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From the left: Nava, Meghan, Justin, and Jeremy. Photograph: Nancy Crampton.
Boston Review, in partnership with the 92nd Street Y Unterberg Poetry Center, proudly presents the winners of the 2014 “Discovery” Poetry Contest/Joan Leiman Jacobson Poetry Prizes. Now in its sixth decade, the contest recognizes and celebrates the achievements of poets who have not yet published a first book. Many of the contest’s past winners—including Mary Jo Bang, Nick Flynn, Debora Greger, and Mark Strand—have gone on to distinguished writing careers.
This year’s competition received a record number of submissions—more than 1,300—all of which were read carefully and anonymously by preliminary judges Eduardo C. Corral and Timothy Donnelly. After much deliberating, judges John Ashbery, Susan Mitchell, and Rosanna Warren awarded this year’s prizes to Justin Boening (Lewisburg, PA), Meghan Maguire Dahn (New York, NY), Nava EtShalom (Philadelphia, PA), and Jeremy Schmidt (Los Angeles, CA). The judges praised the strength of the entries overall, noting that the final selection was unusually difficult, but also a great pleasure, to make. The three runners-up are Kristina Martino (Sunderland, MA), Chad Bennett (Austin, TX), and Elizabeth de León Barrera (Portland, OR). The winners read from their work at the Unterberg Poetry Center in New York on May 5, 2014.
Gravity, always plump under the atmosphere, welcomes a small cup.
My hand is always small. My knee is warm enough.
2. Pinching in a Passive Fashion
as you would a butterfly or heirloom lace
as you would a sleeping child’s earlobe
3. Elegantly Draped Ring Finger on Otherwise Nonchalant Hand
I was the aristocrat’s first daughter:
when I pumped water from the well, I did it with grace.
4. Left Hand Receptive to the Northern Watersnake
Where I am from the best prayer is a flexible spine.
5. Hands Perched as though above Tangerines
The egg timer is a holy thing,
the bell—a small crisis.
6. Two Clenched Fists
in the Folds of an Opera Cape
7. Holding an Absent Object in the One Remaining Hand
Empty out your devotion: this is the only reasonable approach.
8. Hand Cascading, as if to Feed Lion
To eat a small thing is to submit entirely to time.
Approaching through the mist I spot a deer,
unstartled, at the border of Schoodic Park
and the nearest private lot.
Normally I’d challenge her to a contest
or snap a picture with my phone,
but it’s been an awfully tough day and she
appears in good spirits, full-bodied,
of sound mind, etc. So I think it best to roll
over and stiffen: to wait, lying down,
for her to approach slowly, curiously, ever less
cautiously until she’s feet away, lured
by the smell of the cashews in my palm,
until she’s practically astride me, until
she’s walking then prancing atop,
then stomping my body, prone in the grass,
crushing me out, step by hoofed step.
Meghan Maguire Dahn is an MFA student in poetry at Colubia University and a poetry reader for The New Yorker.
Jeremy Schmidt is a PhD student in English at UCLA. His work has appeared in The Believer.
Nava EtShalom is a PhD student in English at the University of Pennsylvania. Her poems have appeared in Meridian and Blackbird.
Justin Boening, Stadler Fellow at Bucknell University, is author of the chapbook Self-Portrait as Missing Person.
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