Dobler Poetry Award

The Patricia Dobler Poetry Award is an annual contest is open to women writers over the age of 40 who are U.S. citizens or permanent residents, currently living in the U.S., who have not published a full-length book of poetry, fiction, or non-fiction.

The 2018 Patricia Dobler Poetry Award

Donna M. Glass, a poet from Okmulgee, OK, is the winner of the 2018 Patricia Dobler Poetry Award, sponsored by Carlow University's Madwomen in the Attic Creative Writing Workshops.

Glass' poem, "The Grocery Store," with its singular, distinct voice and its willingness to risk, distinguished itself from a field of 403 poems by 156 poets who entered the contest.

Poet Judith Vollmer, the judge of the 2018 Dobler Award, wrote this about Glass' poem:

A haunting tribute-song, "The Grocery Store" constructs two girls' long walk seeking home and safety inside fractured rural America. Their companions are blackbirds, "walls of ragweed," and a sacred friendship, intimate and delightful in its immediate palette of "green" and "purple" paper-wrappings of candy. Dreams of nourishment are shadowy and tantalizing, envisioned through crevices of a rough-cut mosaic-a field, a world-only the girls are capable of seeing. The girls' vision, glimpsed through a long-lens of reportage built on sharp and relentless consonance, startles with lack: "no garden," "side-yard," "half to share," and "always falling back[.]" Simultaneously, the vision sings in steady flames of open, chiming, slant, and eye-rhymes. That balancing act of narrative-within-sound-stage reveals the poem's wonders. Repetitions of "home" spit against "grown," in a landscape stunted by familial heartbreak and a nation in which food is controlled in

                        rows of iridescent Styrofoam

                        ordered like census data:

                        white hen/white egg, red hen/brown egg.

Real questions abound: Who among us counts? Who is shut out or "stored?" Who depends on "dimes of kind passersby" (ghostly strangers); and who, ultimately, writes the stories of girls-such questions inhabit poetry's urgencies. "The Grocery Store" diverts its lyrical pathways around mere didacticism, and gives us tenderness, courage, space, and declaration alongside the simple act of two friends setting "their shoes side-by side[.]" 

This is a stand-out in a group of excellent finalists.

As winner of the Patricia Dobler Poetry Award, Glass will receive $1000; publication in Voices from the Attic; and round-trip travel, lodging, and a reading with judge Judith Vollmer on Wednesday, March 27, 2019 at 4:00 p.m. in the Carlow University Gailliot Center. This reading is free and open to the public.

2018's honorable mentions are Heidi Sheridan from Toms River, NJ for "Dental Records;" Lillo Way from Seattle, WA for "child on the delta shore;" and Lollie Butler from Tucson, AZ for "Woman of Manzanita."

Judith Vollmer is the author of five full-length books of poetry including, most recently, The Apollonia Poems (University of Wisconsin Press, 2017), and The Water Books (Autumn House Press, 2012). Her previous books are Reactor (University of Wisconsin Press 2004), nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and featured in the Los Angeles Times Book ReviewThe Door Open to the Fire, awarded the 1997 Cleveland State University Press Poetry Prize and finalist honors for the Paterson Prize; and Level Green, Brittingham Prize, Wisconsin, 1990. She also is the author of the limited-edition collection Black Butterfly, winner of the 1997 Center for Book Arts prize. Vollmer has received poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and residencies from The Corporation of Yaddo, the American Academy in Rome, the Centrum Foundation, and others. Her poems have appeared in Poetry InternationalAgniThe Women's Review of BooksPoet LoreCerise PressPrairie SchoonerThe Fourth RiverThe Great River Review, and many other journals and anthologies. She has read her work nationally at colleges, universities, museums and galleries, arts organizations, and community centers. Her essay on Baudelaire, "The Stroll and Preparation for Departure," is included in the Cambridge Companion to Baudelaire  (Cambridge University Press, 2006). Vollmer teaches in the Low Residency MFA Program in Poetry & Poetry in Translation at Drew University. She is a recipient of the Chancellor's Distinguished Teaching Award of the University of Pittsburgh and is a founding editor of the literary journal 5 AM. She lives in Pittsburgh in the Nine Mile Run Watershed.

Donna Glass was born in Dunoon, Scotland, where her father was stationed for military service. She grew up in rural Oklahoma. Having worked in law offices most of her adult life, Glass considered a career path involving legal studies when she returned to college at age twenty-nine but decided to pursue English, for she dearly loved literary arts. After earning her BA and MA in English (concentration in literature), Glass began her career as a college instructor. For about nine years, she commuted 230 miles (round-trip) once or twice each week, pursuing a doctoral degree in English/creative writing/poetry. She currently teaches English and humanities courses as faculty at Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology.

