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Carrie Shipers - Winner, Able Muse Book Award, 2014

Carrie Shipers
Carrie Shipers


2014 Able Muse Book Award
for her poetry manuscript
Embarking on Catastrophe

Selected by final judge, Molly Peacock

Coming soon from Able Muse Press - Spring/Summer 2015

(the contest second place, finalists and honorable mentions are listed here)



Carrie Shipers’s poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Crab Orchard Review, Connecticut Review, New England Review, North American Review, and Prairie Schooner, among other journals. She is the author of two chapbooks, Ghost-Writing (Pudding House, 2007) and Rescue Conditions (Slipstream Press, 2008), and her first full-length collection, Ordinary Mourning, was released by ABZ Press in May 2010. 


Sample poems from Carrie Shipers's Embarking on Catastrophe


Dear Hospital,

                                 I hate your smell of potatoes
and alcohol wipes.  The forced cheer of your lobby,
with its dried flowers and holiday displays. 
Your elderly volunteers, their kindly greetings
and inability to answer any question except
where the restrooms are.  I hate your coffee shop,
its weak brew and insufficient hours,
live piano music that sets my teeth on edge. 
I hate your winding hallways, signs pointing
places I don’t want to go.  Your waiting rooms,
awkwardly arranged and stocked with pamphlets—
What to Expect in the ICU, When Caregivers
Give Too Much—I shove in my purse
when no one’s looking.  I even hate your chapel,
which is too close to the elevators although at least
it’s dimly lit.  The plastic shoes your nurses wear. 
Your parking garage, the no smoking policy
that covers your entire campus.  I hate
that you call it a campus.  Dear Hospital,
I hate how many of your windows
I’ve looked through, how many hours I’ve spent
observing your routines.  I hate how safe
you make me feel, how every time
my husband leaves you I worry it’s too soon.

    (previously published in Harpur Palate)


At the Sadness Factory

                                             every shift
is overnight or double.  Always, layoffs
loom.  When the lunch-bell rings,
the line creaks to a halt and workers eat
dry sandwiches brought from home,
bruised fruit, leftovers in the fridge
too long.  They have to swallow hard
to overcome their knotted throats. 
Talk of weather or local sports can lead
to tears. 

                       At the Sadness Factory,
the suggestion box is empty and quotas
go unmet.  As the market shrank,
other plants diversified or just
shut down.  Now most of their products
go overseas on cargo boats that sink
or simply vanish.  Old-timers say
they used to work harder but for better pay. 
They look forward to retirement,
small pensions and trips to the lake,
though they’ll miss the hum and bustle,
the birthdays marked with cake and used
balloons, bowling and softball teams
that lose or have to forfeit. 

are sadder than folks on the line,
the managers saddest of all.  The owner
used to be sad but now comes only
at Christmas, bringing whiskey
no one drinks.  The Sadness Factory is,
as it’s always been, the town’s largest
employer.  No one believes it could close.

    (previously published in Alaska Quarterly Review)


In your next letter,

                                      please describe
the weather in great detail.  If possible,
enclose a fist of snow or mud,

everything you know about the soil,
how tomato leaves rub green against
your skin and make you itch, how slow

the corn is growing on the hill. 
Thank you for the photographs
of where the chicken coop once stood,

clouds that did not become tornadoes. 
When I try to explain where I’m from,
people imagine cornbread, cast-iron,

cows drifting across grass.  I interrupt
with barbed wire, wind, harvest air
that reeks of wheat and diesel. 

I hope your sleep comes easy now
that you’ve surrendered the upstairs,
hope the sun still lets you drink

one bitter cup before its rise.  I don’t miss
flannel shirts, radios with only
am stations, but there’s a certain kind

of star I can’t see from where I am—
bright, clear, unconcerned.  I need
your recipes for gravy, pie crust,

canned green beans.  I’m sending you
the buttons I can’t sew back on.
Please put them in the jar beside your bed. 

In your next letter, please send seeds
and feathers, a piece of bone or china
you plowed up last spring.  Please

promise I’m missing the right things.

    (previously published in midwestern gothic)



jeredith Merrin (not verified)

I thought to write and say that I remember you from when I was teaching at OSU, Carrie, and am so happy for you--and what a good press, Able Muse!  What a good idea, writing to a hospital--such a hard place to write about, generally leaving us numb and blank.  "In your next letter" certainly brings me back to the Midwest, where I no longer live.  Joy upon your new book!

Jeredith Merrin

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