Dobler Award Winning Poems
Maureen O'Brien, 2007 winner (inaugural year)
Judge: Judith Vollmer
Sweet cool wind, an "Ave Maria" radio station
in a motel room where the phone doesn't work,
you pissed near the Pentagon, in a river of snow melting.
Through the thin sheetrock we hear the army chaplain
shaming the earless soldier into praying,
while after touching you I trace the trenches of my stretch marks
and we vanish in the dark
biker bar. Amputees file past. My fishnets slide
down my legs: you, too, have come home wounded,
your electric wheelchair wheezes while carrying us.
In the cold rain I make you stop and turn to me. I say,
"I am so in love with you,
I've been in love with you all along,
I don't care what you feel in return." And while you watch from under
a tarp I bob in the grimy motel pool.
I dry off near the busted gate. A doe comes right up to me,
rubbing her face near mine, and making whistling sounds.
When I found out you had been blown apart,
I did not sleep for days.
Finally I slipped under and I dreamt
that I peered inside my own birth canal and saw our baby's face,
it was the face that has been here forever
all the way back through thousands of wars,
living, dying, becoming whole again,
longing to shred me open and be born.
Maureen O'Brien teaches creative writing at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. Her novel b-mother (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt) sold to the Lifetime Movie Channel and was translated into German and Italian. Her poetry chapbook, The Other Cradling (Finishing Line Press), received an Honorable Mention in the Jean Pedrick Chapbook Award from the New England Poetry Club. O'Brien received First Prize in the New Millennium Poetry Contest. Her story "Sequins and Holes" was runner-up in Many Mountains Moving flash fiction contest. She has received fiction grants from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts and the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund. Her work has appeared in magazines and anthologies including Red Rock Review,The Louisville Review, The Southern Women's Review, and most recently in About Place and The Cancer Poetry Project 2.
Mud Season (2nd grade)
Jane McKinley, 2008 winner
Judge: Ann Townsend
Mid April. Bloodroot's promise in the air.
We ride along with Dad to see the piglets
born the night before. The pick-up swerves, jiggles
to a halt. Dad's face goes gray, his dark hair's
damp with sweat. He stumbles out, collapsing
near the ditch. Run for help…leave Philip here.
I fly, my winged Keds barely grazing, smeared
with mud, reach a distant farmhouse, rapping
sharp as knuckles can, scared no one will come.
The tar-patched door creaks open, and a child
peeks out. It's Debbie Tuckey. She's the one
we laughed at last week, taunting her with combs.
Her mother holds my shoulder, while her wild-
haired, gentle father rushes to the phone.
Jane McKinley, a native of Iowa, is a professional oboist and artistic director of the Dryden Ensemble, a Baroque chamber music group. She received degrees in music from Northwestern University and Princeton University and studied Baroque oboe in Vienna with the late Jürg Schaeftlein. Her life as a poet began in 2003, when, haunted by an image, she began writing again after a lapse of thirty years. She has participated in poetry workshops in Princeton and at the 92nd Street Y in New York. Her manuscript Vanitas recently won the Walt McDonald First-Book Prize and was published in 2011 by Texas Tech University Press. Her work has appeared in The Georgia Review, Southern Poetry Review, 2River View, U.S. 1 Worksheets, The Raintree Review, Grey Sparrow and the Irish journal Southword.
Heidi Johannesen Poon, 2009 winner
Judge: Maggie Anderson
I was higher than the bicycle I rode in a circle
until the grass wore away and wouldn't come back.
I was higher than the hardpan, I thought
in the dark, as it lay in a circle: Goliath was in the weeds
out beyond the house lights, hiding, and I was flying.
When my chest passed into the unseeable,
Goliath hit me in the pinpoint of my heart, yelling
"Black Dog! White Dog! Yellow Dog!" as if he could pop me
out of his mind. But I was trying to give myself a chance
to break and win the breathless wishbone of air I'd
feel for a few seconds inside me. Isn't that how
you improve your lot? To believe you are only afraid
and only ugly, and so thankful that no one inside
was having a problem with me or Goliath
fighting in that darkened field, and no one was going
to get help, or shutting the flood lights off on me either.
Heidi Johannesen Poon received her MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers Workshop in 1991. Her writing has been supported by Fellowships from Brown, Iowa, the MacDowell Colony, and the Virginia Commission for the Arts. She published her first chapbook with the Poetry Society of America.
Margot Wizansky, 2010 winner
Judge: Lynn Emanuel
Every day you make the choice to live
on the slippery ledge, where you almost always
fail to find a toehold, mesmerized as you are
by the gelid clarity of water or the far-off blow
of some blue-green radiance, the steely whistle
of work and money, the softer mist of love,
everything draws you-the cold burn seizing
anyone who stands up in the boat. Paddle
through the irresistible archway. Take a piece
of the iceberg to chill your cocktail. It can
roll over you. Virtue will carry you only so far
and help never comes fast enough.
