Edition No. 8 / Poetry / Spring 2021

“Decaying  House” by William Crawford, taken in Stoneville, NC. The complete artist statement about his process, called Forensic Foraging, can be found here.

Backchannels celebrates national poetry month with our first poetry contest. We do things differently around here: entries were no-fee and we awarded cash prizes to our top winners. Why? Because we know we create the world we live in. We don’t want to exploit hopeful artists trying to find a place for their work and themselves. Art is valuable. Money is a resource we’re willing to trade for it. More importantly, more than ever, we know art keeps us going. It also keeps us connected, rooted, and wild. Poetry is a powerful way to find new paths, less travelled backroads–backchannels, if you will–to think, feel, and be without apology. In poetry, we find fortification and solidarity.

Our first place poem, “Means of Entry” by Cait Shea, is sharp, compelling, and evocative. We love the spare strophes that gain substance as the speaker moves into their interior and become spare again as the narrative moves back into an more cautious emotional space. Language is frequently most beautiful during moments supercharged with tension and maybe longing. This encourages the reader to pause and appreciate how hard it can be to hold such disparate things and how often they go together, like “Your palm rests on my neck, needles / That bore into my skull flower” and “Worthless life, a cockroach watching from the windowsill / Moonlight striking the room with a soft silver point.” This poem captures complex, quiet moments that resonate with universal themes of pain, trust, and hope.

Our second place poem, “Vitamins for Ygdrasilby Corey Mesler, moved the judging panel with its revelatory imagery, allusions, and craftmanship; richly uncomplicated prose uniting the everyday and the eternal. Our runner-up “Blessure” by Lexys Sillin, challenges readers with gorgeous explorations into difficult aspects of the human experience.

The rest of the work in this issue–all poetry–hold warm spots in our hearts as well. It was a difficult issue to curate, as we had so many quality submissions. Congratulations to our winners, and thanks to all of our submitters and readers alike.

May this issue help you find your own uncommon way.

Leslie, Laura, and Mary

About the Artist: William C. Crawford is an itinerant photographer based in Winston Salem, NC. He invented Forensic Foraging, a throwback, minimalist approach for modern digital photographers. More of his work can be seen at @bcraw44 on Instagram.

Artist’s statement on the Forensic Foraging process can be found here.

First Place: Cait Shea – Means of Entry

Second Place: Corey Mesler – Vitamins for Ygdrasil

Runner-Up: Lexys Sillin – Blessure

James Piatt – Noiseless Sky

David Miller – One Minute Past High Sun

Mackie Garrett – Falling In at Age 10

Danielle Gallo – Dregs

Maureen Moroney – Out

Ralph Monday – Of Cold & a March Night

Stephen Mead – Green Domes

Jai K Miller – Graves and Boxes

Catherine E. Mintz – On the Plane Ride Home from the Funeral

John Hicks – Breakfast with Grandpa

John Snethen – Beside the Steps and Enough from the Sky

Kelsey Bigelow – Spinal Tap

Aaron Sandberg – The Bachelorette Party Goes to the Magic Show

Zachery Michael Jack – Chemistry


Mary Bardsley, Editor
Leslie Caton Frey, Editor
Laura Johnson, Editor

Cover art by William Crawford

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