Chaffin/Kash Prize Poems Fall 2022

Chaffin/Kash Poetry Prize – Kentucky State Poetry Society
1st Place: Lucie Brooks “Inheritance”

“Inheritance,” struck me immediately for its daring, intelligence, poignancy, and the skillful way it incrementally unveils the emotional and historical truths via the speaker all the way to it’s very last words. It is a dark and painful, but important poem that deserves a wide audience.
– Frank X. Walker

By Lucie Brooks

is a math
problem. If
six thousand five
hundred Black people
were lynched then how
many white people attended
a lynching? Factors to consider:
how many spread picnic blankets,
how many carved mementos from flesh.
Solve for Y. Advertisements for the events
ran in the papers. Others came quick, storms
sweeping in. Maybe ten thousand answered the
ad while twenty waited at the jail. Split the difference.
Accept the necessity of guessing: one hundred white men
women and children average per lynching. Now you have six
hundred and fifty thousand white great grandparents. Go online.
Look up generational equations, plug in population data. Stare at the
number and try to fathom how to excise a hidden wound. Fifty-six million
two hundred and twenty-five thousand descendants of the people who could
smile at a lynching. Maybe it was one of my grandparents swaddled tight, rocked
quiet in the crowd. Maybe we have passed down more than Grandma’s autumn leaf
Jewel pottery: an inherited second tongue beneath the first, bloody from all it muscles
down behind the smile, red drops twining ‘round leaves until trees turn crimson, fruit rots.

2nd Place: Allison Thorpe “The Women of Appalachia”

“The Women of Appalachia” moved like a creek and proved to be a sonic masterpiece from the “sing like the hills on fire.” The poem’s capacity to both lift up and carry an authentic Appalachian cultural motif fully invested in the land and the people all the way through with fresh and original images was impressive. What a beautiful poem.
– Frank X. Walker

The Women of Appalachia
By Allison Thorpe

Sing like hills on fire
            The incandescent torch and singe-smoldered notes
                        Of maple, sumac, persimmon, sassafras
They sing the rush and ripple
            That crisp-cold rides every creek
                        The strum of water over boulder
They sing the gospel of bluebells
            Returning to the dew-dusty fields
                        Faith of moss and earthworm
They sing rhythms ribbed
            Of washboard and limestone-callused fingertips
                        Linens bleaching the landscape
They sing like garden wind chimes
            Deep-gonged harmony of beans and squash
Breeze-jangled gossip among the tomatoes
They sing the protest of mountain tops
Fallen to metal claws ripping and ripping
The earth’s dazzled dress
They sing an anthem for the soot-haloed bodies
Men married to the dark seams of coal            
Their sun-craved prayers
They sing the slogged trudge
Of the captured, the kidnapped, the seekers
Ancestors laboring the jagged mountains
They sing their hands and hearts
The inky pages, vine-twisted baskets, rainbow quiltings
They sing until blood becomes bone

3rd Place: Amy Richardson “Scary Movies from Mini-Mart”

I found “Scary Movies from Mini-Mart” quite striking because of its ability to authentically conjure up youthful innocence while recalling a traumatic experience. The easy way it moves down the page towards its revelatory exit after being complicated by the juxtaposition of the reality of horror vs fictional horror is really quite stunning.
– Frank X. Walker

Scary Movies from the Mini-Mart 
By Amy Richardson

When my mamaw was 
in hospice care, 
I stayed at her house 
with my mom. 
I was fifteen and 
slept on the couch 
in her living room
covered with quilts
she had pieced by hand, 
often staying up 
most of the night 
watching horror movies 
I rented at the gas station 
on the end of the street 
back when you still had 
to borrow VHS tapes 
to see anything new. 
I remember so many 
people asking me how 
I could watch those kinds 
of movies with my 
grandmother dying 
in the next room. 
It took me twenty years 
to realize they were the 
only thing that could 
drown it out.

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