No matter who I tell or how many times I say it, the news never ceases to be surreal. Friends, I am a finalist for the Washington State Book Award for my debut full-length poetry book, “Blood Song.”
The awards will be held on October 14th at the Central Library in Seattle. To be held in the same esteem as poets like Paisley Rekdal and Tara Hardy, Don Mee Choi and Megan Snyder-Camp, seems like a strange slip up. These are poets I’ve heard about for years, and who am I but a reader with a golden ticket?
Other nominees in the various other categories include Sherman Alexie, Lindy West, and Ted Chiang. If you live in the Seattle area and attend the ceremony, I’ll be the one looking dazzled but happy, a reader surrounded by writers.
My debut full-length poetry collection “Blood Song” was longlisted for the Julie Suk Award (an award for best book of poetry from an independent or university press) not too long ago and that felt tremendous. It’s an amazing honor to be recognized like that. But equally humbling was the fact Stephen Furlong not only bothered to read my book but felt compelled to write a review of it. Reviewing seems to be an especially thankless genre of writing; I see why hardly anyone does it. Which makes this all the more heart warming to me.
“Vulnerability in Schmeltzer’s writing is one of his poetic strengths,” Stephen writes. As an artist who aims toward the vulnerable, who wants to enact vulnerability not just as craft but as a lifestyle, Stephen’s compliment means the absolute world to me.
Thank you Stephen, and thank you to those involved in the Julie Suk Award process. You all make the writing world a better place.
I have found joy in the smallest things: tiny dogs carried by their owners, smooth rocks, how you can pretend to be a dragon when it’s cold and your breath visible. It’s childish. I’m childish. That part of me, the part that still tries the new flavor of chips or chocolate, is what has kept me going as a writer.
I don’t submit as much as I use to. I don’t write as much either. But there are enough small joys in the literary world (and big ones if you know where to look) that keep me going.
This week has been filled with joys in my world. Chloe Clark wrote a blog post over at Ploughshares on “poetry after disaster,” and was kind enough to include one of my poems. Gulf Stream Lit and Two Sylvias Press both nominated me for a Pushcart Prize. And one of the powerhouses of literary citizenship, Mr. Bear (and Georgia Bellas), did a feature of my work paired with some music by Leonard Cohen on the literary podcast, Mr. Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon. I don’t know whether to consider these small joys or large ones. But they are joys, and I’m thankful for them. This much I know.