Tag Archives: Charlotte Pence

National Poetry Month Spotlight: Charlotte Pence


********—Funeral sacrifice in Sulawesi, Indonesia, June 2011

The blood, too fresh for flies, a newly skinned
Skull left to dry, but otherwise this dulled
Dirt-patch where animals are sacrificed
Is just another piece of empty ground.

I’m ten thousand miles from where I grew up
By S.D. Johnson Elementary.
At recess, we would search for a kidnapped girl,
Also named Charlotte. We each hoped to get

Lucky and be the one to find her skull.
See, Dad would say, We’re all the same. Don’t act
So goody-goody. Who doesn’t wanna see
The fat behind skin? Watch a person die?

In front of me, the coffin shimmers under
The spread of red silk hand-stitched with one-inch
Mirrors. If I approached, I’d see pieces
Of myself. So, I watch a boy and his wiggly

Muscles struggling to lift a pig who’s strapped
To bamboo—its grill and grave. It thrashes out
Of its rope, which sends the men scrambling away.
And right when I cheer this pig’s escape, a warmth

Wets my leg as a machete opens a buffalo’s throat,
Its blood spraying like water from a sprinkler.
Dad loved to tell me what he could do with
A beer bottle’s broken neck. Take the glassed

Peaks to the throat:
********************It gives like a pillow.
I’m not a pillow, I’d say.
********************Not today.
Tell me whose neck you took the bottle to?
********************Homeless guy. By the river after I bought him
********************a beer. And what you need to remember, Miss
********************Goody Goody: No one ever noticed.

Q: What is your writing process?

A: There’s nothing fancy to my writing process: I close the door. And I get to it. Since I revise heavily, a draft is always waiting for me, which makes my office an inviting place.

Q: Is there an exciting poet (emerging or established) whose work you just discovered this year?

A: Joseph Harrington’s Things Come On: An Amneoir (Wesleyan University Press) is an exciting first book of poems. The book combines memoir and amnesia reflecting on the speaker’s mother’s breast cancer and the Watergate scandal. What I love about it is the inclusiveness; we have condolence cards, political transcripts, diary entries, etcetera, that all result in a tightly interwoven whole. I wrote about the book on my blog.

Q: If you could go on a one-week writing retreat anywhere in the world, where would you travel?

A: I adore writing residencies and have enjoyed a few month-long visits to residencies in Virginia (VCCA) and Costa Rica (The David and Julia White Artist Colony). If I could choose my dream residency, I would return to this tiny island in Malaysia that my husband and I visited a few years ago. It’s called Pulau Pehentian Besar. When the boat pulled up to our cove of six little thatched huts that didn’t have electricity or plumbing, I remember feeling giddy about the beauty and the isolation. There was nothing there but the sea and the sun and the palms. Our hut’s windows were simply holes. At night, we would swim to cool off, and the cove was full of ocean phosphorescence so that as we moved, our bodies sparked. Yes, that’s where I want to return and write.

Charlotte Pence is the editor of the newly released Poetics of American Song Lyrics (University Press of Mississippi). She also is the winner of the Black River Chapbook competition for The Branches, the Axe, the Missing, which will be released by Black Lawrence Press in May.

National Poetry Month Spotlight: Charlotte Pence


Yeah, I’m having to watch that right now, he said.
“That” being the slow death of his dad.

He was talking at the pool to this woman with a prison tat,
Her boobs somehow
Up and full as two oranges.
Bikini tops are amazing things, he thought,
Not fully understanding the simplicity of synthetics.

*************What she said next, the woman sunbathing
*************With the tits and prison tat,
Was that traditional Japanese Buddhists believe
No one is fully alive until the 7th birthday.
*******Life something you become filled with—
*******Like water pouring from a pitcher into the body.

Dying is slow, too, he thought, remembering his dad
Pissing himself by the packaged Swiss
And shredded Mozzarella in the Kroger aisle.
That darkness spreading across the crotch of his tan pants
*******And moving down his right leg in a wobbly line
*******Like water pouring from a pitcher.
The look in his eyes: scared, apologetic.
And then he blinked. Smiled.
*******Began humming “In the Mood—”
*******A song he’d danced to with all the girls in the forties.
*******He was no longer there, no longer in Kroger,
*******When he stepped forward and reached out both arms
*******Toward the brightly lit rows of cheese,
*******All the while humming, Don’t keep me waiting,
*******Don’t keep me waiting,
*******When I’m in the mood.

(Poem originally published in North American Review.)

Q. Where is your favorite place to write?

A: Any place with a closed door.

Q: Do you remember the first poem you read that really blew your mind?

A: “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden.

Q: What is the most interesting thing that has happened to you in the last 12 months?

