The 2021 Winner of The Sundog Poetry Prize is BAGS AND TOOLS by Michael Fleming
What compelled me about Bags and Tools was its reach for a âwe.â The âweâ was open enough and varied enough to encompass a wide swath of people(s) but did not assume a samenessâindeed, it sought in part to elucidate the matter of difference through questioning. In âDreams,â Michael Fleming notes that âTheir logic is not your logic,â and then goes on to write ironically of the speakerâs own âfine certitudesâ that fail in the light of othersâ realities. This brings to mind Taha Muhammad Aliâs line âMy happiness is not your happiness,â which immediately agrees upon happiness but insists upon its own terms while questioning the aims of others. It seems a simple observation, but it is notâit is nuanced and insightful.Â
Much of this authorâs work is the same, plain-spoken, but upon reading it presents its concerns. What is in theÂ bagÂ of the speaker who presents themself as a would-be vagabond, a wayward traveler? A curious mind, a passionate search for a larger framework (God, Love) through what the reader could think of as letters to beloveds as much as dedications where names are cited. This is a book I will read again, then again. It is the speakerâs trying that I find so relatable. The skein is thin here, so author and speaker are close. Michael Fleming effectively uses the tools of craft to take us along on this narrow path that widens and promises to open into broad understanding.
âVievee Francis (judge’s citation)
âMichael Flemingâs debut collection brims with wit and irresistible music. His finely crafted poems are songs that carry the pulse of human experience, speak in the voices of animals, leap into the future and back through history. Bags and Tools has a global vision, moving from ballad to blues, Vermont woods to New York streets, bringing friends and lovers along for the ride with insistent rhythmic energy. What a gift these wise poems are! Fleming sings of a broken world still resonant with hope, where âthe skyâs an ocean, breathing tides of light.ââ
Â âDiana Whitney, author of Wanting It
âThe big-hearted poems in Michael Flemingâs Bags and Tools welcome you into their world, their deep learning worn lightly. By turns they celebrate the good, using their forms to shape those thoughts, while other poems, such as the crown of sonnets that constitutes âCorona,â use form to hold together the things around us that seem ready to explode. In this dark time, these poems are candles no wind can blow out.â
Â âWyn Cooper, author of Mars Poetica
âHere is a steady poetic hand working within the beautiful boundaries of form, rhythm, and rhyme while engaging myriad points of viewâa jaguar, the scores paid in Vichy France, an astronaut, to name just three. Michael Flemingâs imagination knows no limits as he ponders and feels his way through one emotional landscape after another. The sheer level of articulation is quietly dazzling: the right word consistently appearing in the right place. I am reminded of something ancient yet ever contemporary and ever crucial: the honesty
of the poetâs labors.â
Â âBaron Wormser, author of Unidentified Sighing Objects
About the Author
Michael Fleming was born in San Francisco, raised in Wyoming, and has lived and learned and worked all around the world, from Thailand, England, and Swaziland to Berkeley, New York City, and now Brattleboro, Vermont. Heâs been a teacher, a grad student, a carpenter, a musician, and always a writer; for the past twenty years, he has edited books of every description.
Author photo by Elizabeth Ungerleider.
FRANCES CANNON is a writer and artist currently living in Vermont, where she teaches at the Vermont College of Fine Arts and Champlain College. She is the author and illustrator of several books of hybrid text and artwork: Walter Benjamin: Reimagined, MIT Press, The Highs and Lows of Shapeshift Ma and Big-Little Frank, Gold Wake Press, Tropicalia, Vagabond Press, and Uranian Fruit,Â Honeybee Press. She was born in Utah and has since lived in Oregon, Vermont, California, Maine, Iowa, Italy, Guatemala, France, and Mexico making art and writing books. She has an MFA in creative writing from Iowa and a BA from the University of Vermont.Â @frankyfrancescannon frankyfrancescannon.com
90 pages; 5.5 x 8.5 / Softcover
ISBN: 978-1-9505848-4-0 (print)
Publication Date: April 4, 2022
Distributor: IPG / Chicago
Rights sold: All rights available.
Rights contact: Dede Cummings
Individuals can pre-order directly from Bookshop.org, Indiebound.org,Â online,Â or contact your local, independent bookstore.
Booksellers, libraries, colleges/universities, gift shops, etc., can order directly through IPG:
Independent Publishers Group
814 N. Franklin Street
Chicago, IL 60610
Order Placement:Â (800) 888-4741
Via email: firstname.lastname@example.org
For an advance reader copyâdigital or printâemail email@example.com
Sundog Poetry Centerâs First or Second Book Award Prize for a Vermont Poet, 2021
Final Judge: Vievee Francis
The winner is Bags & Tools, by Michael Fleming. The two runners-up are Some Dark Familiar, by Julia C. Alter, and The River Holds Its Breath, by Partridge Boswell.
Sundog Poetry Center announces the 2021 annual book award for a first or second poetry manuscript, in partnership with Green Writers Press, who will design, print, and distribute the book nationwide.
The final judge was Vievee Francis, author of three books of poetry:Â Blue-Tail Fly,Â Horse in the Dark, andÂ Forest PrimevalÂ (NUP, winner of the Hurston Wright Legacy Award and theÂ 2017 Kingsley-Tufts Poetry Award). Her fourth book, The Shared World, is forthcoming from Northwestern University Press. Her work has appeared in numerous print and online journals, textbooks, and anthologies, including Poetry, Best American Poetry, andÂ Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poetry. She serves as an associate editor ofÂ CallalooÂ and is an associate professor of English and Creative WritingÂ at Dartmouth. She and her husband, poet Matthew Olzmann, live in Vermont.
This contest is open to all Vermont-based poets who have not published more than one full-length collection. Submissions will open on August 1st, 2022. For more information, visit www.sundogpoetry.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.