A self-proclaimed frustrated gardener and hack fly fisherman from Pennsylvania - Grant Clauser - recently received the 2013 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize.
Poet laureate of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, Clauser teaches poetry writing at a variety of conferences and at Philadelphia's Musehouse. He also runs the blog www.unIambic.com. His manuscript-length collection of poems called "Necessary Myths" was judged the best of entries from dozens of poets. Clauser infuses his poems with nature and the outdoors, and the interactions between people and the other animate and inanimate creatures and objects that populate our consciousness.
From his poem "Happening Again": “Is that a lion stalking in the attic/or just the wind/arranging itself on the roof?/A white flag tail/of warning spreads/across your face.” Clauser's poems demonstrate the power of gathering simple words to create images, moods, reflections and the exploration of dimensions that exist beyond sight, sound, taste, touch and smell.
Established in 2003 and sponsored by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and the Cape Gazette, the Dogfish Head Poetry Prize for its first 10 years was limited to entries from poets living on the Delmarva Peninsula. This year, the eligibility area was expanded to include Delaware. Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and the District of Columbia.
Jamie Brown and Linda Blaskey of the Broadkill River Press, and Mark Carter of Dogfish Head announced the prize at a Dec. 7 reception in the upstairs meeting room of the Dogfish Head Brew Pub in Rehoboth Beach. The prize includes publication of the winning poetry collection in a perfect-bound book, $500 in cash and two cases of Dogfish Head ales. Snowed in by a weekend storm, Clauser was unable to attend the announcement of the prize. Past winners of the Dogfish prize, Tina Raye Dayton in 2012 and Sherry Chappelle in 2011, read some of Clauser's poems at the reception.
Carter said the Dogfish Head Poetry Prize falls within the realm of Dogfish Head's Beer and Benevolence initiatives, “and we're proud to support the creative efforts of people like Grant Clauser.”
Brown thanked the volunteer judges and readers who help with the annual contest, along with Linda Blaskey, 2008 winner of the Dogfish prize, who coordinates the entire effort. For more information email Blaskey at email@example.com.
Here are two poems from Clauser's collection, including the title piece:
There are certain nights,
we pass through worrying
as wolves calling out
over the hills.
So what if Romulus
put down the stone
and instead embraced
Would our paths be
so different than now?
A farmer in Kansas,
to ease his stricken brother's pain
puts a hand over his mouth
and holds it long enough
to watch the creases on his
brow soften with sleep.
And in the morning,
after collecting and washing the eggs
walks the mile to his neighbor
to borrow a suit.
It's hard, yes, to love
the stone in your shoe
when your whole life
is spent walking.
The high bank of the river
means snow the mountains collected
through winter now can't hold itself
together, and rushes into gullies
all heading toward the dam.
We know what that's like –
holding tight to the only
rocks you recognize, fighting
the change that sunlight brings,
the heat that starts an avalanche.
This season isn't about rebirth.
It's the weakening grip of things
that held together in the laughless cold
when all there was was ice,
the empty dark to starve through.
Next month shad will climb
the river's ladders till they clog
the feeder streams. Every spawning
body spent, their over-driven muscles
giving up like stars gone dark.
Let's push the season back, keep
winter's cold and airless drum
from rolling down the hills. This
last chill will linger as long as we
can hold the rock, its heart gone still.