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Announcing the Winner of The 2021 Orison Chapbook Prize!

Updated: Jan 20, 2022

Orison Books is pleased to announce that our founder and editor Luke Hankins has selected The Body Problem, poems by Margaret Wack, as the winner of The 2021 Orison Chapbook Prize from among anonymous manuscripts. Wack will receive a $300 cash award as well as publication by Orison Books.

We're also happy to announce the excellent finalist pool:

Simon Anton Niño Diego Baena, "From Now On, I Will Only Write Elegies" (poetry)

Malcolm Dixon, "Death in the Cathedral" (fiction)

Zane Johnson, "Necessary Heavens" (poetry)

Lee Peterson, "The Needles Road" (poetry)

Jen Stewart Fueston, "Darling Heresies" (poetry)

Phillip Watts Brown, "Boy With Flowers in His Mouth" (poetry)

Jill Widner, "Mina and Fina and Lotte Wattimena" (fiction)


Margaret Wack's work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications including EcoTheo Review, Ruminate, Passages North, Grist, Arion, Strange Horizons, Climbing Lightly Through Forests: A Poetry Anthology Honoring Ursula K. Le Guin, and elsewhere. She holds a BA from Smith College and an interdisciplinary master's degree from St. John's College. The Body Problem is her debut chapbook.


Do Not Ask for Metamorphosis I know just how the flesh would carve

open, like a flower. It isn’t morbid.

It’s merely practical. I am no physician

but have practiced drawing the knife

from the clavicle down. How everything

blooms outward. When the baby is breech

they do just this, remove each organ lovingly

and with precision. The body a vessel.

The baby a nesting doll. Blood all the way

down. Is it more difficult to sculpt the body

from flesh, from stone, from the more

malleable metals? Oh cold immaculate

Aphrodite, did it hurt to be born

backwards, up out of the shining wave-tossed

sea, wreathed in incestuous foam? How long

did you spend scuttling and submerged

before you emerged virginal and glistening?

Carved from stubborn stone, every part

of you struck mercilessly until you became

beautiful? I am sick of such miraculous

transformation. I would rather be a laurel tree,

slender and beyond reproach. I am tired of the constant

humming of terrible desire. I am bewitched

by my neck in the mirror, the soft muscle. Where the hands

would go. Where the knife. Where the pearls. I am not

a physician but I know the cure for this: run

the body like a sleek, obedient dog until it stops

running. Lowing and stung ever onward. Fast

and pray until a god appears to you as a bird,

the rain, the color blue. Carve yourself from yourself

like a glistening jewel, wear it on your little finger

and demand to be paid reverence. Proffer yourself

to be kissed by the hungry mouths of confused

worshippers. Pray that the egg in your abdomen

is some exalted hero, born already armored, hymns

already snaking through the syllables of their name.

Do not ask for doomed daughters. Do not ask for

metamorphosis: it is something that must come

upon you unawares, like a blow, like a kiss,

like the moment that you catch and burn. (Originally published in Josephine Quarterly.)


2020: A Husband and Wife Are One Satan, stories by Jeff Fearnside

2019: Divining, poems by Brooke Sahni


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