Artists of Utah is excited to announce the finalists for this year’s 15 Bytes Book Award for Poetry. 2019 marks the 7th year for this annual award, given to recognize excellence in publishing for books written by a Utah author or with a Utah connection.
We received a record number of entries this year. The finalists were determined by 15 Bytes’ staff and guest judges based on the overall conception of the book and the quality of the writing.
This year’s finalists (in no particular order) are:
Tacey Atsitty’s poetry has an exceptionally strong connection to place in a bone-dry desert landscape inhabited by modern-day Navajos and Mormons as well as ghosts of the past. Rain scald is a skin disease that horses get from too much moisture, or as Atsitty writes, when standing (in rain) for so long, you no longer hear/ or feel it falling — you believe it’s stopped. Step away — Her words pull the reader across a cultural boundary using imagery and metaphors drawn from a Navajo worldview. For instance, the poem Ach’íí’ connects a traditional recipe made from sheep intestines to a uranium miner with stomach cancer; a veteran so traumatized by war he could never eat ach’íí’ again; the ravenous, homesick hunger of boys sent away to a government boarding school. History matters, as do traditions. I’m going to the rock/ that once had wings, she writes, meaning Shiprock which the notes explain is said to be a large bird that rescued the Navajo people in a time of need. There are sly flashes of humor as when the vanished Anasazi apologize for rushing off so suddenly, leaving food still on their plates. Attsity imagines them telling us, the jam that didn’t set — use it as syrup to cover every theory of us. Her keen ear for language makes the poems sing, occasionally in formal verse or even rhyme. These poems demand multiple readings as elemental themes emerge from the whole collection.
Tacey M. Atsitty, Diné, is Tsénahabiłnii (Sleep Rock People) and born for Ta’neeszahnii (Tangle People). She holds bachelor’s degrees from Brigham Young University and the Institute of American Indian Arts, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Cornell University. She is member of the Board of Directors for the Urban Indian Center in Salt Lake City, and organizer of the Intermountain All-Women Hoop Dance Competition at This is the Place Heritage Park.
Read our review from Heidi Hart here.
Lance Larsen’s What the Body Knows is a dazzling array of anaphoric prose poems, interspersed with poems with questions and answers, allowing the poet’s trust of sudden thought and language to jolt him away, trust what the brain sparks, what the body has retained, and to feel the present more wholly. This book doesn’t flinch. Its poems are searchlights for where he is in the moment, where wild connections and memories surface, in a voice that loves honesty and humor, picking us up to ride the switchbacks for his personal takes on blood in childbirth, vultures, scarecrows, a man caught in a cave while spelunking, a son stubbing his toe and cursing Mother Teresa, a hut in Topaz, Virginia Woolf, Henry Janes, girlfriends, a Barbie leg found in a park, teaching detention center students to write, Walden Pond, as new and much larger themes emerge. The poet’s love of his wife, children, literature, and nature, he has written so well about before, are here but with a fresh itinerant intimacy and urgency, celebrating all of midlife’s light and dark rooms.
Lance Larsen’s poetry and essays have appeared in Southern Review, Poetry, Brevity, Orion, Black Warrior Review, New York Review of Books, TLS, Poetry Daily, Best American Poetry 2009, and elsewhere. He has published five poetry collections and served as the Utah Poet Laureate from 2012 to 2017. He has received a number of awards, including a Pushcart Prize and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He is a professor of English at Brigham Young University.
Read our review from Lindsey Keller here.