Creative Writing at The New School is proud to announce the winners of the 2015 New School Chapbook Series!
Poetry Winner: Mariam Zafar, Blackout
Selected by Yona Harvey, author of Hemming the Water
"Shortly after Agha Shahid Ali’s death, Christine Benvenuto published her interview with the poet in which she wrote, '[a] global perspective seemed to be second nature to Ali, who said he always knew he would come to America.' One senses a similar knowing in Mariam Zafar’s collection of poems, Blackout. Like the 'startlingly beautiful' grandmother and 'unforgivingly distant' grandfather in 'I See Dhaka Through My Hourglass,' the downbeat and upbeat are never far from one another in Zafar’s poems, where tactile delight and ghost-like sadness dance in succinct, suspenseful anticipation. Perhaps the most heartbreaking instance of this delicate music is in 'I Close My Eyes and Find Myself in the Bungalow,' in which the speaker’s birth city is also a city of blackouts. Zafar’s deft line breaks lend themselves to these gentle doublings that ebb and flow throughout the work. To close one’s eyes is to leap continents, to marvel at America, 'the Land of Options,' but also to acknowledge the displacement through which so many of America’s inhabitants arrive. Like Ali, whose words whisper in these pages, Zafar has imagined elsewhere as a kind of place one survives with memory and correspondences—never mailed, lost, or delivered. 'Do not forget you are my child first,' she recalls, 'come to me before I must shrink into your mailbox like the half-inch Himalayas.'"
Writing for Children and Young Adults Winner: Anthony Ha, The Dust of Life: A Mythic Immigrant Parable
Selected by Elana K. Arnold, author of The Question of Miracles
"Anthony Ha’s submission, a young adult historical fiction/memoir entitled, The Dust of Life: A Mythic Immigrant Parable, sets up challenges for itself even within the title. Taken alone, the first part of the title—The Dust of Life—creates a problem; isn’t dust the antithesis of life, that to which we return when our living is done? And the second part of the title—A Mythic Immigrant Parable—stacks three words, each as solemn as stone, one atop the next. But the pages that follow do not disappoint, as Ha journeys to the mythic roots of Odysseus’s travels, then to the Vietnam of his father’s childhood, and forward to his father’s relocation to the United States and, as he writes, a time when 'the hero in him finally died.' When at last Ha’s story reaches his own birth, we have formed a connection with his father—the parts of him that are heroic and the parts that are not, in equal measure—and I, as a reader, feel excited about where the journey will go from here. Ha’s complex story structure, his interesting use of footnotes, his ability to weave the mythic with the everyday, mark this work in progress as important and of substance. I look forward to Anthony Ha’s future work."
Nonfiction Winner: Krista Gampper, Planting
Selected by Jane Allison, author of The Sisters Antipodes
In Planting, Krista Gampper tells a potent tale that moves swiftly from houseplants to the love of a daughter for her lost mother, from wry humor to heartbreak. Gampper’s language surprises as it shifts glitteringly in mood and scale and then begins to spiral inward to reveal the essay’s heart. Subtly constructed out of parts that arise naturally—from houseplants to grassy Bryant Park, to bare-breasted women who sun there, to the narrator sunning on her mother’s lawn as a girl, to her mother’s plants and the earth in which she planted them, to her hands and body—the essay is modernly real yet taps ancient narrative streams about mothers and daughters, and daughters who find themselves no longer daughters. Gampper’s decision to suppress the anguish of loss, to look toward sardonic humor and sprigs of lavender for signs of life, makes the loss all the more keen."
Fiction Winner: Robert Haller, Another Life
Selected by Christopher Castellani, author of All This Talk of Love
"Another Life begins on the first night of summer vacation, one of those nights 'long and swollen with boredom,' when fifteen-year-old Laura Swanson tags along with her friends looking for trouble. But she live in Grovers Falls, where the most exciting thing going on in this place reminiscent of Our Town is the return of Paul Frazier, lead singer of a legendary high school band. Laura may feel invisible, but the reader is engaged by her authentic and dreamy voice, told in suspenseful retrospect and with humor and wisdom long after the events of this fateful and restless summer. Robert Haller has a strong sense of story, character, pacing and plot and has deftly structured the first movement of this promising novel."
Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to all who submitted! Creative Writing at The New School will host an event in the fall of 2016 featuring readings by the winners and celebrating the publication of the chapbooks.
The New School Chapbook Competition is open to students of the MFA in Creative Writing program upon the year of their graduation. Winners are selected for each genre of study- poetry, writing for children and young adults, nonfiction, and fiction- by a judge who is not affiliated with The New School.
Learn more about Creative Writing at The New School on our website.