Last night, at the Oregon Book Awards ceremony, I got to go up on stage because Joanna Klink, who announced the winners of the Poetry category, said my name and the name of the book of poems I wrote called Fjords vol. 1. I won the 2013 Oregon Book Award for Poetry! The judge was Mary Jo Bang.
Here’s a quick summary of what I remember saying once I got up there: Wow, this is so exciting. I have this fantasy of stepping over a chair when I win an award. So that is what I did. But my legs feel empty now so that wasn’t graceful. And (to the guy in the front row), I’m sorry about stepping on your nice hat. I’m glad these clothes didn’t turn out to be a bad omen (pointing to my jacket and tie and sweater). I wore them two years ago for when Scary, No Scary was nominated but didn’t win. When I put the jacket on today I noticed that my old name tag that says Finalist on it was still in there so I pinned it on (pointing now to both name tags on my jacket). (At this point I realize how I’m just rambling and hamming it up and haven’t said a single thing yet)(I forgot to say the joke I was going to say about thanking the person whose living room we were in (we were on a stage designed to look a little like a living room) and how I’m worried if those people would come home too early and find us in their living room and get mad)(Also I was going to take a picture from up on stage of everyone in the crowd and then look at it and say oh that guy in the 18th row has his eyes closed so let me try again because that is a good joke, but I forgot that too). I won on the second try so I’m doing better than Larry Colton (Larry Colton accepted the Lifetime Legacy award earlier and said he never won an Oregon Book Award)(I saw him laugh so that was a relief). Anyway, that poem (Joanna read a poem to the audience from Fjords called “Building of Unseen Cats”) was a true story. My building on 37th and Belmont almost burned down a while back. These poems were written entirely in Oregon, after I moved here in 2008, the first book of mine in which I can claim that, so I’m so proud that it won this particular award. Many of the poems are transcribed from the dreams of many of my friends in Portland, so I’d like to thank them, especially Emily Kendal Frey, who helped usher those dreams and these particular poems into existence. Also, all the poetry books on this year’s finalist list were published by independent presses, and most of them small presses. I’m so happy to be a part of that list, to represent small press, and to be part of the acknowledgement that small press is alive and well. And thank you to Mary Jo Bang and Oregon Literary Arts.
That’s pretty much what I said. I said it all inside a bright light. And then I walked back into a room where I imagined the dead go, and that I had just died, and everybody was congratulating me on such a good death.