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2016 David Martinson – Meadowhawk Prize

I’m pleased to announce the winner of the 2016 David Martinson – Meadowhawk Prize: The Frozen Harbor by Michael Hettich.

The poems in this collection explore inner and outer realities, past and future times, moving between them as easily as we might step through any door. These mysterious and continuously shifting realms that Hettich navigates—landscapes of memory, dream, grief, love, and hope—reveal the potential the human mind has to imagine a better way forward, a foil for the unimaginative and greedy way we have of exploiting our wonder-filled world. In fact, I believe Hettich’s poems invite us to pretend “we’re not lost”—and by “lost” I mean Lost with a capital “L.” In a time when we need poets more than ever, we can be thankful that this poet has kept at this craft of transcribing these newly imagined worlds into poems, “to sing them somehow / out of the mind / into the actual world.”
Look for the published book around April of next year. Meanwhile, here’s one poem from The Frozen Harbor:

The Field

I woke that dawn to ghost horses standing
in the trees at the edge of our field,
watching our house from the sides of their faces
and fading as I walked out through the cold wet grass
to welcome them. Still, there were hoof prints in the dirt
by the trees, and still there was a sweet smell
hanging in the first light, and a stillness.

I don’t know how to behave around horses.

But you, my love, have ridden from the darkness
of dawn to the darkness of evening on a horse,
on a thin road whose name you have tried to forget.
So I didn’t tell you about them.

Instead I let you sleep until the day had settled
into its small bodies. Your dreams had been a tunnel,
you told me, a dark seam through a mountain
where wild creatures lived unaware of us humans
or as though they were the only real humans in the world.

That evening, I cut up apples and left them
by those trees, and soon the horses came.
There were thousands of birds there too, telling stories
we couldn’t understand yet, as we got up together

and walked through the tall grass toward them, scaring them
suddenly into the darkness.

Michael Hettich is the author of numerous books of poetry. His most recent are Systems of Vanishing (University of Tampa Press, 2014), The Animals Beyond Us(New Rivers Press, 2011) and Like Happiness (Anhinga Press, 2010). He teaches at Miami Dade College.

Thanks, as always, to the many other poets who submitted manuscripts. In addition to the prize winner, I also want to acknowledge two finalists this year: You Just Have To Look Around by Doren Robbins and Fate & Knives by Maureen Evans.

Manuscripts for the 2017 David Martinson – Meadowhawk Prize can be submitted April through August, 2017.

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New Publication: A Different Wakeful Animal by Susan Cohen

Cohen_cover(April27-2016)I’m pleased to announce the publication of  A Different Wakeful Animal by Susan Cohen. Winner of the 2015 David Martinson—Meadowhawk Prize, this collection takes on profound questions in language that catches the ear and the imagination. Arising out of wild fires and ash, birds and shadows, deaths in the family and lives in the natural world, these poems investigate what perishes and what might remain.

Susan Cohen is also the author of two poetry chapbooks, a non-fiction book, and Throat Singing, a full-length collection of poems. She was a newspaper reporter, professor at the University of California Graduate School of Journalism, and contributing writer to the Washington Post Magazine before receiving a John S. Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in 1998-9, where she divided her time between studying poetry and bioethics. She lives in Berkeley, California.

A Different Wakeful Animal (85 pages; 9781945063015) is available from Red Dragonfly Press and Small Press Distribution.

Comments on A Different Wakeful Animal

“There are pleasures in almost every poem in Susan Cohen’s excellent A Different Wakeful Animal, pleasures that arise out of an alertness to the natural world, and the original phrasing she seeks and regularly finds. Her descriptions constitute what I want to call intelligence — someone in the act of getting the world right, making it ours as well as hers. In her “Ode to the Brown Pelican,” she writes, “…today I catch you/on your own swimming the air / with the equanimity of a leaf, / immune to high ambition, / but alert to small, / quick opportunities.” Such opportunities, taken advantage of, are Cohen’s achievement, which is considerable, and, dare I say, give “high ambition” a good name.” – Stephen Dunn
“A clear, distinctive voice and developed imagination leads us through Susan Cohen’s A Different Wakeful Animal where she works her way into loss with the movement and song of the many creatures she evokes. There are birds innumerable and arrayed, dragonflies, and frogs, but the speaker, too, is animaled, as are we all. We are reminded of this truth by death and desire, which is to say hunger, and this very human speaker who cannot give in or doesn’t totally trust this animal-side. This tightly-knit collection of poems asks us to interrogate our humanity, looking to find what has become taloned, what has become plumed.” – Dorianne Laux
“A sense of just proportion distinguishes the best writers, and Susan Cohen, a poet with a world view and a firm and unassuming vision for our place within it, demonstrates that sense. No matter where her vision alights, she illuminates a scene; whether it be the irreparable damage of a firestorm that consumes her family’s world, or the eeriness of a southern California night that skulks her north, she shadows her curiosity to the place where the unknown opens, if not to clarity, to fruition. Refusing to lead her reader into the dark basement of poetry to aimlessly wander by association, she composes with such precision that the deepest mysteries of contemporary life become companionable, and the companionship becomes that of a wise and trusted friend.” – Sandra Alcosser

