Winners: Christina Maile and Fran Markover, plus a story by Jack Dowling

Due to the pandemic and the cancellation of the reading, the winning entries by Christina Maile and Fran Markover and Jack Dowling’s story are published here as excerpts and as downloadable pdf files.

CHRISTINA MAILE

is a printmaker, writer and landscape architect. She grew up in Bed Stuy and belonged to a gang called the Halsey Bops. A past winner of the Miriam Chaikin Writing Award, she has also been the recipient of a Pollock Krasner Grant and a Joan Mitchell Studio Grant.

Here are the four stories that won the Prose award.

ISOLATION
I didn’t know the quarantine was getting to me until one day I woke up and discovered that the legendary 20th century American abstract expressionist painter, Joan Mitchell, who died in 1992, had become my roommate.
Read the complete story, Isolation, here.

BOOZE
Whenever my parents gave birthday parties for me or my sisters and brothers, my grandmother did the cooking, my mother cleaned the house, and my father, when the time came, would plunk down in the center of the white tablecloth a big bottle of Four Roses whiskey.
Read the complete story, Booze, here.

HANAHAKI
In the beginning, the doctors told me that although it was persistent, it was a mild case. The initial symptom is a slight cough, caused by the tendrils of longing and hope that begin to flourish at the back of the throat. Gently, the first petal unfolds on my tongue.
Read the complete story, Hanahaki, here.

SKIN
The gravel road cuts through the skin of the jungle taking us from the port city at the edge of the Caribbean to a grand 19th century colonial house standing alone in a clearing of gardenias and palms.
Read the complete story, Skin, here.

FRAN MARKOVER

I learned about the Westbeth community of artists from an artist cousin who lives nearby in New York City. My poems have been published in journals including Rattle, Calyx, Able Muse, Karamu, among others. I was one of the finalists for the Henry Morgenthau III First Book Poetry Prize for my upcoming book, How Soft the Letting Go. And I have a chapbook, History’s Trail, published by Finishing Line Press. I have been a poetry resident, as well, at the Constance Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts.

Here is the first of fifteen poems that won the Poetry award.

Why I Plant Sunflowers

Because I’d watch my grandfather lose himself
summers among the tall plants. He studied them,
a school boy memorizing the past, urging seeds─
vaxn gezunt, grow well. Because I picture him
among gold-waving faces, lifting me up to the
hardiest flower. Francinooski, he’d shout, schane
maidele
. As we twirled, my braids swung like
thick ropes.

Because gardening was his salvation, he left uncut
the fullest blooms for siblings whose names he’d
buried in unmarked plots. Because I imagine how
the brothers played hide & seek behind sunflowers
that lit fields, how the boys severed stems, plucked
and cupped seeds, scattered them on a table like gem-
stones. And the petals. How tightly they held, how
soft the letting go.

Read all fifteen poems here.

JACK DOWLING

After a successful career as a visual artist, Jack Dowling devoted himself to writing. He is a past winner of the Miriam Chaikin Writing Award. As Westbeth’s visual arts chair for some fourteen years, he lent his considerable curatorial skills to the shows at Westbeth’s Gallery—and he continued to help artists exhibit their work through the years. Sadly Jack passed away in February 2021 at age 89. This is the final story he wrote.

In Memoriam: Jack’s final story.

RICHARD
I glanced out of my bank of studio windows to watch the snow, which had started falling as a light dusting in early afternoon but was now drifting down in thick white flower-shaped flakes as evening set in.
I decided that a bar in the Village would be the perfect place to sit at a window, beer in hand, and watch the storm. I trusted that my aged pickup truck, a California native, would not balk at the cold and refuse to start. After a number of grinding turn-overs, the engine gave in and started; gratefully, I drove south to Greenwich Village.

Read the complete story, Richard, here.

The Miriam Chaikin Endowment Fund was established in memory of Miriam Chaikin, a longtime Westbeth resident and prolific writer. Born in Palestine, Chaikin grew up in Brooklyn, and her childhood memories and life in a close-knit Jewish community are all themes represented in her writing. She worked earlier in her career as an editor of literature for young people, and most of her books are intended for them. Later in her life she published books of poetry about aging and beauty based on the haiku format.

Every year, a call for writing from the Endowment produces submissions from all over the country, which are then selected by the Endowment committee. The award is an honorarium of $500 and a public reading.

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