The Grocery Store
Donna M. Glass, 2018 Winner
Judge: Judith Vollmer

The girl had no garden
unless you count the rutted side-yard
of prayer rock, blue eggshell,
ambulance song of her father’s anger
and her mother’s need
all grown together,
thin as dandelion seed in midair.
Yet the girl had a friend.
On Saturdays, the two friends walked
to Stockton grocery
where cold fluorescence hung
over rows of iridescent Styrofoam,
ordered like census data:
white hen/white egg, red hen/brown egg.
The two friends liked taffy.
One folded green
and one folded purple.
Each tore away half to share
on the carousel just outside
where they rode a fiberglass horse
on the dimes of kind passersby,
rode double until the money ran out,
and then took the long way home
across a field, and if the air was warm,
they set their shoes side-by-side,
braided one another’s hair,
and watched a flock of blackbirds
crash through walls of ragweed,
always falling back to the ragweed.



The 2017 Patricia Dobler Poetry Award

Deborah Allbritain, a poet from San Diego, CA, is the winner of the 2017 Patricia Dobler Poetry Award, sponsored by Carlow University's Madwomen in the Attic Creative Writing Workshops.

Allbritain's poem, “Sorrow I Will Lead You Out Somewhere,” with its singular, distinct voice and its willingness to risk, distinguished itself from a field of 389 poems by 166 poets who entered the contest.

Poet Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, the judge of the 2017 Dobler Award, wrote this about Allbritain’s poem:
“I am always taken with forms refusing—turning against fixed: the villanelle that misbehaves. The title ‘Sorrow I Will Lead You Out Somewhere’ suggests threat, a reprisal, abandonment or worse to come. But the poem never fully abandons the fixed form. Instead, it twists the title’s threat, again and again predicting the ways sorrow will not be ghosted. (Indeed, the word sorrow appears 15 times in the 19-line villanelle.) Sorrow becomes an animated excess, haunting the poem, not quite held at bay by form. That is: this ballading—guided measures through which the speaker moves us, leading us out—cannot arrest shape-shifting sorrow’s progress, or our knowledge of its being, despite declarations meant to counter its personification. Rather, the poem acknowledges the speaker’s (and our own) likely engagement with sorrow, delineating here a life bound by heaviness and consumption that lists from sustenance to surfeit. ‘Sorrow/remembers that you ate an entire man in one year….’ The poem locates us ‘on the edge of the disturbed,’ while insisting, ‘Nothing says you must lie down’ here. This central tension—the possibility that a banal desire ‘for dim sum,’ ‘for a bucket of chicken after work,’ might veer towards sorrow’s barking madness dragging the chef home at gunpoint, ‘kicking the flimsy out of your screen door’—strains the initial (A1) refrain to an adynaton of ‘sorrow flattened across your bed like a zillion pressed violets.’ Here the poem delivers on the wildering its title promises! Though via the second (A2) refrain we are returned to familiar repetition of ‘your front door,’ by the time we reach it, sorrow’s been converted again, to a figure no one could have anticipated: a ‘mungo sun rutted on the steps.’ It will not give us break from its strange, transmogrifying beauty. I am transfixed by the transformation.”

As winner of the Patricia Dobler Poetry Award, Allbritain will receive $1000; publication in Voices from the Attic; and round-trip travel, lodging, and a reading with judge Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon in April 2018.
Honorable mentions are Linda Cheryl Bryant from Nashville, TN for “Pale Grass Blue,” Rachelle M. Parker from Montclair, NJ for “As I Recollect,” and Heidi Seaborn from Seattle, WA for “Escaping Loss in Inverness.”

Deborah Allbritain holds a master’s degree in speech pathology from University of the Pacific. She hopes to begin study next fall at San Diego State University’s MFA program in poetry. Publications and awards include: The Antioch Review, The Cortland Review, B O D Y Literature, Front Porch, Verse Daily, One, Michigan Review, Connecticut River Review, Cimarron Review, Eclectica, and others. Her poetry has been anthologized in Stand Up Poetry: The Anthology, The Unmade Bed, Harper Collins, The Book of Birth Poetry, and In the Palm of Your Hand (Tilbury House). She received two Pushcart Prize nominations in 2015. Her poem, “The Fire,” was a finalist for the Wabash Poetry Prize.

Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon is the author of Open Interval, a 2009 National Book Award finalist, and Black Swan, winner of the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, as well as Poems in Conversation and a Conversation, a chapbook collaboration with Elizabeth Alexander. She is currently at work on The Coal Tar Colors, her third poetry collection, and Purchase, a collection of essays. She has written plays and lyrics for The Cherry, an Ithaca arts collective. She was one of ten celebrated poets commissioned to write poems inspired by Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series in conjunction with the 2015 exhibit One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Works for MoMA.

 Sorrow I Will Lead You Out Somewhere
Deborah Allbritain, 2017 winner
Judge: Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon

Sorrow is not a person. If you ask sorrow to pick up
dim sum on the way home, sorrow will not wait in line.
Sorrow will drag the chef to your front door,

hold him at gun point as he fills the things you love into shape,
rotates each at the waist until your wonton sits nicely on the plate.
Sorrow is not a person. If you tell sorrow to pick up

a bucket of chicken after work, sorrow will not take the drive-through,
sorrow will break down the chair legs wrenched from their seats
swinging the knives and busboys through your front door.

Because you live on the edge of disturbed, sorrow
remembers that you ate an entire man in one year with
sorrow flattened across your bed like a zillion pressed violets.

Nothing says you must lie down in the scribble of its mangy hair,
the weight of books you read in bed beside sorrow, enough
to kick the flimsy out of your screen door. Whenever you ask

sorrow to give you a break, it gives you one more reason
to overeat. Sorrow is not a person, but if you ask, sorrow
will at least join you for Chardonnay and brioche,
a mungo sun rutted on the steps of your front door.


The 2016 Patricia Dobler Poetry Award

Dana Salvador, a poet from Albuquerque, NM, is the winner of the 2016 Patricia Dobler Poetry Award, sponsored by Carlow University's Madwomen in the Attic Creative Writing Workshops.

Salvador's poem, “After the Accident,” distinguished itself with its singular, distinct voice and its willingness to take a risk from a field of more than 365 poems by 148 poets who entered the contest.

Poet Allison Hedge Coke, the judge of the 2016 Dobler Award, wrote this about Salvador’s poem: “‘After the Accident’ is a stunningly beautiful poem of death and transference. Its content offers unexpected departure a realm of continuance. It is an exceptional juncture of split-second fatality and comfort. Deft pacing brings the reader into awareness just as the subject lands in the confusion of disaster. This is tough to pull off and yet, here, it is seamless. The narrative is told in ten couplets. Each set is rich with effective imagery and compels the reader by unfolding the details of scene; the aftermath of wreck suffered by a cousin. A mechanic, in life, the cousin surmises the situation, thinking he ‘can fix almost anything, even this wreck.’ By the time we witness him reaching out to touch the vehicle, we suddenly know his hand will pass through it. Just as we share the breath of demise, the poet surprises us again, with an appearance of the shared ancestor, ‘Our grandfather’ who ‘puts an arm over his shoulder’ and leads him into horizon, ‘as light distills them each to dust.’ The certain beauty here is well-rendered, providing minimization of the material world, of embodiment, and significant reprieve. There is no mourning, no grief, no sentimentality, only a beautiful gathering of souls on the edge of day. I love the fullness of the piece, the immediate familiarity and relevance it offers, the succinctness. This poem is memorable, one for the books. The turn carried out so beautifully, it stills reckoning just as reason breaks. Fascinating. ‘After the Accident’ is truly remarkable.”

As winner of the Patricia Dobler Poetry Award, Salvador will receive $1000; publication in Voices from the Attic; and round-trip travel, lodging, and a reading with judge Allison Hedge Coke on April 1, 2017.
Honorable mentions are Larisa W. Harriger from Duvall, WA for “Bones (fear cooked),” Cindy Snow from Shelburne Falls, MA for “Ruby-Topaz Hummingbird with Pinktoe Tarantula,” and Katy E. Ellis from Seattle, WA for “Deciduous.”

