We received more than 500 submissions of 1-3 poems each this year. With room for fewer than 30 poems in the journal, we had to make some tough choices.
In the end, I chose Raphael Kosek's "When the saints come among us" as this year's prize-winner because of its almost-understated combination of straightforward, even folksy language, lovely natural imagery, and surreal, almost mystical perspective. I felt that the closing in particular reached right into my body. Like the slim blade in her simile, it punctured some inner wall of illusion or delusion, lifting me out of my immediate surroundings and into that dreaming, timeless place where the best poetry can sometimes take us. It left me shaking, blinking away tears, shrugging off the kind of chills that can only be summoned by words crafted so finely as to connect one consciousness directly to another via page or screen.
I've re-read the piece any number of times since first opening Ms. Kosek's submission file, and it still hits me the same way. A quiet sense of sadness lingers in images such as the leaves dropping unceremoniously, done / with summer's hoopla, and her description of the beauty of mourning doves going unnoticed until we catch just a glimpse of their feathered breasts glowing pink in morning sun, if we are lucky. The loveliness of these images stands in sharp contrast to the acute sense of the ineffable power and mystery of nature, and its expression in our shared experience of embodiment, that Raphael Kosek gifts us with in the poem's closing lines.
It was a difficult process to whittle all the fine work we received this year down to just one poem for the award. In the end, I went with my gut and, pierced as it was by the incisive power of her deceptively simple phrasing, the choice was clear.
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Raphael Kosek, our 2017 Creative Nonfiction Prize Winner, is 2019 Dutchess County NY Poet Laureate. Her chapbook, Rough Grace, won Concrete Wolf Chapbook's 2014 Prize, and Brick Road Poetry Press has published her poetry collection, American Mythology. Her work has appeared in many journals and magazines including Big Muddy Poetry East, The Chattahoochee Review, Catamaran, Still Point Arts Quarterly, and Southern Humanities Review. Her chapbook, Rough Grace, won the 2014 Concrete Wolf Chapbook Competition and one of her essays tied for first place in the 2016 Eastern Iowa Review Lyric Essay Contest. She teaches American Lit and Creative Writing at Marist College and Dutchess Community College.
Read Raphael Kosek's poem and other works