Poetry: 2012 Omnidawn Open Contest Finalists

This month we feature new work from the five finalists for the 2012 Omnidawn Open Contest:

Emily Abendroth — Exclosures
Jenny Drai — Visitors, Cavaliers
Craig Dworkin — Alkali
Brandon Lussier — Mary Doll Strings
Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer — Clarkston Street Polaroids


Emily Abendroth

From rural New Mexico, a privately contracted, aerial staging ground reports back on its protracted rounds
of bombardment trainings. They sustain a “damage log” which manages, through protective goggles,
to record the following incidents:

RESULTS 1: No barrage.

RESULTS 2: Part of a mine barrage?

RESULTS 3: A bit of barraging.
            One hit to the left quarters.

RESULTS 4: Might have been barraged.

RESULTS 5: Heavy barraging. Several garages totaled.

RESULTS 6: Scrotal damage. Barraged by wood splints?

RESULTS 7: Zero barrage.

RESULTS 8: All data tossed. Lost a hat. Lost it.

RESULTS 9: Glimpsed the barrager. Limp barraging.

RESULTS 10: More and more barrage ensued. Two wounded.

RESULTS 11: Full view of barrager. The blue shoes.
            The nosebleeds.

RESULTS 12: Beastly barraging. Easterly in orientation.

No matter how thin you made yourself
No matter how hard you tried to relax
No matter how undercommon was your ideological axis
            or how winsome the praxes of your resistance

Regardless of how overstood
And irrespective of the consequences

You nonetheless too often found yourself locked in sequence
            with the “arrangement” itself
            which changed your orientation or, more unfortunately,
became it

                        Upon encountering all the usual modes of admonition, exhortation,
                        and discipline, we lined up.

            Despite the supple diversity of our gradations of non-cooperation in counter
            we could mount our opposition only so far on each given day, provided
            we were to stay living – alive in the scheme of things.

            RESULTS 13: Barraged until ringing. Until pitted to fit. Cratered with holes.


_abendroth-thumbnail_117x117Emily Abendroth is a writer and teacher currently residing in Philadelphia. Her print publications include the chapbooks: NOTWITHSTANDING shoring, FLUMMOX (Little Red Leaves), Exclosures 1-8 (Albion Press), Property : None (a multimedia broadside project from Taproot Editions), 3 Exclosures (Zumbar Press) and Toward Eadward Forward (horse less press). An extended excerpt from her piece “Muzzle Blast Dander” can be found in Refuge/Refugee (Chain Links, Vol 3). She is the recipient of a 2013 Pew Fellowship in Poetry.

from by the book


Jenny Drai

you cannot write about a life that is not yours
            unless you determine your factor of resistance
desire broke up the countenance party and transformed to whitish clay
Cluj, a city far away, Arad not closer in this globe-light
what is nearer is the unmentionable traffic
the terrain of interloping interference, which breaks due
            process of one bird-egg-nest, robin-cracked, blue-shell
I have never come from anywhere but the middle of a country
saying ‘middle’      :      meant ‘outside’
peering down a lane of slate and shale, this built, this mortared thing
outside a lake, the demon of history, one premonition of future
            precipice, a copse of arching willows
the demon drinks the lake as if the crisp blue
            water bespoke the sweetness of an indefatigable text
visions of the future prevail
past elucidation of what is not just, are parts, is the pestle


jdraiJenny Drai’s work has appeared in American Letters and Commentary, Court Green, Handsome, Jellyfish, Parthenon West Review, and the Volta, among other journals, as well as in the Calaveras Chapbook Series and in phrases / fragments: an anthology (Sustenance Press). A chapbook, The New Sorrow is Less than the Old Sorrow, is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press, and she has been a finalist in the Sawtooth Prize from Ahsahta Press and the Subito Press Book Prize. She has lived all over the place but currently resides in Oxnard, California, where she is finishing up a novel.


Craig Dworkin






than cracks from creases



at once


certain curtains

curl in currents


Purloined Letter




bye bye plane

bye bye plane


Plotinus’ narrative
plotlines pantomime

the lot of pines
in furrowed rows


honor /

off her

These poems and others are forthcoming in REMOTES (Little Red Leaves, textile series, 2013)


DworkinPhotoDeJesuCraig Dworkin is the author of five books of poetry, including Motes (Roof Books) and The Perverse Library (Information as Material), and the editor of five collections, including The Sound of Poetry / The Poetry of Sound (U. Chicago Press, with Marjorie Perloff) and Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing (Northwestern UP, with Kenneth Goldsmith). He teaches literature at the University of Utah and serves as Senior Editor to Eclipse.

photo: Joseph De Jesus


Brandon Lussier

I pull fish—

            dusk, dust, drumming
                        earth, edge, end—

from the water, and with each
a shiny, dying skin—the salt,
the blood,

            gunpost, hand, hands




                                    Here, men
bit off each others’ noses, each other’s ribs and skulls,
opened each other

                        with hatches and knives.  Fell into the fire and water—

            meat, men, midnight,
                                                            mourner, mourner, mouth—


I lift the warm corpse from the steel trap,
turn it over and grip its head in my palm.
The skin slips off the muscle easily, but the light,
rough tail will not part with the bone; I pull down


build a small fire and chew the torn meat off the bone,

raise the small body

                                                like a shield.


HeadShot LondonBrandon Lussier’s poems and translations have been published or are forthcoming in North American Review, Harvard Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. He is a senior editor of The California Journal of Poetics and works at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

From the Minister of the Cabinet of Ordinary Affairs

Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer

                                    The governing bodies            disagree:

                        one busies itself          responding                        the other       talks about sharp objects

The self, divided thusly            notes:

                                                                          every day, dogs re-bark their grievances

                        The cabinet becomes            a place for filling emptinesses

                                                                                    —you must eat something

                                    all morning            with a mouse on your tongue

                        Something becomes                                dimensional                    belated

                                    a body in a wake

            It sprouts in you
                        a cypress
                                                with high branches            dropping needles

                                                                                    —your fist on the glass

                                    raw as a mineral

            Out at the raincloud:

                                                a dark bird            on wet bark

                                    in its beak            the flesh of another animal

                        —your open palm

            is full
            of glass

            your stomach        winces               tight as a cabbage


IMG_0477_1Stephanie Ellis Schlaifer is originally from Atlanta, GA, and works as an artist and freelance editor in St. Louis, Missouri where she co-curates the Observable Readings series. She has a BFA and BA from Washington University in St. Louis and an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her poems have appeared numerous journals, including Verse, Colorado Review, Chicago Review, Cimarron Review, Fence, and Verse Daily. Her manuscript, Clarkston Street Polaroids, has been a finalist for the Omnidawn Open Competition, the Burnside Review Prize, the Colorado Prize for Poetry, the Tupelo Press First/Second Book Award, and the Beatrice Hawley Award from Alice James Books, among others. Stephanie is a compulsive baker and is also very handy with a pitchfork.