Book Awards | Literary Arts

2017 15 Bytes Book Awards: Poetry Finalists

The 5th Annual 15 Bytes Book Awards is pleased to announce the finalists for the 2017 Poetry Award.

As with all nominees, finalists were eligible for consideration if they were published professionally in 2016 and had a connection to Utah via themes, setting, or author’s residence. The finalists were determined by 15 Bytes’ staff and guest judges based on two criteria: quality of writing/artistry and that indefinable quality that makes a book special and unforgettable

This year’s finalists include the following (in no particular order):


Who is the Dancer, What is the Dance? (Saltfront), by Alex Caldiero

Who is the Dancer, What is the Dance? is a collection of poems that engages readers by opening us up to something bigger and far more substantive than what one could reasonably expect to find in so slender a volume. Alex Caldiero’s project, it seems, is to use a symphony of language, tone, texture, and the movement of line to convey a richer account of the actual experiences described in the book than language alone is capable of providing. In this sense, the book is a triumph. By way of Caldiero’s words and illustrative efforts, readers will not only smell the water and feel the sky but are also somehow able to encounter the Colorado River in a way that provides a sense of its raw power, and lays bare the vulnerability of the flesh in a wilderness context. The book pushes its way into, and seemingly through, the fabric of physical reality to provide access to the spiritually transformative power of such a personal encounter with nature, even coasting into the end of the journey with all of the unfathomable disappointment that usually accompanies the end of such a communal experience. Readers who are unable, or perhaps no longer able, to have a river experience like the one written about here will find the very next best thing in Caldiero’s project, “caught and stoppered . . . sealed away for opening” whenever the reader desires.

You can read our review of the work here.

Paisley Rekdal, Photo by Austen Diamond

Imaginary Vessels (Copper Canyon Press), by Paisley Rekdal

In a luminescent language, Paisley Rekdal’s fifth collection of poetry, Imaginary Vessels, explores a broad assortment of both the anticipated and most unexpected spaces in life, prying open their containers like oysters, using language as her blade, for our consideration, thought, and pleasure. Less physically grounded than her earlier Animal Eye, the contrasting flashes of beauty and violence found in the poetry collected here remind the reader that the spaces we create, discover, and occupy both invite and defy articulation. They are identifiable, yet resist definition. Rekdal’s efforts to understand these spaces and their containers reach a dark and intimate crescendo in the fourth section of the book, “Shooting the Skulls:  A Wartime Devotional,” in which she offers verse to accompany a series of photographs by Andrea Modica. Modica’s gallery of photographs displays a series of anonymous human skulls discovered buried in the grounds of The Colorado Mental Heath Institute. Where the photography arrestingly captures the broken contours and unavoidable physicality of the skulls, Rekdal’s poetry seems to seek their missing souls, the flash of life that, once present in these housings, has long left. In the verse of the new, just-installed Utah Poet Laureate, the skulls in these images are empty houses, abandoned by their occupants, and narratives of the shocking and violent lives of the patients at the Institute, a microcosmic reflection of the Stygian mysteries of the human condition and, more specifically, of our willingness to inflict violence upon one another.

You can read our review of the work here.

Photo by Kent Miles.

Flight (Red Hen Press), by Katharine Coles

With a classic naturalist’s eye for detail, Katharine Coles’ Flight moves through a catalog of places and moments loaded with whimsy, anthropological heft, and just enough reverie to leave a lasting impression on its readers. These are, in some measure, love poems that exist in the places in between our deepest impressions, rather than simply in the typical surprise and praise we might expect. It is in these asides, in the breaths between and in the shock of coming back into ourselves, where Coles most shines. Coles’ speaker stands apart as one who “go[es] in every little room, until [she’s] left behind” in a tour of Pompeii’s ruins, and affords the impossibility of prayer’s physical transmission as “drift[ing] all the way to the bend / and out of sight.”

You can read our review of the work here.


The winner of the award will be announced in September during the Utah Humanities Book Festival. Stay tuned for the award ceremonies and readings.  Finalists in fiction have been announced here, and the finalists for creative nonfiction and art book will be announced soon.

15 Bytes and its publisher Artists of Utah thanks everyone who nominated a book for this award and for their support of the literary arts in the Beehive State.

Congratulations to the finalists!

Categories: Book Awards | Literary Arts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.