Margot Wizansky is a painter and poet, with poems in journals such as Poetry East, Lumina, Tar River Review, Quarterly West, and several anthologies, including Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer's Disease and a poem in the Cancer Poetry Project's second anthology. She also has edited two anthologies, Mercy of Tides: Poems for a Beach House (2003), and Rough Places Plain: Poems of the Mountains (2006). In 2008, she won the Writers @ Work Poetry Fellowship competition. Margot transcribed the oral history Don't Look Them in the Eye: Love, Life, and Jim Crow, the story of Emerson Stamps, grandson of slaves, told in his words and her poems.
The Stone of Me
Gail Langstroth, 2011 winner
Judge: Denise Duhamel
you lay your arm around me
I feel its weight
to find your arm
but not weight
does sleep erase weight
help us float
water lifting in dream—if
this is what it means
to be your lover
weightless your arm holds
the stone of me
Gail Langstroth spent 38 years of her life in Europe as an international lecturer and eurythmy performer. In June of 2011, she received her MFA in poetry from Drew University, Madison, NJ; the Patricia Dobler Poetry Prize (2011); and the Passager Poetry Contest, honorable mention (2012). In 2014, she premiers her lecture and performance: en el fondo del aire (in the depths of air-the life and poetry of Juan Ramón Jiménez) in Peru, Spain, and New York City.
At the Brera, Milan
Michelle Maher, 2012 winner
Judge: Toi Derricotte
The breadth of the chest
seems immense, the face strained as if
in troubled sleep, the marble stillness of the corpse
matches the red-veined marble table
on which the body rests.
There is no place else to look, we are thrust
almost atop the body. Its torn flesh,
from which no blood flows, is draped with linen.
Foreshortened legs and tiny feet. Look,
there is a jar of ointment by the pillowed head.
Beyond, an open door leading to a burial room.
The body seems beyond decay with its flowing hair,
smooth, bent arms, and hands loosely curled
into cloth as liquid and still as poured stone.
At the center of the canvas, the bulging drapery
at the loins reminds us this had been a man in his vigor
now stretched on a slab as if poised
to catapult into our midst.
The world to come has not entered here.
A reddish glow covers everything, and even
the weeping figures shunted to the side—
St. John, the Virgin, Mary Magdalene—
aged, ravaged with grief, are incidental
to this Dead Christ Mantegna
painted for his own funerary chapel
which stands before us as if made
for our own, the room of our witness,
which we enter, and are still.
Michelle Maher is a professor of English at La Roche College, a private, Catholic college north of Pittsburgh. She has two Master's degrees and a PhD in English from Indiana University, Bloomington. Her poems have appeared most recently in The Georgetown Review, The Atlantic Review, Pittsburgh City Paper, U.S. 1 Worksheets, and Voices from the Attic.
Chryss Yost, 2013 winner
Judge: Patricia Smith
The yeast wakes up, faster than sourgrass after the rain.
I warm the old bowl on the pilot light, as my grandmother did,
scrape level the measure of flour using a knife's flat back.
There is no end to stubborn in this world. Even flour
fights like it would rather be grain again, recoils after every stretch,
the dough thick and heavy as a lump of potters' clay.
I push hard, throwing my weight behind each stroke,
arms stiff, lifting on my toes. Flatten, fold, turn, flatten, fold.
The newspaper on the table shows a senator. Resolved,
he says. One man, one woman. His God will not be swayed.
I pound the kneading board, knead until my wrists ache,
my skin crusted with salt, slowly will yield, will suppleness.
I round the dough to rest in the deep glazed bowl,
wait for rising, baking, food for those who sit at my table.
Chryss Yost is the author of Mouth & Fruit (Gunpowder Press, 2014), and of two fine press chapbooks: La Jolla Boys (Mille Grazie Press, 2000) and Escaping from Autopia (Oberon Press, 1998). Her poems have appeared in journals including Askew, Crab Orchard Review, Hudson Review, and Solo and have been widely anthologized. She has co-edited two major poetry anthologies California Poetry: From the Gold Rush to the Present, with Dana Gioia and Jack Hicks (Heyday Press, 2003) and Poetry Daily: A Year of Poems for the World's Most Popular Poetry Website, with Don Selby and Diane Boller (Sourcebooks, 2003). In April 2013, she was appointed poet laureate Santa Barbara, California.
Wendy Miles, 2014 Winner
Judge: Yona Harvey
An open door.
