We are so excited to announce the release of Christen Noel Kauffman’s Notes to a Mother God, a Debut Series Chapbook Co-Winner, and the fifth of six titles to be released from our lineup selected from our 2020 contests. The book may be ordered here or under the Books menu, in case you’re looking for some other new reads to pick up.

In “Notes to a Mother God,” Christen Noel Kauffman’s brilliant new lyric essay collection, the boundaries between fiction and nonfiction, the human and the animal, sound and love, are revealed as illusory. In this gorgeous act of evaporation, a fresh engagement of motherhood is illuminated, one that miraculously manages to interrogate not boundaries, but exhilarating overlaps: this book dares to examine the spaces shared by the cleaving body and the spider’s web, a whale’s eye and the birth of a daughter, the Luna moth and guilt, the giant squid and empathy, memory and the seabed, death and a dream of an orchard. Throughout, Kauffman’s sumptuous essays do the essential work of exposing the plants and animals that many of us have ignored or mistakenly deemed as merely quotidian, as innately incantatory. And here, that incantation is howled by mothers actual and ghostly, sung, essentially, to quote Kauffman, into “the crevice of your neck.” This is a beautiful and breathtaking debut, as expansive as it is intimate.

— Matthew Gavin Frank, author of Flight of the Diamond Smugglers

Notes to a Mother God gorgeously captures the contradictory moods and modes of new motherhood. In these exquisite pieces, Christen Noel Kauffman helps us understand the familiar and the foreign, the surprise of loneliness and the hunger for intimacy, and the magnetic tides of both desire and despair. Like motherhood itself, Notes to a Mother God is powerful, raw, and often dark, but with a marbled beauty that is as wondrous as it is undeniable. 

Randon Billings Noble, author of Be with Me Always

We are so excited to announce the release of Ja’net Danielo’s The Song of Our Disappearing, a Debut Series Chapbook Co-Winner, and the third of six titles to be released from our lineup selected from our 2020 contests. 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 are poems of quietly devastating grief, life-haunted poems of absence, breath-taking for their clear, lyrical language, their precise and loving rendering of the physical world, their nuanced explosion of image into image, poems that move beyond elegy toward a deeper imagining. Here, death is a kind of disappearance, yes, but also a mystery, a transformation, “the swarm of cells rearranging themselves/ into something other/ … of never before;” here, each existence, human and otherwise, is “a brief but holy thing.” Reading these poems I was reminded of how, while the shape of our grief changes over time, grief also changes us, alters us permanently, becoming part of who and what we are, deepening us, making us also more holy in its wake.

— Cecilia Woloch, author of Tsigan: The Gypsy Poem

Grief recasts everything, suddenly and sharply. It uproots the ghosts—of our childhoods, our ancestors, our collective and private memories—and transforms the concrete world we thought we knew into one now fluctuating and liminal. The Song of Our Disappearing navigates the bewildering aftermath of a father’s death, finding a clear and rising voice somewhere between the stark hospital room that holds the ventilator’s sharp hiss and the remembered dust of the racetrack where hooves pull clouds from the ground. Elegy becomes an act of metamorphosis as Ja’net Danielo excavates both past and present to reveal a song unearthed from the ash of the heart—a lyric guide for walking with, listening to, and being transformed by the losses that haunt us most. 

Julia Bouwsma, author of Midden and Work by Bloodlight

I can’t helped being knocked out and also deeply inspired by the summoning voice and vision of Ja’net Danielo. The poems in her debut collection The Song of Our Disappearing are breathtaking in their rich and fulsome physicality, their deft shaping of personal, familial, and corporeal landscapes around her, and the pitch-perfect songs that burn brightly through crucial and complex human concerns of death, grief, longing. So much to admire here, and to look forward to in this poet whose generosity of spirit and breadth of imagination match the vibrancy of natural and lived in worlds she observes so carefully, inhabiting desire through poetry that honors “the language of horses […] “those beautiful machines […] Not of blood, but of dust—a song unearthed from the ash of the heart.”

— Michelle Bitting, author of Broken Kingdom

 

We are so excited to announce the release of Jason B. Crawford’s Twerkable Moments, a Vella Chapbook Co-Winner, and the second of six titles to be released from our lineup selected from our 2020 contests. The book may be ordered here or under the Books menu, in case you’re looking for some other new reads to pick up.

Twerkable Moments is a summertime Michigan house party in the early 2000’s, and a Springtime cookout from just last week. Jason asks “Who among us is not built of a party” while moving from a sweaty dancefloor near the bar to a backyard, reclaiming space and self along the way. Who among us hasn’t tried to learn a dance from someone older and failed? Who among us hasn’t done the dance with all the confidence we could muster, anyway? These poems are a teaching, an invitation to remember and to learn. A celebratory invocation of joy in spite of, joy that survives and traverses, and joy that for damn sho’ twerks.

– Darius Simpson

Twerkable Moments pulsates with rich sounds and searing imagery, transforming the page into a three-dimensional universe that takes all of our senses to navigate. I am enamored with the magic Crawford has woven in these poems, where dancing is not merely dancing, but world building. In these stanzas exist a mythic space without limitations, where dancing boys could be wolves or “glitter could cast a spell and bring all my dead/ loves back to life”. Twerkable Moments does not turn its gaze away from the omnipresent dangers that lurk just beyond the page,“ The hunters/ or their arrows/ or bullets”. Rather, it celebrates the body’s survival despite. At the center of these poems lies the question: “What joy have you brought for us to/ feed on?”. I leave this collection well fed and breathless.

