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October 29, 2008


Along with our daily postings of event listings for California and beyond, I'm going to be posting editorial tidbits as they come in to Poetry Flash. Many have called and asked where the Watershed Poetry Festival in Berkeley will be held if, well, it is raining on Nov. 1. The rain venue is Berkeley City College, 2050 Center Street, half a block from Civic Center Park on Martin Luther King, Jr. Way at Center Street, downtown Berkeley. These locations are all very close to downtown Berkeley BART (Berkeley City College is half a block from BART). The weather is looking pretty good here now! And we are looking forward to a powerful festival. Come check out the readings, music, and exhibitors—including Manic D Press, Heyday Books, Tea Party Magazine, River of Words, Sixteen Rivers Press, California Poets in the Schools, and others.

Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco has just announced the winners of the San Francisco Foundation's 2008 Jackson Phelan Literary Awards. The judges this year were Bay Area writers
Persis M. Karim, Toni Mirosevich, and giovanni singleton.
Joseph Henry Jackson Award - Kelly Luce, Woodside, California, fiction writer
James Duval Phelan Award - Allison Benis White, Irvine, California, poet

The winners will be celebrated at a reading November 18, 7:30, at Intersection for the Arts, 446 Valencia Street (between 15th Street and 16th Street), in the Mission, San Francisco. See Northern California November Calendar for event details.

About the winners, from Intersection:

Kelly Luce is the winner of the 2008 Danahy Fiction Prize from Tampa Review, and has published fiction in North American Review, The Gettysburg Review, Fourteen Hills, Opium, Nimrod, and Alimentum. Her work has also been recognized by a fellowship to the MacDowell Colony and a residency at Devil's Tower National Monument. Originally from Chicago, she worked for two years in Japan. She now lives in the Santa Cruz mountains, where she divides her time between writing and trying to start fires in her wood stove. She can be found online at Crazy Pete's Blotter:
   The judges said: The three short stories that comprise Kelly Luce's fiction manuscript, "Ms. Yamada's Toaster," are engaging feats of imagination and awakening. In the collection's title story, divinity becomes as accessible as a toasted piece of bread. "Cram Island" takes karaoke to a place beyond song while the last and longest story, "Rooey," maps intricate social and emotional terrain. Each narrative effectively challenges commonly held beliefs and raises important questions about the multi-layered relationship between life and death. As if "working a jigsaw puzzle in the dark," Luce masterfully threads ordinariness through a focused lens, be it a street, an alley, or a beer bottle, with captivating results. A fusion of magic and reality dramatically expands the possibilities of our human existence. These stories do not end with their last sentences but rather they are a shore from which the reader sets sail on a journey of transformation. And it is truly "a marvel for anyone who care(s) to look."

Allison Benis White's poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, Ploughshares, and Pleiades, among other journals. Her awards include the Indiana Review Poetry Prize, the Bernice Slote Award from Prairie Schooner, and a Writers Exchange Award from Poets & Writers. Her full-length manuscript, Self-Portrait with Crayon, recently received the 2008 Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Award, and is forthcoming in spring 2009. She is currently at work on a second manuscript, Small Porcelain Head, and she teaches as a lecturer in the English Department at the University of California, Irvine.
   The judges said: In Allison Benis White's "Small Porcelain Head" the panel of judges found a seamless cycle of poems that employ the figure of the doll—as emblem, as childhood nostalgia, as subject/object for the human figure, as locus for attachment, detachment, and the careful way one learns to love and to see one's own human frailties in another. Benis White's poetry engages her reader by simultaneously holding both the physical and the abstract in language that is deceptively simple and beautifully complex:

After our fingers, we put our mouths to the pain—a ceramic tongue broken off like chalk.

As a child, I pressed my tongue to my wrist to see what it would be like to feel someone.

What should I do with my mind? Think of the way it broke until breaking is language.

Benis White employs a fresh poetic voice, at once experimental and still accessible, giving a sense of openness and possibility. "Small Porcelain Head" was unanimously selected as the 2008 James Duval Phelan Literary Award winner by this year's judges for both its accomplishment and promise.

— posted by Joyce Jenkins

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