2019 Chapbook Contest Winner

Wells College Press is very pleased to announce that the winner of our 2019 Chapbook Contest is James D’Agostinofor his manuscript, Play Attention. His prize includes 10 copies of the letterpress-printed chapbook. He will also read at Wells College in Aurora, NY and receive a $1,000 honorarium plus room and board. In the tradition of the Wells College Press, his chapbook will be crafted obsessively, with hand-set title pages and hand-sewn bindings. It will be published in an edition of 150 signed and numbered copies.

James D’Agostino is the author of Nude With Anything (New Issues Press), Slur Oeuvre, which won the Diagram/New Michigan Prize, and Weathermanic, winner of the CutBank Chapbook Contest. His poems have appeared in Conduit, Forklift Ohio, TriQuarterly, Denver Quarterly, Rattle (Poets Respond), Third Coast, and elsewhere. He lives in Iowa City, Iowa with his wife, the poet and book artist, Karen Carcia. 

This year’s finalists are:
The Clearing by Lisa Hiton
granulated sugar poured slow from a bucket onto snow by Rusty Morrison
Hart & Sword by Christopher Nelson
Litany of Flights by Laura Hogan
The Relentless Pursuit of Good Enough by James Ellenberger

This year’s semifinialists are:
Home and Other Centos by Trevor Ketner
Rain Shadow by William Cordeiro
Red Motel by Christopher Nelson
Siberian by Jill Osier
Speyerby Lisa Hiton

This year also marks the second Bennett Prize, given to a single outstanding poem from among the finalist manuscripts. The winner is “Hallucination with Four Fathers” by Christopher Nelson, which will appear in a limited-edition broadside in Fall 2019. This prize is named in honor of Bruce Bennett, Professor Emeritus of English and former Director of the Book Arts Center at Wells College.

The readers and final judge were overwhelmed by the beautiful range and ambition of submissions this year, as well as the sheer volume. Ultimately, James D’Agostino’s Play Attention won us over with its loving attention to the surface of language, its efforts at not just naming the world but experiencing it through language anew. One reader responded by praising its “incredible sharpness” and “the attention not just to sound play between words but to the connotations of the sounds of words themselves.” The contest judge, Dan Rosenberg, agreed, noting that within the gorgeous play of language in this manuscript he found “love and despair filtered through a palpable sky.” We are thrilled to be publishing this outstanding collection of poems.