– Jihyun Yun, author of Some Are Always Hungry

In their collection Twerkable Moments, Jason B. Crawford populates these pages with beats and bodies, music lyrics that take over us before we realize we’re even singing along. To read these poems is to wade through a night club where the music works like a hex, where in the midst of the dancing crowd our speaker gropes for love and acceptance. And the dancefloor serves as a perfect metaphor for the Black and queer body trying to survive in these poems; surrounded by chaos, violence, and cultural appropriation, the speaker of this collection gives in to the corporeal joy of dance. But dance is not only about joy or survival, it’s also about reclamation. Crawford writes, “This is mine / and I will take it back / one        ass     cheek / at a time,” fashioning the Black, queer, and dancing body into a weapon. And whatever is slain in their wake, Crawford reminds us to always look back at it.

Taylor Byas, author of Blood Warm

 

We are so excited to announce the release of Juliana Chang’s Inheritance, a Vella Chapbook Co-Winner, and the first of six titles to be released from our lineup selected from our 2020 contests. The book may be ordered here or under the Books menu, in case you’re looking for some other new reads to pick up.

Juliana Chang’s Inheritance tells a deeply moving tale of immigration, love, and family, in poems taut with a longing that spans oceans, and decades, and generations. “Dear god,” Chang’s speaker pleads at one point, “give us a new story,” and in these poems, lucky for us, she has written exactly that. This is a soulful, serious debut.

           —Patrick Phillips, author of Elegy for a Broken Machine

This admirable debut volume of poems speaks to the many complex legacies of the immigrant psyche: those of language, of longing, of unspoken traumas and unlikely joys. These vivid tableaus, ranging from girlhood to womanhood, reveal a young writer of great empathy and discernment, and invite us to join in the redemptive act of wonderment. 

 —Chang-rae Lee, author of Native Speaker

We have another two titles that are most of the way through production, so keep an eye out for more books coming soon!

We are so excited to announce the release of Sonya Vatomsky’s And The Whale, a Vella Chapbook Co-Winner, and the sixth and final book to be released from our lineup selected from our 2019 contests. 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:

“A lyrical, haunted shipwreck of a book you won’t soon forget.”

— amanda lovelace, bestselling author of the princess saves herself in this one

 “Vatomsky is a poet with history, which is to say a poet with a Russian soul that never rests. Here, the soul is haunted and haunting, is pouring tea into your cup until the whole thing spills over and burns. The soul in these poems isn’t interested in pain but the shadow of pain, the mark of it; the edges of a burn and the dregs of tea leaves, what each one confirms about time. If it’s true that what’s hysterical is historical, then what Vatomsky offers us is a universe where madness is fleshed out and relieved of flesh. Here, the body is a palimpsest and gender is a veil, the kind you wear in mourning, the kind that hangs between this life and everything else.”

— Gala Mukomolova, author of Without Protection

We are looking forward to turning to our attention to our 2020 manuscripts. As we all (globally) wrap up an exhausting, painful, almost-impossible year, I am wishing for you that these last few weeks of it are kind and restful and healthy. See you in 2021.

We are so excited to announce the release of Maya Salameh’s rooh, a Vella Chapbook Co-Winner and the second 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.

These poems received the following praise:

“Maya Salameh’s rooh deftly works the familiar into the defamiliarized, in poems crackling with exuberant fluency. I read these poems and language feels boundless, looking feels boundless, form feels boundless. I read these poems and feel the possibilities of poetry stretching, evolving, breaking open to make room for the true refreshment that is Maya Salameh’s voice—its mischief, its enormous eyes.”
Safia Elhillo

We have four 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. We know this is a challenging time for almost everyone — especially emotionally, but also financially for a lot of folks. If you need a submission fee waiver, don’t be afraid to reach out.
Wishing everyone wellness and comfort.

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 are so excited to announce the release of Kimiko Hahn’s Brittle Process, a prose poetry collection inspired by terminology found in a psychology reference dictionary. 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.

Adam Boretz has described Hahn’s work, in her previous collection, Brain Fever, as “relentless formal experimentation.” Indeed, when I was in college and read Hahn’s poetry for the very first time, it opened my eyes to the different ways a poem could be and what it could do. When Hahn and I met at an event earlier this year and talked at length about our commitment to the chapbook as a serious and important literary vehicle, I knew we had to work together on this project.

We received nearly 150 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:

Rooh – Maya Salameh
And the Whale – Sonya Vatomsky

Our Finalists include:

Beast-Mother – Sayuri Ayers
On Boxes (And Putting Poems In Them) – Jesica Carson Davis
The Centrifuge Brain Project – Ting Gou
Present Imperfect: Essays – Ona Gritz
Rappaccini’s Garden – Jules Jacob and Sonya Johanson
Whore of Blue – Siham Karami
sacraments – Kimberly Kemler
Something Like Surrender – Heather Lang-Cassera
The Sound of Her Voice – Veronica Montes
Our Lady of Impermanence – Megan Neville
Hitting an All-Time Low – Sarah Nichols
Homer Saw a Wine-Dark Sea – Victoria Nordlund
One Body May Act upon Another at a Distance – Lynda Sexson
Mortar: Montage of a Teaching Life Into Labels More – Christine Taylor
A Long Shoot Sweeping – Mary-Sherman Willis

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’ll now be turning our focus towards getting this year’s six total manuscripts ready for production. Both the Debut Series and Vella Contests re-open in January 2020, and we’re excited to read what next year has in store!