please join me in congratulating the writers below!

This year’s winners are:

Lecture – Chase Burke
Permanent Marker – Sarah Cooper
The Museum of Resentments – Amanda Hope
When I Think of the Randolph Mountains – Conor McNamara

Our Finalists include:

I-80 – Brett Biebel
Wanting – Emily Bieniek
Mayflies – Cassandra Caverhill
Wonders of a Distant World – Ja’net Danielo
Telling the Bees – Sara Eddy
An Untold History of Black – Ashley Evans
Radio Buttons – Erin Fletcher
A Kiss for the Misbehaved – Jessica Lynne Furtado
Growth Response – Dena Igusti
Uncertain Elevators – Kristen Jackson
Androphobia – Samantha Lamph
Alchemy 37 – Lisa López Smith
Heirlooms: Stories – Alexander Luft
Allegheny Front – Lisa McMonagle
Gloom of Excruciating Desires – Olivia Pierce
Five Seconds to Skip Ad – Jacob Price
On Desire – Claire Robbins
Rooh – Maya Salemeh
Love, Mom – Cathryn Sherman
Cartography – Bassam Sidiki

And there are many more manuscripts we found memorable and were very fond of. Thank you to everyone who trusted us with their writing and gave us the opportunity to read their work.

We hope to have announcements for the Vella Chapbook Contest posted in the near future!

We are so excited to announce the release of Andres Rojas’s Looking For What Isn’t There, the first of two 2018 Debut Series Chapbook Winners to be released this year, now available for order! You can purchase a copy here, or under the books menu, where you may find a few other titles you’d like to pick up.

These poems received the following praise:

“These colorful swaths of memory and lost language have their own smart beauty, forced open like an amaryllis in winter to enrich and warm the heart. Andres Rojas’ poems feel like rare birds migrating through a drizzled landscape, surprising and subtle and transformational all at once. What a remarkable pleasure it is to read each one.”

D.A. Powell

“Reading Looking For What Isn’t There, I remember the feeling of encountering Andres Rojas’s poems for the first time; I’m right back in that electric headspace. This poet is not walking a worn path, not echoing anyone else’s voice. Each metaphor,each line—“the radio waves/ lobster-boiled in the censored air”; “a boulevard/ of moonlight on water”—feels both brand-new and full of deep, hard-won wisdom. What a balancing act! I know I’ll return to these poems again and again.”

Maggie Smith

“The poems of Andres Rojas are succinct, pared down to the essentials: crystalline phrasing, striking imagery. His language, though concise, reveals and complicates longing and exile: ‘What we can’t miss /makes us whole.’ Among the sorrow, the necessity of insight urgently blooms. Empathy allows us to see ‘[a] skeletal Ford. [i]ts vaguely human form.’”

Eduardo C. Corral

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We just closed submissions for our annual contests a few hours ago, at midnight on April 20th. We received 360 submissions, and are looking forward to reading them (and, while bittersweet, perhaps looking forward a little less enthusiastically at how difficult these decisions will be). Be on the lookout for our next release, a short fiction collection from Robin Littell, coming up very soon! In the meantime, we hope this cruelest month is being kind to all of you.

We are so excited to announce the release of Rage Hezekiah’s Unslakable, the first of three 2018 Vella Chapbook Winners to be released this year, now available for order! You can purchase a copy here, or under the books menu, where you may find a few other titles you’d like to pick up. Please also consider checking out Rage’s website, to find out about events and any other future publications.

Her poems received the following praise:

“How can we say what was once unsayable and then learn to see beyond it? And beyond that seeing, can we dare to move beyond it—and live on our own terms? Rage Hezekiah’s Unslakable takes up this challenge with fierce compassion and a vital, human grace born of having lived and witnessed—and then gone farther. In that way, we can read the title, Unslakable, at once as description, challenge, and difficult desire. “First/you teach the child/what it is to drown/so she’ll know/to save herself” writes Hezekiah. These poems embody the process of walking with the strange weight of history – both personal and cultural – but these poems also carry us through the process of opening ourselves to self-love. Hezekiah’s courageous and thoughtful voice invites us all to rethink those big yet intimate issues: family legacy, sexuality, identity, and power. More than just response, reaction, or counterpoise, Unslakable claims and creates new space for the strength of one woman of color’s body – and vision – and spirit – in our world.”