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2015 David Martinson – Meadowhawk Prize

I’m pleased to announce the winner of the 2015 David Martinson – Meadowhawk PrizeA Different Wakeful Animal by Susan Cohen.

The language, the word choice, the pattern and overall, well-wrought texture of these poems, caught my ear early and made this collection a pleasure to read and re-read. From wild fires and ash, birds and shadows, deaths in the family, trees and artwork, from all these facts Cohen fashions “something natural.” This is a solid, remarkable collection. I like it a lot and think you will too. Look for the published book around April of next year. Meanwhile, here’s a poem to hold you until then:

Nothing Roughly Useful like Oats

I get lost in poems—their lilac
smoke, their bitter mirrors.
I love a poem’s sealed chamber
at 3AM when mine’s the one
lamp shining. I’ve been lost
in Lisbon with Pessoa, and
under Lorca’s murderous
New York City sky. One year,
I wandered Andalusia lost,
and climbed into a pasture.
A stallion galloped at me; spooked
us both. Poetry’s the kind of map
that gets you lost and lets you
stay there, a black horse tumbling
towards you huge and fast—
your right arm flying up and out—
as if you could stop a horse
who swerves only when it’s close
enough to see you carry nothing—
leaving you its gallop as a gift.

Susan Cohen is the author of two poetry chapbooks, a non-fiction book, and Throat Singing (WordTech;2012), a full-length collection of poems. She was a newspaper reporter, journalism professor, and contributing writer to the Washington Post Magazine before winning a Knight Fellowship at Stanford University in 1998-9, where she divided her time between studying poetry and bioethics. Since then, she’s won awards from the Fund for Investigative Journalism and the National Association of Science Writers, as well as numerous poetry prizes, including the Acorn-Rukeyser Chapbook Award, New Millennium Writings Best Poem, Rita Dove Poetry Award from the Center for Women Writers, Anderbo Poetry Prize, Literal Latte Poetry Prize, multiple Atlanta Review International Publication Prizes, and the Milton Kessler Memorial Poetry Prize from Harpur Palate. She has an MFA from Pacific University and lives in Berkeley. To learn more about Susan Cohen and her poetry, please visit her website:

Thanks are due, also, to the many other poets who submitted manuscripts this year. The abundance of well-written and profound manuscripts makes the task of reading enjoyable and rewarding, but it also makes the final choice of a single manuscript a serious undertaking. I was so impressed by the submissions, I decided to name finalists this year: Heartwood by Mary Logue; Burning Windfall Branches by James Silas Rogers; In and Out of Rough Water by Jayne Marek; Faceted by William Greenwood; Sawhorse by Tony Barfield; and The Dream about Farming by Knud Sørensen (translated by Michael Goldman).

Manuscripts for the 2016 David Martinson – Meadowhawk Prize can be submitted April through August, 2016.

Scott King

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Dave Etter (1928 – 2015)

Dave Etter – author photo from Electric Avenue (Spoon River Poetry Press, 1988)
Dave Etter – author photo from Electric Avenue (Spoon River Poetry Press, 1988)

Dave Etter, one of the great and original poets of the midwest, died Friday, July 10th. His funeral will be held in Lanark, Illinois, on Wednesday, July 22 at 2:00 pm, reception to follow.

I met Etter for the first time October 13, 1995 in Marshall. Following his reading, he signed a copy of Alliance, Illinois — adding “on a fine afternoon in Minnesota.” Later, that same fine day, I’d get a glimpse of Etter seated next to Bill Holm at the Silver Dollar bar, an iconic memory.

A second meeting came years later. In September, 2012, I drove to Lanark to deliver copies of Etter’s Blue Rain. What a memorable visit that was — meeting Peggy, scratching Georgie the cat under the chin, listening to Etter talk and tell stories.

Publishing Dave Etter will remain one of the great privileges of my life. A lasting regret will be not following through on plans for another visit to record Etter reading a selection of his poems. I don’t shed too many tears, but a few fell this morning as I paged through a few of my favorite books and read some favorite poems. This poet was one of a kind, and will be missed.


