Category Archives: prize winners

Brad Ricca on 3QuarksDaily

Ricca_CoverOne of our favorite Ricca poems, “The Beautiful Sandwich,” was recently featured on the art/science/design blog 3QuarksDaily as their “Thursday Poem.” Click here to experience  the poetic deliciousness (and here to buy a copy of Brad’s equally delectable and prizewinning collection American Mastodon).

New Interview with Sarah Suzor

Suzor_CoverSarah Suzor’s poetry collection The Principle Agent is gorgeous inside and out; we were so thrilled to accept it as the Hudson Prize winner in 2010 (and even happier to accept her forthcoming collaborative manuscript with Travis Cebula, After the Fox). This month, Sarah sat down with Derek Alger at PIF Magazine, and talks about loving California, who inspires her writing, and how The Principle Agent was written:

“As its author I’m completely intertwined in the back-story of each line in The Principle Agent, so when I hear words like “razor-sharp intelligence… unnerving sophistication,” although I appreciate the description very much, I don’t even know how to respond. My favorite lines from the book are: “The sun’s light hit the windowsill. / She looked up and said: not as sorry as I am.” I’ll never tell the truth about the origin of those lines, but I sure get asked a lot of questions about them. I’ve decided my answer to every question that deals with the content of the book is, “Yes.” For example, is the book commenting on the ecological state of the world right now? Yes. Is the book commenting on the economic state of the world right now? Yes. Is the narrator a woman? Yes. Is the narrator a man? Yes. Is the book just a bunch of words thrown together? Yes. Is the book intentionally hyper-deliberate? Yes.

See, that’s why I write poetry. I never have to tell someone, “No.”

Click here to read this entire lovely interview, and here to buy a copy of Principle.

Three BLP Poets Honored by the NEA!

Dear Friends,

 I am filled with pride. Last week, the National Endowment for the Arts announced the 2013 Literature Fellowships in poetry. Not one, not two, but three Black Lawrence Press poets were included! It is my honor and my pleasure to work with Lisa Fay Coutley, Shane McCrae, and David Rigsbee. I’ve asked each of them to write about receiving the fellowships and choose an accompanying poem. Enjoy!

Humbly Yours,
Diane Goettel
Executive Editor, Black Lawrence Press

Lisa Fay Coutley

Coutley author photo

Recently a young creative writing student here at the University of Utah emailed me to say that he needed to interview a writer who’s met with success, and that he’d seen me read the week before and wondered if I’d be his subject. I blushed and laughed and asked myself if I’ve met with success. Most days I feel like I’ve just started down the road I’ll walk my whole life, and I feel at once that I should start running yet that I ought to wander and look around a while. Anyway, he asked me how and why I started writing, what I want to do with my writing, my goals for it — those basic questions that are often the most difficult to answer. Honestly, I have no plans for my writing, I told him, but I sure as hell hope that writing has some plans for me. It’s not something I do. It’s who I am.

Being awarded a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts was one of the greatest phone calls of my life, truly. After I got off the phone I laughed for something like an hour, according to my fourteen-year-old son, who worried that I might have “lost it.” A call like that gives you some reassurance that the path you decided to walk blindly down—in the hopes that another human will hear something you’ve said and laugh, cry, discover with you—the path you’ve second guessed almost daily for a decade, was perhaps the right path after all. I feel fortunate and supported, and I’m eternally grateful for the worry-free time I’ll have next year to get back to doing what I love. Of course, my teenage boys are eternally grateful too. Now they can stop fighting over which one of them gets to eat next year. I joke, but really—this grant means so much to us. What a lovely gift.

On Home

All winter long my sons have pointed guns
in my face and with their mouths popped

the triggers. The oldest wants to spoon me.
The youngest wants to change his name

to the playground pimp. When we circle up
for dinner, I’m careful not to say chicken breast

or meatball or anything they can follow with
that’s what she said. Consider the going rate

for hormones, then picture an eager group
of eBay bidders. I joke, but someone should

tell these boys—in a wake of black mascara,
mothers drive away. All winter long I’ve left

feel-good Post-its on the bathroom mirror,
the espresso maker, the edge of my razor.

Every day, I’ve given myself reasons to stay.