-Aaron Coleman, author of St. Trigger, and Threat Come Close

“Startling and brutal in its clarity, Unslakable takes on multiple violences lived in an individual body – the trauma of a childhood with an alcoholic parent, the intergenerational inheritance of slavery and racism, the echo of every heartbreak. This is a collection brimming with quiet, the kind of raucous quiet full of unspoken things. Hezekiah’s poems don’t look away from painful memories, instead facing them head-on with unremitting tenderness. No detail is spared, these concise poems shake with emotion, insisting on naming the past and thereby carving a future, “punishing the silence of no one to blame.” In her poems, sharp-angled pain and hard-won human wisdom are held alongside the barbed beauty of the natural world: gardens of memory, birth and decay, the ocean as ever-present witness of a life lived by the water. In these poems are friendship, lovers, science, anatomy, longing, resilience, and “history’s/ detritus.” And, above all, desire, the unslakable, liberatory desire of a poet laying claim to the agony and beauty of a life, and telling us “I want it all for as long as it will last.”

-Mónica Gomery, author of Of Darkness and Tumbling and Here is the Night and the Night on the Road

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We are currently accepting chapbook manuscripts until April 20th — just over a month left! — and cannot wait to see what startling and powerful work we get to publish this time next year. In the meantime, keep an eye out for four more titles to be released over the next few months.

Thank you for your patience as I’ve read and re-read and deliberated over these manuscripts since May. While I know I say how hard it is to decide every year, the 2018 contest yielded nearly double the entries we’ve gotten in any of our past contests. This made for a much larger time commitment than previous years, and also impossible decisions to make. Of the 170 we received for the Debut Series, even narrowing it down to a list of 19 (the 10% named as finalists, plus two winners) was daunting and difficult. Please know that, if you do not see your name below, it is still certainly likely that I really admired your work.

Winners
Looking For What Isn’t There – Andres Rojas
What City – Meredith Boe

Finalists (In order in which they were received)
Hurricane Matthew – Shevaun Brannigan
The Cure for Loneliness – Lindsay Fowler
Fade – Jennifer Colatosti
Alligator Chronicles – Melissa Varnavas
The Housewife Chronicles – Ruth Goodwin
Schoolboys – Jack Cooper
Double-edged – dave ring
sometimes I think about my exes & wonder how their dogs are doing – Alyssa Oursler
Snapshots – Bruce Johnson
habibi – Maya Salameh
Intersections – Kameron Ray Morton
First Light – Miriam German
Hall Pass for a Dead Girl – Megan Neville
Grief in the Shape of Infinity – Kathy Kehrli
Too Many Moons – Linnea Harper & Stephen A. Levin
Flamingo City – Giovanna Varela
You, Me, and Mitochondrial Eve – Brandon Hansen

Please join me in congratulating these writers for their extraordinary work. I expect to have more exciting news in the next week or two regarding the Vella Chapbook results, too. Thanks again to all who shared their writing with me these past several months.

We are so excited to announce the release of Geoff Andersons’s Humming Dirges, the second of two 2017 Debut Series Chapbook Winners to be released this year, now available for order! You can purchase a copy here, or under the books menu, where you may find a few other titles you’d like to pick up. Please also consider checking out Geoff’s website, to find out about events and any other future publications.

His poems received the following praise:

“Anderson possesses a sniper’s eye for detail, filling his poems with taut, after-the-shot tension, which is not a feeling one expects in the parade of neighborhood tales through which he explores the ubiquitous political nature of families or the constantly morphing lessons of loss. Which is not to say this is a collection of haunting dread. There is a joy that moors the reader throughout, making Humming Dirges a collection of art that sorely wants to pick up the pieces it breaks off of you. In Anderson’s world the challenge isn’t simply that nothing is as it at appears, but that there is a lesson in every inch of each tale, even the puzzles missing pieces. Each of the poems presented in Humming Dirges bends to Anderson’s effortless strength at making any seemingly innocent moment turn on a dramatic, sometimes horrible dime. Simply put, Anderson possesses one of the surest, most steady hands I’ve seen commit an act of modern poetry.”
Scott Woods, author of Urban Contemporary History Month and We Over Here Now