Allison Hedge Coke’s authored books include: The Year of the Rat (chapbook), Dog Road Woman, Off-Season City Pipe, Streaming, Blood Run (poetry/verse-play); and a memoir, Rock Ghost, Willow, Deer. Hedge Coke has edited eight additional collections, including: Sing: Poetry of the Indigenous Americas, Effigies (Pacific Rim), Effigies II (US Continent), and Ahani (ToTopos). Current projects include Burn (MadHat Press 2016), Effigies III (Pacific Island) (2017), and the Red Dust film-media-lit-music project (in production). Hedge Coke directs the Literary Sandhill Crane Retreat & Festival and has been awarded fellowships/residencies with Lannan Foundation, Weymouth Center for the Arts, Kimmel Harding Nelson Center, MacDowell Colony, Hawthornden Castle, Great Plains Center, and her honors include an American Book Award, Library of Congress Witter Bynner Fellowship, a Lifetime Achievement Award, a Mentor of the Year Award, an IPPY Medal, a Pen Southwest Book Award, three distinguished positions, and numerous literary and arts grants. She is a poet, writer, performer, editor, and literary activist. She came of age cropping tobacco and working fields, waters, and working in factories.

After the Accident
Dana Salvador, 2016 winner
Judge: Allison Hedge Coke

for my cousin

Lying face down in the harvested cornfield
surrounded by broken, golden stalks

he pushes himself out of his body like
a butterfly tears through a chrysalis.

He dusts off his clothes and strides to his
overturned pick up, resting on its side,

an animal, sleeping. He’s a mechanic
and can fix almost anything, even this wreck.

He’s already made estimations of the damage
to the drive train and frame and wonders how

he could’ve survived as he reaches to touch
the once smooth metal, now crinkled like tissue

paper, but feels nothing. That’s where our
grandfather—gone these many years—

finds him, standing confused, bewildered.
He puts an arm over his shoulder while

the sun from the October morning crests
the horizon frozen with frost. Our grandfather

says, “C’mon then,” and they walk toward
the sunrise as light distills them each to dust.

2016 Patricia Dobler Poetry Award Winner Dana Salvador

Dana Salvador’s work has been featured in the North American Review, Fourth Genre, Water~Stone Review, Cold Mountain Review, Red Rock Review, and North Dakota Quarterly, among others. Additionally, she is the recipient of a Vogelstein Foundation Grant.


The 2015 Patricia Dobler Poetry Award 

Amanda Newell, a poet from Henderson, MD, is the winner of the 2015 Patricia Dobler Poetry Award, sponsored by Carlow University's Madwomen in the Attic Creative Writing Workshops.

Newell's poem, "A Woman from the Infant Mortality Review Board Calls,” distinguished itself with its singular, distinct voice and its willingness to take a risk from a field of more than 665 poems written by 286 poets who entered the contest.

Poet Lynn Emanuel, the judge of the 2015 Dobler Award, wrote this about Newell’s poem: “Poetry faces the problem of making itself distinct from the common, everyday uses of language. Music has to make itself distinct from noise, and poetry has to take back language from the clutches of the internet, the W9 form, the committee, and the TV. It is this taking back of language that is at the heart of Amanda Newell’s powerful and brave poem, ‘A Woman from the Infant Mortality Review Board Calls.’ The title points to the poem’s struggle. The ‘Infant Mortality Review Board,’ invades the narrator’s world with ever more ridiculous and intrusive questions, and after those questions, (are you an addict, a smoker, did you have a doctor) asks to be let into the narrator’s home. Brutal language is present throughout this fierce poem: ‘the resident/shoved his gloved/fist into me/to ripen my cervix’. Against its awfulness the narrator tenderly asserts herself. Unlike the ‘specialist’ who describes what is on the sonogram as ‘club-/foot and cleft palate’ the narrator/mother offers her own language ‘fingers like vines,’ ‘a shiny bruised/doll, small enough/ to fit into a wicker/Easter basket.’ The narrator brings into the poem the language of childhood, the language of a growing, green world, the language of divine birth. Beyond even this effort, however, the poet offers her stunning ending (‘and whose silence/was welcome’) in which she asserts that, perhaps, the only possibility of escaping the naming world may be the escape into death’s silence.”

As winner of the Patricia Dobler Poetry Award, Newell will receive $1000; publication in Voices from the Attic; and round-trip travel, lodging, and a reading with judge Lynn Emanuel on April 8, 2016.
Honorable mentions include Linda Blaskey, from Lincoln, DE, for "Pulling Through;" Yolanda Franklin, from Tallahassee, FL, for "White Room Syndrome;" and Jill Osier, from Fairbanks, AK, for "Ursus."

Lynn Emanuel is the judge of the 2015 Patricia Dobler Award. Emanuel is the author of five books of poetry: The Nerve of It, Poems New and Selected; Noose and Hook; Then Suddenly—; The Dig; and Hotel Fiesta. Her work has been featured in the Pushcart Prize Anthology and The Best American Poetry numerous times and is included in The Oxford Book of American Poetry. She is the recipient of two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Poetry Series Award, the Eric Matthieu King Award from the Academy of American Poets, and, most recently, a fellowship from the Ranieri Foundation.

