Gail McConnell – Fothermather  (Ink Sweat & Tears Press)



Judges’ Comments

What is astonishing here is how perfect form and subject meet. Formation is in fact the subject of these poems – the literal formation of children, and the formation of parents in their gendered roles. As an exploration of queer parenthood, this pamphlet feels timely, but never contrived. Rather, it pulses with lived experience, with what matters deeply, and as the poems form and unform, construct and deconstruct in our reading of them, we sense the even more important and sometimes magical composition happening behind the poems – that of fothermather, of parent.


Shell Notes


Parented by ‘Notes Toward a Shellfish’, C.K. Williams’ translation of Francis Ponge, ‘Notes Pour un coquillage’. ‘Shell Notes’ is a rearrangement of this source.


Look — this multi-chambered skull is spectral

at sea. It shelters (and gives pleasure as a dwelling

to) a not-too-social mollusk. Anything —

the amorphous to the form; what is colossal

to the small (the giant over David; the cathedral

to the dust) — any sort found differing

can make for uneasiness in a being.

Animal, fish and human like a shell.


Form is adapted from elsewhere (a residue

of that place it bears). Glass from sand, city

from stone, a well out of the ground, a statue

made of bone. Sculpted things, inconceivably

there, show through at last. Adjustment is true

genius. Less man from ape, than boy from body.



The 2020 Shortlists

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