Monday, April 25, 2016

Dan Ivec / 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist

Dan Ivec

[2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist]

The Nocturnal Biennial

Every second year

on the shortest night of the year

the prisoners are allowed

to escape it is a folk tradition

begun in the days when

we were all prisoners

and knew what it was 

to live or to want to live.

Friday, April 22, 2016

E.C. Belli / 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist

E.C. Belli

[2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist]


Another battering, brown
Grass. It’s hives, you see, not the sky
I want to talk about. Clean 
Sleep. Sundown is a musing 
Ruin, a tired gaze. Do you
Know it by any other name?
I am supremely content— 
Though I despise board games
And Sunday afternoons.
Put on a decent face, I’d like to say 
Some days. We’re all crushed 
With longing. Last week, 
I left the dog with someone 
Who almost let him die. It didn’t matter
To her—his trench-deep eyes,
Four sturdy legs, a trodden heart
Endless with hope; all the 
Little things that make you
You. One person in the world
Loved him, you see—made him
Less wretched, which is to say
Easier to maim without remorse. 
Love is always a good cause 

For injury.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Todd Melicker / 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist

Todd Melicker

[2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist]

Though not to love, yet love to tell me so

list rain as an

list a bird tucked
in the lip

list sorrow, patience,
list spoons

list tongue-tied
lift, ill-wresting love

the people of the 

i should grow
pressed fog

spills in the 

i should grow


Monday, April 18, 2016

Beth Marzoni / 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist

Beth Marzoni

[2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist]

from The Driftless Is Literal

Mostly, when the locals talked, their gossip was a type of prayer. Mostly to their patron saint of the snow bank, of have-not & want-less. Mostly, measurement was the problem. Always too much or never enough—mostly humility & when it wasn’t, precipitation. Mostly I struggled with attention. Mostly, I hurled bricks, but I didn’t wake any less anxious. If anything, the ache burrowed deeper. If I believed in prayer, I’d have prayed for grace & for birdsong. I realized that I’d had it backwards all this time: the weather reports us. Mostly, when I talked, it was to myself. Who is the patron saint of the bell & who of its silence? Who is the patron saint of the song tangled in these sheets? Saint of the flood plain. Saint of the cell tower. Saint of the long haul. Saint of static, take it. You can have it all.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

2016 Tomaž Šalamun Prize open to entries

The 2016 Tomaž Šalamun Prize is open for entries until July 15, 2016. Writers who have published no more than 2 books are eligible. The prize is for a chapbook-length portfolio (20-40 pages). The winner receives $1000 and publication in the print edition of Verse. Dara Wier is the final judge. To submit, visit:

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Bradley Fest / 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist

Bradley Fest

[2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist]

Architects and Their Books

Time’s laceration let out upon a mahogany
doorstep. The kind we make up as children
in bed, alone. As if there was another option.
As if Mr. Panda could have been a different kind
of confidant. We’ll let feeling in for a moment
only to have it sutured, impossibly, to understanding,
like a saddled-beast lounging on the quarterdeck of this,
our present colloquium. We’ll let this we we have become
stumble off into the night, infantilized like so many
un-pursued dreamscapes. Some fourth person
would have to arrive, as if on her way to the depot
like a harried harbinger of ice-cold and forgotten departures.
Systems work. Molasses drips. Sanguine yearning
churns out of the cattle-press, always. Elaborate
please. The insufficiency at work in the hazy
construction of some kind of yesterday approaches
melancholy, at best. Meaning: do not become forensic.
Take the pictures, sure, but be careful only to document
the details matching the case, the important lineaments
frequenting this, desire’s current neoliberal expression.
Not, to be sure, the relevant dripping mucus on the mirror
nor the chaste notes rippling the flag. I like tumescence
as much as the next victim, but would prefer not to get
carried away on the back of some gryphon-steed as my tail feathers
wag toward the sky. I, not you, work conscientiously for
a million little dumb show matinees. Silent, they’re performed in
parking structures made from fiberglass and patience. Stalwart,
I tell you, they house forever-notes. Next time, get down.

Be careful with the perforated letter. She’ll unhouse you,
so close to the walkway as you are. The dappled smoke
seeping out of the sun connotes not requiems nor certainty.
Canned sentiment is perhaps killing our house pets. Or else
freedom has (perhaps) deleted our houseguests. The threshold
doesn’t mind the imperative I’m giving, the command from silent structures
to the trains that pass in the middle of the day, lonely on their eastward
wandering, and working toward dental transcendence, rollicking
their rhythm forward and through the densities of fine, trellised
woodwork. Post-arboretum sale, the delicacies purchased,
the light of them, their coma-inducing glare, capsized the moment.
Sure, queens of delight strode thoughtfully down lanes of embarkation,
distances folded together in their tresses, like panoplied andromedans,
like fore-warned, miscreant saboteurs on their way to endless satisfaction.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Michelle Murphy / 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist

Michelle Murphy

[2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalist]


I know the guttural urge to walk the fog, confusing it for heaven & rummage for brothers that have stepped barefoot from memory’s curb.

Which brings us back to this fog & the believers who shake salt over their shoulders like crumbs.

