Award Winners

The Writer Magazine/Emily Dickinson Award - 2014

Tom Thompson


Meghan Kemp-Gee

Leslie Williams

Death is Death

All my Christians on Vimeo, smashing their tambourines, trying to maintain speed through the Book of Revelations

like a tiny hurricane makes its way through a stifling afternoon, trying to whip through a morbid endless loop and die just one more time.

At Teen Jesus, we talked for hours after the five-hundred-mile trip, each of us frantic with road exhaust in his separate teeny hollow—wondering, accusing, faltering.

How will I be saved? I pressed the question into the palms of the next day when the shuddering sail strapped to shoulders and crotch rose me up

and higher up, struck me wooden with angelic panic—as all the pretty counselors beamed and waved.

All my Christians now, decades on, trying to take the whole thing private. They've wheeled the founder out to reach and rally us across our devices . . .

To hell with your money, Savior. To hell with your little stone door that leads out and out but never in.

Dan Beachy-Quick on Tom Thompson

In a wholly unexpected forwarding of faith's crisis to the smart-phone and tablet age, "Death Is Death" manages to resuscitate the plainsong expression of devotion riddled by doubt that mark so deeply Dickinson's "Master Letters." Voice here keeps ambiguous, as does Dickinson with such genius, the realm between the colloquial and the symbolic, the gap between what's lived and what's thought. Continuously aware that one is inscribed within the system one critiques, "Death Is Death" gains its righteous anger not from some sense of heightened remove, but better, truer, by recognizing oneself as unwilling, half-witting, participant. Strapped up into the contraption sailing heavenward, gesture of salvation that the questioning mind cannot accept, "Death Is Death" looks down from above, revolts instead of devotes; and later, in the time-scape of the poem, the speaker looks down into the glowing screen, just another door that pretends to, but doesn't, let anyone in. Real imitation has little do with similarity. To mimic a voice is just a ventriloquist trick. Better by far is such a poem as this one, understanding keenly that imitation is a form of entrance, a door that always lets one in to the inner chamber where thought and feeling maintain their ceaseless currency. "Death Is Death" grows electric with such intimate imitation.