A: Most interesting thing in the last 12 months to have happened to me? My husband, Adam Prince (who is also publishing with BLP!), and I backpacked in Indonesia last summer for six weeks. During one of those weeks, we stayed on a boat and would anchor about three times a day to scuba dive.  On one dive alone, we saw eighteen giant manta rays. It was a “cleaning station” for the rays on the bottom of the sea floor, and we just held on to rocks and watched them watching us.

Charlotte Pence won the Fall 2010 Black River Chapbook competition and will have her chapbook published in the spring of 2012 with Black Lawrence Press.  She is also the editor of a forthcoming collection of essays titled The Poetics of American Song Lyrics to be published in January by University Press of Mississippi.

Charlotte Pence Wins the Black River Chapbook Competition

The editors at Black Lawrence Press are very pleased to announce that Charlotte Pence has won the Black River Chapbook Competition for her manuscript Branches. Charlotte will receive $500 in prize money and a publication contract from BLP.

Charlotte Pence is a Ph.D. candidate in creative writing at the University of Tennessee and former editor of Grist: The Journal for Writers. She most recently received the 2009 Discovered Voices award from Iron Horse Literary Journal given to one graduate student in the country for poetry each year. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Kenyon Review Online, Prairie Schooner, North American Review, Denver Quarterly, RATTLE, Tar River, and many other journals. She also has an anthology forthcoming with University Press of Mississippi titled Lyrical Traditions: The Intersections Between Poems and Songs.

Many thanks to everyone who participated in the Black River Chapbook Competition and congratulations to all of the poets and writers who made it to the finalist rounds.



BRCC Finalists Announced

We’re very pleased to announce the finalists for the Fall, 2010 Black River Chapbook Competition. Thanks so much to everyone who participated and congratulations to those who made it to the finalist rounds. We look forward to announcing the winner which we plan to do in short order.

And the finalists are…

Poetry Finalists

Charlotte Pence- Branches
Damon McLaughlin- Olduvai Theory
Erin Bertram- Stumblefoot
Jaimie Gusman- The Anyjar
Martin Rock- Notes After a Harlequin Apocalypse
Nicholaus Patnaude- Uncle Monster’s Rafters
Rachael Lyon- The Normal Heart and How It Works
Rebecca Givens- Tender Me Now
Sandra Faulkner- Hello Kitty Goes to College
Sean Hill- Minnesota Blues

Poetry Semi-Finalists

Adam Million- Dead Reckoning
Adam Vines and Allen Jih-According to Discretion
Caroline Klocksiem Circumstances of the House & Moon
Cathryn Cofell & Karla Huston- Split Personality
David Hawkins- The Dark Adaptation
K. M. A. Sullivan- Bodies in Pieces
Marjorie Manwaring- What to Make of a Diminished Thing
Martin Rock and Tricia Taaca- Vertibratariat
Rachel Mehl- Letter to Amber in November
Steven Tarlow- Bitter Herbs

Fiction Finalists

Alexandra Chasin- Under the Susurrus
Heather Clitheroe- I Bet I Can Find a Million People Who Hate Slab Cakes
Simon Smith- The Only Reasonable Explanation
Stace Budzko- Gimme, Gimme, Gimme
Stefanie Freele- Buccaneers

Fiction Semi-Finalists

Barbara Milton- Resurrections
Jill Widner- The Underwater Room
Jill Widner- The Guest House in Old Camp
Ryder Collins- We were listening for the shattering
Steve Mitchell- How to Pray

Black River Chapbook Competition Long List

Many congratulations to the people who have made it to the long list for the Spring, 2010 Black River Chapbook Competition. We will announce a short list and the winner of the competition before the end of the month. Drumroll, please…

Before the Rain – Jill Widner
Echolocation – Adam Hayden
First Service – Phillip Sterling
Frogs, Snakes, And All Of The Children – Barbara Milton
Guava Launchers – Stefanie Freele
How to Set a House on Fire – Stace Budzko
Iris In – Kryssa Schemmerling
Last Night – Charlotte Pence
Notebook of the Early Millennium – Jesse Nathan
Purgatory – Amelia Martens
Second Story of Your Body – Angela Hume
Sketches of Bodies at the Næsti Bar – Jane Varley
Slippage – Christopher Munde
Some Other Sort of Hunger – Nicole Reid
Stone Belly Girl – James Granger
Terra Australis – Lucas Street
The Company of Animals – Amy McCann
The Five Points of Performance – Chris Mohar
The Flasher – Adam Peterson
The Iron Mountain – Michael Haeflinger
The Other World – Cassie Schmitz
The Prince of Denmark – Jay Kauffmann
The Underwater Room – Jill Widner
The Woman We Imagine – Andrew Touhy
What to Make of a Diminished Thing – Marjorie Manwaring