We are pleased to announce that Hannah Bissell has received honorable mention for The Hopper Poetry Prize for her manuscript Heartwood.

Ecstatic at the outset, the poems in this collection take flight “across a wide, passionate sky” and “bumble home pollen drunk.” Then the admonition: “. . . stop living as if all of this is going to last forever.” It doesn’t; according to the poet, fear “chooses to rise, becoming / its own maker / and means”—"the fear of [our] own presence” in the natural world. The poems in this collection illuminate our estrangement. The world of animals is a world of intuition and intelligence—geese that “never occupy the same place twice,” “the dog [that] does not return to its refuse.” In contrast, there’s a weariness in being human, as in the poem “Good Luck,” in which the poet declares, “When I tire of living in this skin, / I’ll roll up my soul, / tuck it into a cricket shell. / I’ll use my wings responsibly—only to sing, never to fly more than a few inches.” What we must learn, the poet says, is to produce the song without breaking the instrument’s “heartwood.” 

—Kathleen Hellen, author of Umberto’s Night

Hannah M. Bissell teaches poetry, composition, and environmental literature in northwest Montana. She holds an MFA from Pacific University, and her work has appeared in several publications, including Cloudbank, Whitefish Review, The Hopper, and Alluvian. When she isn't teaching or writing, she enjoys crocheting and spending as much time as possible walking in the woods with her husband. Enjoy a poem from Heartwood below.


Daybreak Chorus

Remember through everything
there are still a few pockets
of peace on earth—in the moss-green garden
where a mourning dove shakes
the shades of dew off its back,
singing its daybreak chorus
and in the car at the four-way stop,
where a husband and wife join hands
across the console
after last night’s long fight,
a tentative gesture of trust.
And through the nearby open window,
a coffee grinder accompanies
the shower’s percussion and someone
is toasting bread.
On the other side of town,
a man is dressing
for his shift at the food bank
and another man is dressing
to receive his bread. At the bottom
of a set of stairs that do not belong
to anybody, a daffodil has lifted
its trumpet to the sun
and a hummingbird dips in for nectar.

At the main-street light, the drifter
with the cardboard sign offers
his dog the last morsel of last night’s supper
because someone has stopped to offer
a lift, and a stretch-lobed young man
in tattoos and black leather has paused
to help push a stalled truck
out of the intersection on his way to school.
A few streets down, his classmate
is teaching someone’s grandmother to read
before classes, and the grandmother serves him
coffee and scones.
They sound out squirrel
as one balances by the window on the telephone wires,
cheeks puffed full of pine nuts.

Over the low fence of a back garden, a doe
is nibbling the roses and nobody
drives her away. And when a man
walks by with his dog, he watches
the dog duck under the fence and touch
its nose to hers, each wagging their tails
at their inability to speak the same language.
And when the man at last begins
to walk away, calling the dog,
it comes.