2018 Catamaran Poetry Prize

The Catamaran Poetry Prize is an annual award for a book-length collection of poems that includes a $1,000 honorarium and publication. The contest is open to West Coast poets living in California, Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Hawaii. The 2019 Catamaran Poetry Prize submissions open Nov 15th, 2018 and close Mar 15th, 2019.

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Catamaran Literary Reader is pleased to announce that Michelle Bitting’s book Broken Kingdom is the recipient of the first annual Catamaran Poetry Prize.

The contest judge Zack Rogow had this to say about Michelle Bitting’s manuscript:

"There is a sense in Michelle Bitting’s Broken Kingdom that the poet is announcing the advent of something both gorgeous and horrific. It’s very much a book for our time. Repeatedly, these poems astound me with the power of their pronouncements and with their new and voltaic use of language. Broken Kingdom restores my faith that life can be miraculous, even when—or especially when—it’s as mundane as a father and son unstopping a clogged bathroom sink."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                             photo credit: Alexis Rhone Fancher   

Michelle Bitting’s latest collection is The Couple Who Fell to Earth (C & R Press, 2016), named one of the Kirkus Best Books of 2016. She has poems published in the American Poetry Review, NarrativePrairie Schooner, the New York Times, the Harvard Review, and others. Poems of hers have appeared on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily and in numerous anthologies, including Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond and Myrrh, Mothwing, Smoke: Erotic Poems from Tupelo Press. Her book Good Friday Kiss, chosen by Thomas Lux, won the DeNovo First Book Award; and Notes to the Beloved won the Sacramento Poetry Center Book Award, earned a starred review from Kirkus, and was reissued by C & R Press in 2018. She has won awards from GlimmerTrain and the Beyond Baroque Foundation. Poems of hers have been nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net prizes. Bitting also won the 2018 Mark Fischer Poetry Prize. She has taught poetry in the UCLA Extension Writers Program, at Twin Towers Correctional Facility, and for ten years has been an active California Poet in the Schools. She earned an MFA in poetry from Pacific University, Oregon, an MA in mythological studies with an emphasis in depth psychology, and in summer 2018 will complete a PhD in mythological studies at Pacifica Graduate Institute. She is the poet laureate of Pacific Palisades and has won grants from the Optimists Club and Poets & Writers Magazine for her teaching work in Los Angeles. www.michellebitting.com 

KIRKUS REVIEW reviews Broken Kingdom in Best Books of 2018    Bitting ( Notes to the Beloved , 2017, etc.) offers a poetry collection that combines environmental, religious, and familial themes.  This lush new book of poems, which won the 2018 Catamaran Poetry Prize for West Coast poets, invites readers into a space that’s both contemplative and visceral. From the very first work, “An Hour North of Lee Vining, California,” about fishing in the Golden State, the author’s descriptions evoke vivid, lively settings. Religious imagery also abounds, from God’s rampant destruction in the book of Genesis to the stained glass, pews, and cup of Sunday services. Some of Bitting’s lines even read like prayers: “I remember what matters. / Please don’t ever remind me again.” Motherhood emerges as a theme in the latter sections, as when Bitting’s speaker expresses awe at her offspring in “Touched”: “I don’t know how / we got so lucky / to say we know you well when / clearly you are from somewhere else.” A father-son plumbing repair sparks equal amazement at how a fitful teenager became a man who’s patient enough to unclog a sink in “sometimes i want to look away.” In “Everything Crumbling Becoming Something New,” the narrator alternately grieves and celebrates her daughter’s declaration that she wants to be a boy: “woman now man / all your multitudes I’m learning to sing you,” the poet writes. Throughout, the metaphors are masterful and fully engage all the reader’s senses; water balloons are “watered organs that want to burst” (“What the Rain Made”), female genitalia is a “vinegar cave” (“The Slaying”), and coffee is “dark fluid sun” (“After”). Bitting is a seductive writer who eases readers into the darkest depths; she’s able to open a poem in the seemingly benign setting of a high school darkroom and end it with the untimely death of a brother in Yosemite. Fans of Sharon Olds’, Margaret Atwood’s, and Louise Erdrich’s poetry will find much to admire in Bitting’s vulnerable, emotive free-verse style.  A glorious set that weaves together the ethereal, earthly, and mundane. —Kirkus Review

KIRKUS REVIEW reviews Broken Kingdom in Best Books of 2018

Bitting (Notes to the Beloved, 2017, etc.) offers a poetry collection that combines environmental, religious, and familial themes.

This lush new book of poems, which won the 2018 Catamaran Poetry Prize for West Coast poets, invites readers into a space that’s both contemplative and visceral. From the very first work, “An Hour North of Lee Vining, California,” about fishing in the Golden State, the author’s descriptions evoke vivid, lively settings. Religious imagery also abounds, from God’s rampant destruction in the book of Genesis to the stained glass, pews, and cup of Sunday services. Some of Bitting’s lines even read like prayers: “I remember what matters. / Please don’t ever remind me again.” Motherhood emerges as a theme in the latter sections, as when Bitting’s speaker expresses awe at her offspring in “Touched”: “I don’t know how / we got so lucky / to say we know you well when / clearly you are from somewhere else.” A father-son plumbing repair sparks equal amazement at how a fitful teenager became a man who’s patient enough to unclog a sink in “sometimes i want to look away.” In “Everything Crumbling Becoming Something New,” the narrator alternately grieves and celebrates her daughter’s declaration that she wants to be a boy: “woman now man / all your multitudes I’m learning to sing you,” the poet writes. Throughout, the metaphors are masterful and fully engage all the reader’s senses; water balloons are “watered organs that want to burst” (“What the Rain Made”), female genitalia is a “vinegar cave” (“The Slaying”), and coffee is “dark fluid sun” (“After”). Bitting is a seductive writer who eases readers into the darkest depths; she’s able to open a poem in the seemingly benign setting of a high school darkroom and end it with the untimely death of a brother in Yosemite. Fans of Sharon Olds’, Margaret Atwood’s, and Louise Erdrich’s poetry will find much to admire in Bitting’s vulnerable, emotive free-verse style.

A glorious set that weaves together the ethereal, earthly, and mundane. —Kirkus Review


The New York Review of Books has published this review of BROKEN KINGDOM by Michelle Bitting, winner of the 2018 Catamaran Poetry Prize! 

"A lush, prophetic poetry collection–both tawdry and breathtaking–for this era when blessings can sit side-by-side with what often
feels like damnation."

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