David Rigsbee

Author-photo-RigsbeeThe arts, including the literary arts, are the testament of our long national dream, and The NEA represents a robust public recognition of this fact. As such, the NEA is far from a taxpayer burden, as some would have it. In reality, it is a treasure that helps immeasurably in helping us know what it means to be American through works of the imagination. As for me, it means I will certainly now have time and means to write another collection.  Whether the eventual book will have merited such support is another matter, but the book will come, thanks to the NEA, and someone will notice, thanks to its halo effect.

North State

My father came to me in a dream
to walk with me around a stadium.
Not wearing the jaunty motley of his last months:
the patchwork newsboy cap and paneled shirt
he wore when tearing around town,
smoke streaming from the car window.
“I’m not gonna make it,” he said.
“This may be the last time.
I don’t have the breath for it.”
We cried and smiled all at once.
The apparition faded, and I lapped the spot
before I knew.  That morning
I had stopped to take some pictures
of a new structure:  a five-story globe
affixed to a museum headquarters.
It was Sunday, the crews were gone,
but the wooden scaffolding clung
to the girders, “North State Steel”
spray-painted on each rib.
I had come before the planks were taken away
like cross-hatching erased,
before the world was made,
the panels bolted in place and painted
that planetary blue of earth from space,
that pendant marble
on which everything is always lost
like a glass eye that never sees
what it never ceases to watch.


Shane McCrae


I’m both honored and humbled by the NEA Creative Writing Fellowship, and will be thankful for the rest of my life. Off the top of my head I could name dozens of writers more deserving than me who applied and weren’t as lucky this time around. I hope to use the time and peace of mind the fellowship will afford me to work to deserve it at least a little bit.

Essay on Self-Awareness

What draws me to I wonder grand-

mother what draws me to it to

Writing about you

now that my mind feels going different


How young were you

When you first felt a difference when

Words came out different

for the first time grand-


mother the first time it     wasn’t that you

Couldn’t remember the name

but anything     / About a face you knew

grandmother whose


Face was the first face gone

Or did you not know anything was gone

until you saw the face

and everything was gone


How much of you was lost

In faces then

you knew but couldn’t name

And was that any did it feel


like evidence

that you had loved and had been loved

grandmother that so much of you

was someone else

Jacob Appel wins the Dundee International Book Prize

Some stellar news: Jacob Appel won the Dundee International Book Prize for his manuscript The Man Who Wouldn’t Stand Up. Congrats, Jacob! A well-deserved recognition. Stay tuned for a lot more of this talented author…we’ve accepted more than one of his manuscripts, including the Hudson prizewinner Scouting for the Reaper, and can’t wait to share them with you.

New Review of PURGATORY

The Seattle Post-Intelligencer has wonderful things to say about Amelia Martens’ prizewinning chapbook: “Amelia Martens has resurrected the idea of purgatory in her volume of poetry by the same name: Purgatory. And it is hella good stuff. …Not only is Martens a constructive genius, she’s a talented writer. Some of her descriptions are better than good or great. They approach awesome. Like this one: ‘Across the field, you can hear bees warming up their wings, the hive vibrating as a thousand tiny tongues lick dry mouths.’ That’s visceral writing, which takes talent and, let’s be honest, a certain knack. And Martens has both in copious quantities.” Read the entire review here, and buy a copy of this fantastic chap here.



Corduroy Books recently reviewed Charlotte Pence’s prizewinning chapbook, and writes “Ms Pence’s weirdly intriguing, come-backly-tugging book is fixated on is this light/heat source we’re drawn toward and, simultaneously, whatever we traded for the clarity or shine of fire-light. Period. It’s ultimately a book of rigorous measurement, a thin chapbook attempting in its way to consider something like transaction—wildness or elemental aspects for the ordered clarity that comes with taming chaos, the ambiguous could-be of the unknown for the fenced-in boundariness of definition. It’s a weirdly masterful little book.” Read the entire review here, and buy The Branches… here.


NewPages raves about Charlotte Pence’s “nuanced” and “refined” poetry chapbook: “Varied in form and length, each poem adds another link to the narrative chain that brings together a complex and sophisticated extended poem that dwells on our evolutionary desire to communicate…Displaying a keen sense for nuanced storytelling while remaining in the realm of carefully refined poetic language, Pence creates multiple narrative lines within the limitations of the chapbook. Each condensation of language allows the reader to read and re-read the chapbook, piecing together new arcs every time.” Buy it here.

