1st Place for the QD Award goes to Bria Hunter's poem “Ode to Vallejo.” Here are my comments on Hunter's piece:
“Ode to Vallejo” moves soundly between the rhythms of urban space and the intimate human interactions that resonate with us long after they’ve transpired. The honest voice is grounded fully in a sense of place—these are not words in a vacuum, but rather languages birthed within a time and place both local and familiar, yet made interesting through the poet’s attention to concrete detail and careful metaphors. “Ode to Vallejo” is also conscious of the larger histories and economic contexts informing all utterances and relationships, and I was moved especially by the poem’s penultimate stanza, that “this ground/is either quicksand/or hot coals”— I love what’s at stake in this image, and overall I’m impressed with the seriousness and vision with which the poet engages themes of inequality and human investment without venturing too far into didacticism. Well done.
Honorable Mention for the QD Award goes to Elfie Nelson's poem, “The Eel.” Here are my comments on Nelson's piece:
“The Eel” is a solid work using the short line to its advantage through a reliance on sound and breath to create a churning motion and slow-coiling cadence. The poem’s sounds alone are pleasure enough, but there’s more here than just a good ear— the descriptions are spot on, and I appreciated the close attention to body, color, and especially motion. I was also pleasantly surprised by the later interactions in “The Eel” between the speaker and the other-than-human, and the curious sense of risk and vulnerability explored in that relationship.
Thank you, especially, to Michael Wyly for asking me to be a guest judge for the award.