2nd Annual Yemassee Journal Chapbook Contest

Winner: chronicle the body by Martina “Mick” Powell

Chapbook judge Aaron Coleman had this to say about the piece:
“singing the song of soft knowing/screaming the song a soft rosary”

Urgent music and breathtaking self-reflection spill from chronicle the body. These poems remind me of the way strength, insight, and vulnerability converge in Lucille Clifton’s lines: “born in babylon/both nonwhite and woman/what did i see to be except myself?” I’m also reminded of all the ways we must work to remember the simple miracle of our bodies, their wounds and healing, in a world that so often refuses to see the body’s – in particular: black women’s bodies’ – trials and complexities. But chronicle the body lives and sings in the midst of our American mess, crafting its own rituals and music:

“i remember my body a bright kitchen, all sugar. jag. sweet milk. papaya and lime. basil 
leaf. slow fire, the smell of it. 

i remember my body a dancing thing.” 

These poems radiate with multiple valences of meaning. The title’s subtle phrasing, how “chronicle” works interchangeably as verb and noun, urges us – challenges us – to record the stories of the body in one sense and, in another, implies that the body itself is a chronicle: one lit with wild survival, joy, pain, and unpredictable growth.

I’m most impressed by the range of voices that this poet inhabits in her series of prose poems, “Candy Girls” set in 1961, 1988, and 2011. Each is a matrix of empathy and imagination that embodies and vivifies intersections of adolescence, pop culture, and racial and sexual violence…I know, as a man, that these poems have changed me, opened me. Especially in our current moment of unmasking dangerous facades of masculinity, I’m grateful for the brilliant courage we witness here. chronicle the body is a collage of the sacred, mundane, familial, and existential; together, these images, emotions, and stories thrive as one ecstatic whole.

I also want to congratulate all the finalists – it was so hard to narrow this down to three runners up – because there were stunning, urgent poems in all ten collections (keep writing and keep submitting!). But chronicle the body’s time has come— as both testament and challenge, this is a book we need.

Mick Powell (she/her) is a queer black Cape Verdean femme feminist poet. She is currently an MFA candidate in Poetry at Southern Connecticut State University. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Apogee Journal, Winter Tangerine, The Feminist Wire, and elsewhere. She is a notorious movie-talker who also enjoys talking about Beyoncé, baked goods, bodies, and how much she loves the people she loves.

Finalists: Monkey Was Here by Jasmine An, A Tranny Walks Into a Bar by Mica Woods, Deus Ex Nigrum by Jasmine Reid
Semi-Finalists (selected by our editors): Lemon Effigies (withdrawn) by Zaina Alsous, Week/End by Sarah Duncan, & Bless by Mara Adamitz Scrupe, Grog Blossoms by Kelly Dulaney, Faces that Fled the Wind by Alycia Pirmohamed, Songs of Brujería by Amanda Galvan Huynh, Bad Beach by Harry Goldkamp

Guest Judge


Aaron Coleman is the author of the chapbook St. Trigger, which won the 2015 Button Poetry Prize, judged by Adrian Matejka, and his first full-length collection, Threat Come Close, is forthcoming from Four Way Books in March 2018. A Fulbright Scholar and Cave Canem Fellow, Aaron received his MFA from Washington University in St. Louis. From Metro-Detroit, Aaron has lived and worked with youth in locations including Chicago, St. Louis, Spain, South Africa, and Kalamazoo. Winner of the Tupelo Quarterly Poetry Contest and The Cincinnati Review Robert and Adele Schiff Award, Aaron’s poems have appeared in Boston ReviewFenceNew York Times MagazineRiver Styx and elsewhere. He is currently a Chancellor’s Graduate Fellow in Washington University St. Louis’ Comparative Literature PhD program.

 Yemassee is accepting entries for its 2017 Writing Prizes, including the 2017 Chapbook Contest. The author of the winning poetry chapbook will receive $1000 and 25 copies of their chapbook. Author input on cover art will be considered. The editors will select ten finalists and pass those submissions on to the guest judge. The ten finalists will receive acknowledgment.

Timeline: Submissions open November 15, 2017 and close January 31, 2018.

Entry Instructions: To enter, submit one chapbook with 20-26 pages of poetry (title page, dedication, etc. does not count). An entry fee of $22 must accompany each entry.

Discounted Subscription: Entries accompanied by $25 also qualify the submitter for a one-year subscription to Yemassee. Please select the appropriate fee category.

Formatting and Other Guidelines: Submissions that do not conform to these guidelines may be disqualified at the editors’ discretion. Entries must be submitted online using Submittable; paper submissions will not be accepted. The author’s name must not appear anywhere in the submission or in the file name. We welcome multiple entries. However, each entry must be submitted separately and accompanied by an additional entry fee. While we do allow simultaneous submissions, please inform us immediately if the submission is accepted elsewhere by withdrawing in Submittable. Note that no refunds will be issued for submissions that are withdrawn or disqualified. All entries must be submitted by the deadline.

Eligibility: Current or previous Yemassee staff, close personal friends or family of the Yemassee staff, and writers who have been published in Yemassee within the past two years are ineligible for entry.

Applicants may enter here on Submittable.

Winner of the Inaugural Poetry Chapbook Prize


Reservoir by Taneum Bambrick

“A stunning chaplet that weaves, through restless forms, a myriad and fleshed life of work, love, and fierce yet tender observations of the working class. I returned to the manuscript again and again, each time finding more reasons to stay. Detail by detail, through the accretion of minutiae and the infinitesimal, the book builds and garners an entire world, replete with throttled sound, image, voice, and unforgettable lives and their living. This is poetry that
encompasses, that lets no one turn away.” –Ocean Vuong, 2017 Poetry Chapbook Judge

You can purchase Reservoir on Submittable.