A child pauses on a step.
Her head turns, lifts to hear
her name float above the yard.
A child is an open door.
The child holds her breath
at the thought of what it means
to hook it to herself with a bright pin.
A child is a breath.
A name is a bright pin.
A low sink. An open window.
A mother leans at the low sink,
shirt off, breasts pressed to a towel.
Barely audible, Oh, she says, it feels so good
you just can't believe it.
A daughter is an open window, a folded towel.
Shampoo the scent of ginger.
Warm water pours from a plastic cup,
spreads along the mother's pink crown,
neck, around creases at the backs of ears.
The daughter breathes in the mother.
Water dribbles from the chin,
from the daughter's fingers.
A mother is a low sink, warm water.
Animal, Animalis: to have breath.
Love is a plastic cup. Love is a breath.
A finalist for the 2013 Perugia Press Prize, Wendy Miles has published multi-genre work in places such as Tupelo Quarterly, Arts & Letters, Southern Poetry Review, Hunger Mountain, storySouth, The Pedestal Magazine, The Chattahoochee Review, Caesura, The Dos Passos Review, Yalobusha Review, The Comstock Review, Hawaii Review, Richmond Magazine, and the Anthology of Appalachian Writers Ron Rash Volume IV. Nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize, Miles lives and teaches in Lynchburg, Virginia. New work is forthcoming in Alabama Literary Review.
A Woman from the Infant Mortality Review Board Calls
Amanda Newell, 2015 Winner
Judge: Lynn Emanuel
No, I am not an addict.
Yes, I had a doctor.
No, we are not smokers.
No, I do not want you
coming to our home.
You could see it
on the sonogram’s
chalk sketch, the club-
foot and cleft palate,
fingers like vines.
Some extra ones.
error of cell division,
the specialist said.
miscarry before it gets
after the pitocin
after the resident
shoved his gloved
fist into me
to ripen my cervix
with a kelp stick,
I gave birth
to a shiny bruised
doll, small enough
to fit into a wicker
and whose silence
Amanda Newell’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in such publications as Bellevue Literary Review, Gargoyle, Pearl, Pembroke Magazine, Poet Lore, Tar River Poetry, The Summerset Review, and War, Literature & the Arts. She has been the recipient of scholarships by both the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and The Frost Place. In addition, she has also been the recipient of a fellowship by the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She chairs the English Department at The Gunston School in Centreville, MD, and is pursuing her MFA at Warren Wilson College.
After the Accident
Dana Salvador, 2016 winner
Judge: Allison Hedge Coke
for my cousin
Lying face down in the harvested cornfield
surrounded by broken, golden stalks
he pushes himself out of his body like
a butterfly tears through a chrysalis.
He dusts off his clothes and strides to his
overturned pick up, resting on its side,
an animal, sleeping. He’s a mechanic
and can fix almost anything, even this wreck.
He’s already made estimations of the damage
to the drive train and frame and wonders how
he could’ve survived as he reaches to touch
the once smooth metal, now crinkled like tissue
paper, but feels nothing. That’s where our
grandfather—gone these many years—
finds him, standing confused, bewildered.
He puts an arm over his shoulder while
the sun from the October morning crests
the horizon frozen with frost. Our grandfather
says, “C’mon then,” and they walk toward
the sunrise as light distills them each to dust.
Dana Salvador’s work has been featured in the North American Review, Fourth Genre, Water~Stone Review, Cold Mountain Review, Red Rock Review, and North Dakota Quarterly, among others. Additionally, she is the recipient of a Vogelstein Foundation Grant.
Sorrow I Will Lead You Out Somewhere
Deborah Allbritain, 2017 winner
Judge: Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon
Sorrow is not a person. If you ask sorrow to pick up
dim sum on the way home, sorrow will not wait in line.
Sorrow will drag the chef to your front door,
hold him at gun point as he fills the things you love into shape,
rotates each at the waist until your wonton sits nicely on the plate.
Sorrow is not a person. If you tell sorrow to pick up
a bucket of chicken after work, sorrow will not take the drive-through,
sorrow will break down the chair legs wrenched from their seats
swinging the knives and busboys through your front door.
Because you live on the edge of disturbed, sorrow
remembers that you ate an entire man in one year with
sorrow flattened across your bed like a zillion pressed violets.
Nothing says you must lie down in the scribble of its mangy hair,
the weight of books you read in bed beside sorrow, enough
to kick the flimsy out of your screen door. Whenever you ask
sorrow to give you a break, it gives you one more reason
to overeat. Sorrow is not a person, but if you ask, sorrow
will at least join you for Chardonnay and brioche,
a mungo sun rutted on the steps of your front door.