An errand can take you anywhere, even into the woods, a bridge of mothers’ voices calling through a flash flood where a path is cleared to better hear the names.

We are all unsolved; bartering for faith with whatever is at hand, hoping it’s enough to keep us at the table.

He hides his head but doesn’t sleep. A parachute of air and smoke gathered in the hem of his mouth.

You know how maps recite their borders then take on a language of ledgers, average in the floods the oil spilt and spilt & all the grief on loan.

The facts of our lives are waged. We throw down for a shot of whiskey, burn our throats sweet. Who says we can only occupy one room at a time?
Pacific, we lay our debts on the table, the kisses and threads, the bad advice we gave so freely.

Love is quick like this. We forgive ourselves when the rent is due & pride’s just not able.

You’ve seen how fickle breath is, are versed in satellites’ ways, how they stretch the truth until it hurts.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalists

Over the next few weeks on the Verse site, we will be publishing excerpts from portfolios by some of the 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize finalists, whose work will appear in the next edition of the print magazine. Each portfolio is 20-40 pages long.

Submissions for the 2016 Tomaž Šalamun Prize will open on May 1.

Monday, April 11, 2016

NEW! Short fiction by Joanna Ruocco

Joanna Ruocco

Defense of Marriage Act

Sometimes even the best women pretend to be men. It is socially expedient to do so in certain situations. The women pretend to be men until the situation is over. Sometimes they pretend for longer, so long that they get used to it and aren’t pretending. Then they have to pretend to be women again. This creates confusion. We meet an exemplary woman, one of the very best women, and sooner or later we realize that she’s pretending. She isn’t for real, but whether she’s a man pretending to be a woman or a woman pretending to be a man pretending to be a woman we can’t be sure. If we could go back to the beginning and establish the facts, using testimonies and also photographic and documentary evidence, we might say, look here, she started out as a man or he started out as a woman, we might settle the issue, but in the beginning, there are parents and parents often pretend that their child is a man or a woman, and why not? In the beginning, their children really aren’t much. They aren’t men or women, they aren’t stockbrokers or teachers or plumbers or store clerks, fathers or mothers, they’re balls of warm meat, tubes of warm meat, chubby bundles of cytoplasm and diarrhea, and so their parents have to pretend. They pretend the cytoplasm is a little man or a little woman, like they had to pretend in middle-school with the eggs or the bags of flour, this is my child, he is… she is…. The parents call the cytoplasm by name, they try to connect the cytoplasm with names. Very short names are best. Frederick always seems wrong at this stage. Bartholomew, Jacquelyn. My mother, Georgia, is one of the very best women, although she might be pretending. She told me the truth about my father, that my father is not a man. She told me my father is a sentient tree, a barely sentient tree, or an inert gas, or a coma patient, a lump under a sheet that doesn’t need the name its parents worked so hard to connect with it. She said I could pretend he was a man if I wanted. I could pretend he was anything, except a mother, except a good woman. He wasn’t. He wasn’t ever. She was, my mother, a good woman. One of the best, the most believable. I never saw her otherwise. She said no matter what I had to keep in mind there was a difference.  

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

NEW! two short fictions by Joanna Ruocco

Joanna Ruocco


It is good to rob a pocketbook. It is good to rob a dog. It is good to rob copper. The copper is in the walls of the house. The dog is between the dog-gates in the hall. The pocketbook is on top of the piano bench. Do not try to rob a piano alone. Yes, a canoe, a canoe rob alone. Rob a piano with friends who wear t-shirts. Piano movers wear t-shirts. Piano robbers are unheard of. If you have robbed jodhpurs the racehorse is yours. Rob the long horse to place. Do you have a plane? It is good to rob a plane. You can fill the cargo hold with comestibles. You can ransom the dog. You can ride the horse through the surf, bareback, with your hands in its mane. Let it stud in the sea cave with whatever mammal it desires. The swiftest manatees will be born. They will slip between the bars of the gridded globe.

The Mayan Calendar

Mrs. R is looking for Mr. R. Mr. R is in the bedroom touching his toes. There you are, says Mrs. R. In the bedroom. Later Mr. R finds Mrs. R in the room they call the blue room. Once it had a blue carpet. What are you doing, says Mr. R. They each visit a bathroom. Mr. R finishes first. Mrs. R follows Mr. R to the kitchen. She pours leftover coffee from the coffeepot into a jar. Mr. R leaves the kitchen. When he returns he finds Mrs. R in the kitchen. You’re still here, says Mr. R. There are no windows in the kitchen. Mr. R looks into the refrigerator. He shuts the refrigerator door. Mrs. R looks into the refrigerator. Are you blind, says Mrs. R. She shuts the refrigerator door. Mr. R visits the bathroom he visited before. He finds Mrs. R in the bedroom. Where’d you go, says Mr. R. He has to cross her side of the room to get to his side of the room. Mrs. R is lying down on her bed. Mr. R lies down on his bed. They share a chocolate bar from Mrs. R’s sock drawer. Mrs. R leaves the bedroom. She comes back with two mugs of coffee. You’re welcome, says Mrs. R. Mr. R takes his coffee. They drink coffee. Mr. R falls asleep. When he wakes up, it’s just as dark. He feels in Mrs. R’s bed. You are there, says Mr. R. Aren’t you?