Early Bird Special!

Each year Black Lawrence Press awards The Big Moose Prize for an unpublished novel. The prize is open to new, emerging, and established writers. The winner of this contest will receive book publication, a $1,000 cash award, and ten copies of the book.

Deadline: January 31, 2013
Entry Fee: $25

Early Bird Deadline: November 30, 2012
Early Bird Entry Fee: $20

For more information about The Big Moose Prize, follow this link:

I was so excited to win the Big Moose Prize. I’ve been a fan of Black Lawrence Press for a long time…It’s such a prestigious, independent press, and I feel it’s earned me a lot of respect in the publishing world.

-Jen Michalski,
2012 Big Moose Prize Winner

We look forward to reading your novel!

Reminder: BLP at the Boston Book Festival: Tomorrow!

If you’ll be near Boston this weekend, make sure to visit Copley Square and the Boston Book Festival! BLP will be holding court at Booth 14 from 10am-5pm, showing off our ridiculously awesome catalog. Special bonus: author Helen Marie Casey, whose biography of Florence Hosmer is so gorgeous, will sign copies of her book at noon. Hope to see you there!

TJ Beitelman and Black Lawrence Press Team Up for a Fourth Time

I’ve been asked a number of times to describe the best part of my job as an editor. My answer: discovery. What I love about being an editor is also what I love about being a reader–finding an author who has written something wonderful, something that shifts the way I look at the world, the people in it, my place in it, the words that I use to talk about it. I have very fond memories of reading, for the first time, authors who would go on to becoming lifelong companions–Steinbeck, Atwood, Moore. Discovering their books for the first time was a delicious experience. Not only did I love what I read, but I knew that there was more to come.

As an editor, finding a true gem in the submissions pile is a thrill. And I experienced that thrill when I first read Pilgrims: A Love Story by T.J. Beitelman.  Pilgrims was an entry in the Spring, 2008 Black River Chapbook Competition. It was clear after a few pages of reading that this manuscript was going to be a top contender. By the time I finished reading, I had a very strong sense that I had found the winner. We finished reading all of the submissions to the competition and shortly thereafter contacted TJ to let him know that he’d won.

But Pilgrims was just the beginning. In 2010, Black Lawrence Press accepted In Order to Form a More Perfect Union, TJ’s full-length poetry collection. There are many things that I love about this collection, but I will borrow a line from Maurice Manning’s blurb to summarize: “The reach of this exuberant and anguished book is potent, and made more so by the force of restraint.” In short, the magic was still there. And then some.

But this would not be the last time the work of TJ Beitelman would hit me in the heartbone. After we accepted Union, TJ sent us a novel he’d be working on. John the Revelator took over my world as I read. It’s due out next year, so stay tuned. Then, just last week, I read Americana, TJ’s most recent chapbook. I’ll leave you with this, one of the poems from the new collection, which I accepted for publication mere hours after reading. But first, I’d like to return to that question about the best part of my job. The best part is discovering authors like TJ Beitelman who wow me from the beginning and keep returning with more and even better work.


Diane Goettel
Executive Editor, Black Lawrence Press


       Rose:           I’m all turned around Charlie—which way is the east shore?
       Charlie:     The way we’re swimming old girl!

Had I not been zooming through the Cosmos,
as yet unfettered by material forms, I could
have told Bogey: It’s always the detonators
that take some doing. Everything’s a powder
keg: a ratty vessel taking on water or a thimble-
sized universe. No matter—it’s all waiting
to combust. The trick is the tinder. The spark.
The thing that transforms potential to kinetic.
Could be, yes, cartridges, nails, boxes of soft
wood—a makeshift torpedo at the water line.
But why think small? After all, something
touched off the exponential cosmic explosion
we’re swimming through. What’re the odds
it was a broken boat, floating in wait? Billions
and billions to one. It had to be something
like a Rose: sharp-tongued, chiseled, gorgeous
with a dirty face, obvious in her catholic charms.
In the face of such a face, even Kaiser’s doomed
navy men would freely choose to do the deed,
dutifully pledge to let no man put it asunder,
even as the impregnable world they know erupts.