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15 Bytes Book Awards: Poetry Finalists Announced

bookawards1Currently in its third year, the 15 Bytes Book Awards is an annual program to celebrate the best Utah books in Fiction, Poetry and Art.

This year’s nominees for the 15 Bytes Book Awards are juried by members of the 15 Bytes staff and guest judges. In May, we will be announcing the winners, who will receive a modest cash award.

To be eligible for the 2015 15 Bytes Book Award, a nominated book must be written by a Utah author and/or have a Utah theme or setting; be published in 2014; be professionally published and bound, and assigned an ISBN. Books are eligible in three categories: Fiction (50,000 words minimum), Poetry (48 pages minimum), Art books (20 pages minimum).

Today we announce the finalists this year, in no particular order, in poetry.




Bastard HeartRich and organic, Raphael Dagold’s Bastard Heart offers readers an exquisite glimpse into the silent and invisible stirrings of that most unpredictable mechanism, the human heart. Sometimes diaphanously veiled in membranes of carefully chosen linguistic cypher, sometimes opened to the air, laid bare, each of the pieces in Dagold’s collection sends insightful shafts of light into the poet’s secret spaces, and into our own as well. As these shimmering pieces move and shift and pulse, Dagold considers all of the ghostly workings of his spiritual interiority, and we would be tempted to think of these poems, in a way, as hallucinatory, did we not so greatly identify with the seed of truth discovered in each clever piece, if we did not so raptly experience its surreptitious growth into notions more complex and profound.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Raphael Dagold has won the 2014 American Literary Review Nonfiction Contest, the 2015 Mountain West Writers’ Contest in Poetry, was a finalist for the 2015 North American Review James Hearst Poetry Prize, and received the Ramona Cannon Award for Teaching Excellence in the Humanities. His poems, fables, and photographs have appeared in Frank, Northwest Review, Born, Western Humanities Review, Indiana Review, and other publications. He holds an MFA in Poetry from the University of Oregon and currently is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Utah. Read an interview of Dagold in 15 Bytes.



vivariumNatasha Saje’s book Vivarium is a collection that uses the alphabet as a motif. The poems follow letters of the alphabet, starting with “Anathema,” written as a curse on the speaker to be cut off from all religion “so that I may live as if I am already dead.” “Z” is the second to last poem that includes lines such as “Praise the striped skin of the wild ass for circling eternity” and “Let these weevils chew cheatgrass.” Vivarium, as the title suggests, is an ecosystem–albeit, not of plants or animals, but of letters and words. As such, the poems move in tone from playful, to curious, to clinical or mournful. In the poem “Notes on Milk River” the speaker is aware of the declining health of her companion even as they both try to console themselves with the potency of water that is “more healing than Vichy.” This poem contrasts with “Alibi,” a clever list poem of justifications for spent time. While “Notes on Milk River” resonates with the story of loss and how one can’t control the inevitable, “Alibi” is simply a riff on the title’s meaning. It is this versatility of tone that creates a sense of surprise in this book. Sometimes the letters are obvious guides, leading to list poems starting with that consonant or vowel; at other times, finding the association with a specific letter is more nuanced. Regardless, the reader follows Saje’s journey–moving between subjective and objective points of view, hesitant to embrace either perspective, but instead appreciating the dense linguistic ecosystem of these poems.

Natasha Sajé is a professor of English at Westminster College in Salt Lake City where she also curates the Anne Newman Sutton Weeks Poetry Series. In addition, Sajé is a member of the poetry faculty at the Vermont College of Fine Arts M.F.A. in Writing Program. She is the author of three books of poems, a book of poetry criticism, and many essays. Her work has been honored with the Robert Winner and Alice Fay di Castagnola Awards, a Fulbright fellowship, the Campbell Corner Poetry Prize, and the Utah Book Award.


in-the-museum-of-coming-and-goingIn the first section of Laura Stott’s collection In the Museum of Coming and Going (New Issues) the reader discovers each poem serves as an exhibit for an animal as diverse as those on Noah’s boat. The animals and people in this book are there waiting in the darkness to be seen, to be looked at, and studied. Many of these poems could be considered a modern bestiary, through colorful ribbons of description and surprise this expansive display of the natural world becomes a lush, tangible ground that is speckled masterfully with the accessible and abstract. The second part of the book could be considered the historical atlas and fairytale wing of the Museum of Coming and Going. Place emerges at the forefront of this section and whimsical creatures, animals, and ancestors are scattered throughout poignant narrations and the tone remains ever as vibrant as the proceeding section. The reader doesn’t have to look at Stott’s collection as one would look at extravagant displays in a museum. There is an understated tension to these poems, and the tone of the book begins almost in a dream like space and culminates with a sensation of waking to a stark peace.

Laura Stott received her M.F.A. from the Inland Northwest Center for Writers, where she was managing editor of Willow Springs.  Her poems have been published in various journals, including Bellingham Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Cutbank, Quarterly West, Sonora Review, Sugarhouse Review, Redactions, and Rock and Sling.  In 2014 she was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She serves on the board for Writers@Work, an independent writer’s organization, and is an Instructor of English at Weber State University. She is faculty sponsor for their chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, Alpha Upsilon Gamma.

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