The Hopper Poetry Prize


We are pleased to announce that Zoë Brigley is runner-up of The Hopper Poetry Prize for her manuscript Letter to a Horse's Head.


Letter to a Horse’s Head examines the complex relationships between human and nonhuman lives as well as the ways in which gender informs these experiences. This collection regularly uses epistolaries to establish dialogues, often addressing or personifying women of myth, literature, and history, such as Leda, Edna Pontellier, and Georgia O’Keeffe. Gender violence and violence against animals are often central concerns; in one poem, men wonder “whether under your dress / is a staircase / for them to climb.” In another, a man mutilates horses, “would treat them / just as / shamefully as he / knows how” and yet keep them alive. Yet, what makes this collection particularly compelling is its refusal to let tragedy be the only note it sings; many of the poems also embrace the complicated wonders of motherhood, of devotion: “your name sings a feathery thing in the hand: / a name that hums like ice frosting the tongue.” This collection dazzled me with its agility and subtlety, its graceful inquiry into how gender, violence, myth, devotion, and the natural world braid through our lives, how they clothe us like dresses “winged / but narrow as a hawk.”

—Amie Whittemore, author of Glass Harvest

Zoë Brigley Thompson, originally from Wales, is assistant professor at the Ohio State University. She has two poetry collectionsThe Secret (2007) and Conquest (2012)and recently published a micro-chapbook, Blind Horse Elegy (2018). Her first nonfiction collection will be out in 2019. She has work published or forthcoming in journals like Chicago Review, Australian Book Review, Copper Nickel, Orion, Poetry Review, PN Review, and The New European. Her website is Enjoy her poem "Blind Horse Elegy," from Letter to a Horse's Head, below.


Blind Horse Elegy


“Go after him and tell him we will give a sound horse for each that was maimed. And tell him what kind of man did it, a man of my mother’s blood, who I cannot kill or destroy.”
The Second Branch of the Mabinogi


Almost as soon as they are born, they
begin to run: the teeth in their heads
take more space than their brains,
and their eyes are the largest of all.
The mare is walking a rope around
the paddock: stamping in place: sour
muscles taut: stretched under hide:
horse-stench steaming from her mane.
You didn’t know how big her eyes
were when you read

the Welsh tale: Ac yn hynny guan y dan
y meirych, a thorri y guefleu wrth y
danned udunt, a’r clusteu wrth y penneu:

how rather than let his sister have
them (those high horses) he took
a box cutter to their lips, clipped ears
from heads, and where he could hold
them, slit their eyelids to bone. When
you talk of a horse running

perhaps you mean that as a child, you
loved your long-legged ease: the way
skin freckled with the trees:
somersaulting hills: a harras of
horses synchronous as legs: bending
and straightening in flight. How
sometimes you have ridden them:
urged them faster: thighs moving
against them: hips thrown up:
clutching. He would

cut off their tails high to the spine,
hack at their forelocks so the skin of

the forehead slips, would treat them
just as shamefully as he knows how.
Except leave them alive—still just

alive. If the tortured were blind,
there would be nothing to see: the crowd
gathered because it wanted to
watch them gurn: ay

yuelly y gwnaethant wy am uorwyn cystal
o honno?
Frozen in the grass you
found an albino crow, and tried
to pick it up with gloves and trowel:
it took to its legs: half-flew into the
bush. They named you Harmless. In
100 years, there’ll be no more wild
horses, not even on the steppes, but
tonight, with a bread knife,

he plans to carve your tail. I will
punish you all for it. I’ll take great
pleasure in it
. The crew is arriving:
the barn on fire: a last pale dawn:
froth in the horse’s eye.