Award Winners

Robert H. Winner Memorial Award - 2014

Dore Kiesselbach


Philip Metres

Sara Miller


We're given bait and shown how to hold it
near the sensitive stingray nose,
a quick briefing—gestural
simulation, really—but weeks
of lecture couldn't prepare us
for the flat host we roll
backward to be loose among.
Pure wing, they follow our hands
so closely into arcs and loops
of scent that we can feel
depth relinquished
in the softer of their skins.
How long does it take us
in water sunlight permeates
to forget needing ever to be told?
A stranger swimming
behind us now might think
us part angelic semaphore.
Each diver chooses
differently when to move
the baited hand down
the underneath from the nose
to the mouth of the fish.
It's a question of how
long you can bear taking
advantage of something
more beautiful than yourself,
even if meaning
to feed it in the end.
When we slow and let them
dilate over our open palms
they make a nothing
world in themselves
and draw the old one
in. It can leave
a mark through neoprene.

Alberto Rios on Dore Kiesselbach

These are poems of exceptional progression, beginning so often with the improbable and leading the reader to the surprising. They are poems of bon voyage, in the literal sense—poems of good voyage and good going. These voyages are strangely perfect in their stories, as they follow an organic logic made clear to us by the exceptional patience of the poet. Each poem shepherds us through a journey of thought, of body, of unimaginable plan, or through, as one poem offers, "…five thousand jigsaw shades of blue." Structurally as well, these poems often gift the reader with an eclectic, subtle rhyme at their ends, a signature way of finding ending and song both.

As made ideas, these poems are also a constant curiosity of language progression—will the sentence find itself?—and it does, every time—as does the poem altogether. There is some torqueing of language, some pushing around of sentence structure, but always remarkably in service to the complex possibilities of the world being resourcefully uncovered. The quiet end-rhyme sounds a small bell of completion at the poem's landing.

And the reason we want to keep moving in these poems is their full supply of arresting imagery. Two animals in the wild in a fight to the death but both having to stop, panting next to each other in utter exhaustion until they can muster a physical willingness to go on, all in the depths of winter, the other combatant: These, simply, are poems that move us.