The warm sun shines
on the courthouse steps,
on the water tank,
on the Dream Cafe,
on the fire station,
on the grocery store,
on the railroad tracks,
on the senior center,
on the high school.

For eleven days
the sun didn’t shine
and the town went gloomy.
But it shines today,
and oh so brightly,
on the thick red beard
of the sickbed barber
who has not been outside
for fourteen weeks.
So see him now,
with a green John Deere cap
on his bald head,
puffing his new pipe
in his wheelchair,
in his pajama pants,
in his orange sweatshirt,
in his unlaced shoes,
in the red-bearded sun.

The warm sun shines
on the Brethren church,
on the gas station,
on the post office,
on the Prairie State Bank,
on the library,
on the barbershop,
on the antique store,
on the graveyard.

– Dave Etter, from Blue Rain (Red Dragonfly Press, 2012)

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Summer Celebration of the Arts

Saturday, July 11, the Anderson Center in Red Wing will host its 16th annual “Summer Celebration of the Arts” from 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. This is one of the premier arts festivals in the state and showcases the work of more than 100 local and regional artists, craftspeople, writers, and musicians. Work featured includes paintings, pottery, furniture, weavings, jewelry, wood carvings, photographs, textiles, stained glass, and much, much more.

As part of this celebration, Red Dragonfly Press will be hosting poetry readings by three, prize-winning poets.

  • 2:00 pm Joseph Rios will read. Rios is a current Anderson Center resident 2015 John K. Walsh Residency Fellowship
  • 2:30 pm Francine Sterle will read from What Thread? (2014 David Martinson–Meadowhawk Prize)
  • 3:00 pm Justin Watkins will read from Bottom-Right Corner (2014 Emergence Chapbook Prize)

Admission to the Anderson Center celebration is $3.00 for adults, $1.00 for students, free to Anderson Center members.

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David Martinson – Meadowhawk Prize

I’m pleased to announce the winner of the 2014 David Martinson – Meadowhawk PrizeWhat Thread? by Francine Sterle.

What Thread? is an ambitious collection, but also dazzling. I was immediately fascinated by the variegated nature of this collection. “From well-fed flowers/to the wrecked bouquet,” the poetry moves back and forth, from elegy and loss toward quest and question. Look for What Thread? around April next year. Meanwhile, here’s a small sample from the poem ‘One Thought Attracts Another’:

“I applaud the green foliage of our language.
Who knows what we’ll find on the other side?
This is the fugue that repeats then crumbles:
our numbered days,
death’s ashen spark.
A branch becomes a vein.
A spider embellishes its web.
This rain is ruin and our ruin rides.
But after days of it,
after the serpentine
passages of water dry,
after marsh marigolds and wild violets,
up come the moon-faced sunflowers
drunk with light.”

A native of Minnesota, Francine Sterle holds an MFA degree in poetry from Warren Wilson College and has studied writing in a variety of settings, including Oxford University, Spoleto Writers’ Workshop, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. She has three previous collections: The White Bridge (Poetry Harbor, 1999), Every Bird Is One Bird (Tupelo Press, 2001), and Nude in Winter (Tupelo Press, 2006). She lives in Iron, Minnesota, on the West Two River.

Thanks are due, also, to the many other poets who submitted manuscripts this year. I was overwhelmed, but as I set about reading, continually surprised, often moved, and, finally, downright astonished by the number of superb submissions. And while the quality and variety made the reading enjoyable, it makes choosing a single manuscript downright daunting.

Manuscripts for the 2015 David Martinson – Meadowhawk Prize can be submitted beginning in April, 2015.

Scott King

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Emergence Chapbook Series Prize

I’m pleased to announce the winner of the 2014 Emergence Chapbook Series PrizeBottom-Right Corner by Justin Watkins of Rochester, Minnesota. This collection brings together a number of poems about the land and quirky inhabitants of southeast Minnesota.

According to Justin’s bio, he was raised in the top-right corner of the state, but has lived and worked in the bottom-right corner since 1994. He enjoys sitting with his wife beneath a walnut tree and watching their kids wonder and learn. Another enjoyment is hiking and fishing the trout streams in southeast Minnesota, but Justin admits to spending a good number of his summer days looking in on common carp as well. All good pastimes for a poet.

So congratulations to Justin, but I also want to thank everyone who submitted chapbooks. The range and accomplishment of the entries, all from Minnesota, is promising and impressive. Manuscripts for the 2015 Emergence Chapbook Series Prize can be submitted beginning in March.

Scott King