* * * *

“Geoff Anderson makes perfect poems. Emotionally-complicated and precisely-wrought, with images so sharp they might cut you open with their textures, the poems in Anderson’s Humming Dirges gift readers with an inside view of a family as it functions with the outside world and within itself. That is to say, Anderson uses the complexities of family to create a sometimes-uncomfortably accurate portrait of the society in which that family exists. And he’ll draw you in and make you one of his own for as long as the book lasts.”
Louise Robertson, author of The Naming Of and Teaching My Daughter My Language

* * * *

“These poems view the world with a keen reflective eye. They challenge us to rethink what we’ve assumed about ethnicity, about loss, about history–the histories we’re taught and the histories we live. With artful subtlety, Geoff leaves something distinctly other in the reader’s view: Other than common, other than black, than white, than pretense. Frank and delicious.”
Rose M. Smith, Senior Editor, Pudding Magazine

* * * *

As I was folding and sewing this collection, I couldn’t help but read through them one more time. These poems are compulsively readable, and the small moments captured here continue to quietly unfold with each reading. I hope you enjoy them.

Just as soon as this post is done, I’ll be returning my attention to reading the many chapbook submissions we received during our last reading period. I hope to have some news by September — and for anyone who ordered a back issue with your submission, I expect to have your copy mailed to you even sooner! And if you’re a submitter who is anxious about long stretches with no updates to our website, we post a bit more often on instagram than any other platform these days.

Thanks, all, and hope everyone is enjoying the summer.

Our Debut Series and Vella Chapbook Contests have closed as of midnight, and we have a total of 431 manuscript submissions: 171 for the Debut Series, and 260 for the Vella! I am overwhelmed with joy — and also, maybe just a little overwhelmed.

I am so grateful to everyone who has submitted their writing and decided to trust us with their words. Drafting, revising, compiling a manuscript, and then trusting a stranger to read it is no easy feat; Thank you for giving us a chance to read the results of all that work.

We still have two manuscripts from 2017 left to produce, with one of them being very close to ready. It is very important to me to get these released and out into the world as soon as possible, so be on the lookout for announcements on those two titles. Other than that, it may be fairly quiet here while I focus on reading — and preparing myself for some very difficult decisions.

We are so pleased to announce the release of Shankar Narayan’s Postcards from the New World, our first 2017 Debut Series Chapbook Co-Winner to be released this year, now available for order! You can purchase a copy here, or over under the books menu, where you may find a few other titles you’d like to pick up. Please also consider checking out Shankar’s website, to find out about readings and events he’s hosting in the future!

His poems received the following praise:

“These poems are wholly original and loaded with compassion, intellect, and lyric interrogation. Shankar Narayan’s Postcards from the New World explores proximity, intimacy, identity, violence, and diaspora with a knowing, prophetic allure. I love these poems for their epistemological underpinnings and their graceful invention. Gorgeous surprises fuel this wonderful debut. Fiercely talented and equally humane, Narayan is one of my favorite new poets.

Lee Herrick, Poet Laureate of Fresno, 2015-17

* * * *

“These poems meditate on connection and dissolution, construction and deconstruction, selves and societies. In a violent historical moment, when rupture and brokenness (the breaking of bodies and the breaking of the word) are so evident, these poems announce a belief that there is (there has to be) some good, some light from a new sun. Narayan writes that “Entanglement means/what happens to you happens/to me,” not just as cosmic fact but as an ethical binding of various selves—the constructed energies of the speaker (abused by the world, consumed by idealism), the inherited and problematic threads of the world (traditions as tethers to a faraway land, the violent and virulent racism of America). In a song driven by words from our moment, Narayan has given us a compelling series of poems that will be worthy of rereading.

Tod Marshall, Poet Laureate of Washington State, 2016-18

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We have two more powerful and exciting titles to release this season.

If you think you have a manuscript we might love, our annual contest ends May 15th. You can find all the details you need at our Submittable, or elsewhere on our website. We can’t wait to start thinking about what amazing works we’ll get to read soon!

And, if you happen to live near Salem, Massachusetts, Paper Nautilus will have a table at the Massachusetts Poetry Festival Book Fair! The festival as a whole runs Friday, May 4th, through Sunday, May 6th, with some amazing poets — including headliners like Sonia Sanchez, Kaveh Akbar, Dorianne Laux, and Rhina P. Espaillat. You can find Paper Nautilus, peruse our titles, ask questions, or just say hi on Saturday, May 5th, from 11 a.m – 4 p.m. Hope to see you there!