Big and hearty congratulations to Eva H.D., whose poem “38 Michigans” placed top in the Montreal International Poetry Prize. The prize brings with it $20,000. The editorial board looked at over 2,000 entries from 66 countries before handing off a shortlist to prize judge Eavan Boland.

You can hear Eva reading her poem right here.

Eva’s first poetry collection, Rotten Perfect Mouth, was published by Mansfield Press this past spring. It has quickly become one of the fastest-selling poetry titles in Mansfield’s history.

Prize judge Eavan Boland wrote:

This poem—“38 Michigans”—is a quirky, intense elegy. It works so well, I think, because it makes fresh again an old and powerful basis of lament: one in which all the contours of ordinary reference and experience are forced into a new shape. Where any logic of place or geography becomes the willing servant of memory and longing.

We never get to feel here that the person missed or lost is also being objectified into silence or passivity—a big risk in the contemporary elegy. Instead the subject of the poem is defined, right from the start, in original, offbeat, surprising ways so that we stay connected to them and to the emotional colour of the poem. They are “thirty-eight Michigans away.” Or they are “polishing off a sandwich made of rare, impossible air.”

There is a fine line being managed here between the sugar of whimsical language and the shadow of an actual loss. But the management is always adroit and convincing. The poem benefits from the tension. The whimsy itself suggests that grief has found a voice and is making its own reality with a devil-take-the-hindmost defiance.

Rotten Perfect Mouth_Cover

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