Congratulations to the first Carol Decanio Abeles Emerging Poets Prize winners! The panel of judges received many excellent poems to consider. Poems were selected anonymously. The winning poems are included below.
Winner: Carol Ann Wilburn “My Piano Man“
Carol Ann Wilburn is in the process of compiling her first chapbook. Select poems were published in April 2021 in While You Wait, a print and online poetry anthology for the Santa Barbara, California, community, and in the January 2022 special edition of Live Encounters American Poets & Writers. Her poetry will also appear in Volume 23 of The Bryant Literary Review in September 2022. Carol started writing poetry at a young age, a practice she has continued throughout her life.
Runner-Up: Susan Chiavelli “Blood & Bone“
Susan Chiavelli received the Chattahoochee Review’s Lamar York Nonfiction Prize for “Death, Another Country.” Her prose and poetry have appeared in San Pedro River Review, The Packinghouse Review, The Los Angeles Review, Library Book, and several Shoreline Voices anthologies.
Second Runner-Up: Dairine Pearson “Deal“
Dairine grew up in Ireland and emigrated to California over 30 years ago. She graduated from UCSB and Cal State Long Beach and is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Since 2010, she has been a full-time grief counselor and Bereavement Care Coordinator for VNA Health, a home health and hospice care provider in Santa Barbara County., She enjoys writing, running, crafts and hiking our amazing coastline and mountains.
In addition, the judges recognized Susan Miles Gulbransen for “Jet Windows on Vietnam” and Carrie Frances Clark-Kenny for “grandmother’s cigarette” for honorable mention.
The Carol Decanio Abeles Emerging Poets Prize recognizes poets who have not yet published a full-length book. The prize is awarded for a single poem written by a poet living in Santa Barbara County. First launched in 2022, the poem honors Santa Barbara poet Carol Decanio Abeles.
My Piano Man
One August afternoon
I find you at the piano.
Something about that moment
speaks to the decades
of your playing. Maybe
it’s how the sun in alpine glow
slants over you,
ocean and islands distant.
Your face softens,
your head slightly down,
the notes revealing
something deep inside.
In your musical solitude
the piano sets you free
to go wherever it takes you
or maybe you take it
then back again.
The sound familiar
By Carol Ann Wilburn
Winner, Carol Decanio Abeles Emerging Poets Prize
Blood & Bone
Our Medevac plane lifts this flying hospital room into grayness—lifts my husband
on a stretcher, the paramedic, nurse and me. Scotland stretches far below—a green
patchwork laid against the sea—gulls cursing the ruins of our picnic.
The sedative has closed his eyes.
His good arm floats in chill air, leads an orchestra only he can hear. Silent music
fills this unlikely chamber. His eyelids heavy as draped stage curtains.
Now his good arm writes on thin air, invisible letters in reverse —
a foreign language, foreign place. Finally, he sleeps.
Endless ocean below—nothing but sky to hold us in the liminal, where ancient
voices emerge from the timeless drone, chanting—unknown yet familiar
as the beat of my own heart. Have the ancestors come to sing us home?
Have they stepped from the Druid fur-draped mist to march in solemn procession
between the Standing Stones of Callanish? Only a few days ago I touched
that ancient rock, alive with lichen and speaking in the tongue of mountains—
old Norse strange to my ear,
yet understood in blood and bone.
By Susan Chiavelli
Runner-Up, Carol Decanio Abeles Emerging Poets Prize
I’m not sure what the deal was
the contract you and I signed
in that airport lounge
way back then in the timeless time
with the skyless windows and the missing floors
in the place between worlds
what was that?
what were we thinking
as we inked our names
on snow white paper
initial after initial
writing on clouds, half alive
maybe we’d had too much to drink
in the airport bar, did we go,
what the hell, could be OK…
I can’t remember what I was thinking or doing or feeling
the I of then and the I of now
are as distant as the stars
just as you have changed over and over
each time unrecognizable
yet familiar as breath
you were my sister, bright-eyed and wild
you were my great-grandfather
austere in a thick dark coat
you were my teacher, maddeningly calm
my servant, my enemy, my dearest pet
as I was to you and thousands more
over and over as often as the stars
we’ve forgotten our great agreement, you and I
that being part of the deal
which was to land each time
passports in hand, to meet each other
in the transport terminal
to start again, start over
each time strangely unrecognizable
each time familiar as breath
By Dairine Pearson
Second Runner-Up, Carol Decanio Abeles Emerging Poets Prize