A Woman from the Infant Mortality Review Board Calls
Amanda Newell

No, I am not an addict.
Yes, I had a doctor.
No, we are not smokers.
No, I do not want you
coming to our home.

You could see it
on the sonogram’s
chalk sketch, the club-
foot and cleft palate,
fingers like vines.
Some extra ones.
A one-in-ten-thousand
error of cell division,
the specialist said.
Most women
miscarry before it gets
this far.

Thirty hours
after the pitocin
and morphine,
after the resident
shoved his gloved
fist into me
to ripen my cervix
with a kelp stick,
I gave birth
to a shiny bruised
doll, small enough
to fit into a wicker
Easter basket
and whose silence
was welcome.


Amanda Newell’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in such publications as Bellevue Literary Review, Gargoyle, Pearl, Pembroke Magazine, Poet Lore, Tar River Poetry, The Summerset Review, and War, Literature & the Arts. She has been the recipient of scholarships by both the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and The Frost Place. In addition, she has also been the recipient of a fellowship by the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. She chairs the English Department at The Gunston School in Centreville, MD, and is pursuing her MFA at Warren Wilson College.


The 2014 Patricia Dobler Poetry Award

The Patricia Dobler Poetry Award is sponsored by the Madwomen in the Attic Creative Writing Workshops at Carlow University. Find the 2015 Patricia Dobler Poetry Award Entry Information here. The 2014 winning poem is "Float," by Wendy Miles from Lynchburg, VA. Her poem distinguished itself from a field of 560 poems by 219 poets with its singular, distinct voice and its willingness to risk. As winner of the Patricia Dobler Poetry Award, Miles will receive $1000; a public reading in Pittsburgh with judge Yona Harvey in spring 2015; round-trip travel and lodging for her public reading; and publication of her winning poem in Voices from the Attic.

The honorable mentions are Donna Steiner, from Oswego, NY for "Landscape with Ghost Train, Circa 1969;" Rosa Lane from El Cerrito, CA for "Down I-5;" and Dee Matthews from Brookfield, MA for "Wash."

The entries were read by poet Yona Harvey. Of Miles' poem, Harvey wrote:

Among the compelling finalists, "Float" is the poem to which I kept returning. The reasons to return were many: the deceptively simple and suspenseful opening stanza; the blues-tinged flashes of repetition; the cinematic unfolding of the poem's action; and the curious relationship between a child and her mother. This is a poem that details and charts its surroundings: "open door," "low sink," "open window," but whose destination is not predetermined. Like a curious child, the poem comfortably follows its nose. When the poem asserts, for instance, "[a] child is a breath," that assertion has been preceded by a joyful deliberation. And what to make of the mother in the second half of the poem? She animates the objects she touches, graces them with awe, and sparks the daughter's delight. And what of delight? The poem is filled with it.

Wendy Miles


An open door.
A child pauses on a step.
Her head turns, lifts to hear
her name float above the yard.
A child is an open door.

The child holds her breath
at the thought of what it means
—her name—stills
to hook it to herself with a bright pin.
A child is a breath.
A name is a bright pin.


A low sink. An open window.
A mother leans at the low sink,
shirt off, breasts pressed to a towel.
Barely audible, Oh, she says, it feels so good
you just can't believe it.
A daughter is an open window, a folded towel.

Shampoo the scent of ginger.
Warm water pours from a plastic cup,
spreads along the mother's pink crown,
neck, around creases at the backs of ears.
The daughter breathes in the mother.
Water dribbles from the chin,
from the daughter's fingers.

A mother is a low sink, warm water.
Animal, Animalis: to have breath.
Love is a plastic cup. Love is a breath.

2014 Patricia Dobler Poetry Award Winner, Wendy Miles Wendy Miles
A finalist for the 2013 Perugia Press Prize, Wendy Miles has published multi-genre work in places such as Tupelo Quarterly, Arts & Letters, Southern Poetry Review, Hunger Mountain, storySouth, The Pedestal Magazine, The Chattahoochee Review, Caesura, The Dos Passos Review, Yalobusha Review, The Comstock Review, Hawaii Review, Richmond Magazine, and the Anthology of Appalachian Writers Ron Rash Volume IV. Nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize, Miles lives and teaches in Lynchburg, Virginia. New work is forthcoming in Alabama Literary Review.