Monthly Archives: December 2015

2015 YCR Chapbook Winners

This competition has been a rollercoaster of emotion as I dove so deep into so many of your worlds.  The most difficult emotion of course was choosing what work to send on to Kai for final consideration.  Every single chap that was submitted was gorgeous and necessary in our world.

We are happy and excited to announce our winner and to also announce that we’ll be offering publication to our runner up as well.

2015 YCR Chapbook Contest Winner:  A Clock of Human Bones by Matthew Borczon

2015 YCR Chapbook Contest Runnerup:  unraveled by Elizabeth Vrenios

2015 YCR Chapbook Contest Honorable Mention:  Wake Dreams by Joe Nicholas


From our Judge Kai Coggin:

“It was my absolute honor to be the final judge for Yellow Chair Review’s first chapbook contest. The competition was fierce and the ten finalists that came into my heart were super talented. I want to start by congratulating all ten of the finalists. You are AWESOME.  You should all be very proud of the work that you have done. Keep writing. Keep submitting. Don’t see this as a rejection, but as a stepping stone to your book.  You are all doing the beautiful work; the responsibility we have as poets to find the light in the darkness overtaking. I see that in all of you.

In the end, there were two voices that came into my heart and stayed, though. The voice of a mother, and the voice of a soldier.  Two poets who have faced unimaginable suffering and endured, manifesting a fire of creativity and poetry with their memories and experiences. Two testaments to healing.

Runner Up: Elizabeth Vrenios, “unraveled”

I am so thankful to have read the work of the mother, Elizabeth Vrenios, author of “unraveled.” What a gripping and heart wrenching account of a mother’s loss of her beloved son. I was moved to tears with the beautiful language and softness of a mother reaching out into the abyss to find the only thing she never wanted to lose. I know December 21st is a special day of remembrance, and I hope that Elizabeth sees the full circle made in the Heavens.

Winner: Matthew Borczon, “A Clock of Human Bones”

What a POWERFUL and NECESSARY VOICE, the voice of the soldier back from war.  I cannot say enough about the power and images left behind in my mind as I read “A Clock of Human Bones.” Matthew’s work portrays the broken voice of what our veterans feel everyday. His poems are sharp and deliver a punch in the gut, an M-16 of words that knock you over with realization. His work stood apart from the pack, I just knew… this is the one. This book will stay with me for a long time.

Thank you for your service and your story, Matthew. Congratulations.”

Jedi Kiss by Jon Riccio

1. A fourteen-year-old seducing
who I’ll be on a bed at age six

in the spring of ′84, our old house,
the guest a friend of my brother,

flannel rolling across his skinny body,
bowl cut eliding his face, Star Wars

fanatics during their eighth grade alliance.
Tagalong in apogee, I’m open to roles,

reenactments for the window to see.
Open to impersonating a princess,

action figures switched one life after
another, thumb running down and up

a vinyl cape, Empire converging on
twin sheets. It’s a conference day:

early dismissal, my father at work
inspecting postal collection boxes.

This was the year he found a pipe
bomb at the corner of Portage

and Alcott, a heroin needle
in outgoing. Mother – the two-for-

one scheduling of sons, art teacher
impressed with the older’s pointillist

sketching of a shoe, caretaking of me.
Leia I’ll be in this carbon-freezing

scene lensed through a chest kiss,
flannel where the horizon cued,

teenager who became a paralegal
coaxing a suckle over sinewless,

ransoming the breath that ages
the mouth, metamorphosis Riccio Page 1
smoldering the royalty
out of me.

2. Yesterday: browsing for costumes I glide through doors indifferent to making do. Contamination fears and I’m not touching that jedi. That one. That one either. Culpability: The family that blames together blurs together. Agoraphobia: Schadenfreude on a full stomach. worries, All other: Gird a tourniquet for your Loch Ness. The penalty for synthesis rendered moot. Autobiographical

Salmonella Olfactory
Recall: His name was Mike.
He smelled like the cape at BoRics.

Jon Riccio studied viola performance at Oberlin College and the Cleveland Institute of Music. An MFA candidate at the University of Arizona, current and forthcoming poems appear in Really System, Split Rock Review, Futures Trading, Cleaver and Hawai’i Review, among others. A 2014 Pushcart nominee, he resides in Tucson.

Drag by Nick Gregorio

First it’s heat. Blacktop rubbing against clothes, clothes rubbing against skin. Then it’s skin peeling off in tiny white rolls. Layer, layer, a third, fourth. Then blood. A trail of it on the road.

The chain doesn’t make a sound, pulled taught, clamped to a trailer hitch. It pinches off the windpipe, eats further into skin the louder the engine gets. The more red, pink, and white left behind.

It’s the spots, next. Bursts of light, stars in the periphery. It’s one, two, four, eight. A thousand. And they’re all getting bigger, more intense. Old-timey camera flashes popping, crackling now. Now. Now, now.

The pain stops, but the screaming keeps on keeping on. Gulps of air mixed with exhaust, bits of the road. There’s the feeling of spitting that shit out, vocal cords grinding, lungs voiding. But there’s no sound over the macadam erasing kneecaps, beer gut, ballsack and hips. Just a raw damn throat and an image of rubber shavings on college ruled paper.

Hands are mostly red strings and bone. But they go at that chain like they could unknot the atoms holding the fucker together. Busted nails, crooked fingers, none of it matters. The chain’s going to break. The truck’ll get smaller as it speeds up from the lack of drag. People will stop, ask if they can help, call an ambulance, get off their asses and goddamn do something. They’ll say, “It’s amazing you’re alive.”

Or, “Jesus, how did you keep your wits about you?”

Or, “Grace under pressure, man. Fucking grace under pressure.”

And what else is there to say than, “Once I regained control of the situation, it was nothing.” A gummy smile, face all blood and exposed bone.

But no one can unmake a chain with their bare hands.

No one can stop four hundred some horses by digging their heels into the street and wishing.

No one can change anything when shit’s this bad.

But eventually it’ll be over.

Eventually there’ll be nothing.
Nick Gregorio lives, writes, and teaches in Philadelphia. His fiction has appeared in Wyvern Lit, Pantheon Magazine, Driftwood Press, and Maudlin House. He writes for the arts and culture blog, Spectrum Culture, and currently serves as guest fiction editor for Driftwood Press. He earned his MFA from Arcadia University in May 2015 and has forthcoming publications in Crack the Spine and Zeit|Haus.

Fifteen by Tammy Robacker

I stopped
Kissing my father

Goodnight. My Father,
Who art so sorry

But could never say
Why. I slashed

Ungodly black eye-
Liner in scratches

Around my lashes.
Banshee mean

Lid slits for his Siouxsie
Q decked in a crucifix

Dangle.  Felt dead
Wooden like beads

kiped from thriftstore
Junk bins. Hidden

treasure pill hits
Of Dexatrim mixed

With little Debbie’s
Downers. Coming

Apart, but still somehow
Strung together

And counted off
In the father’s custody

Arrangement days.
In hail Mondays

He picked me
Up. We did not speak.

I hung utterly obscene
Quiet from my lips. Sour

Cherries in the snow,
Hotboxing his cigarettes.
Tammy Robacker won the 2016 Keystone Chapbook Prize for her manuscript, Cuttings. Her second poetry book Villain Songs is forthcoming with ELJ Publications in 2016. Tammy published her first collection of poetry, The Vicissitudes, in 2009 (Pearle Publications). Tammy’s poetry has appeared in Menacing Hedge, Chiron Review, VoiceCatcher, Duende, So to Speak, Crab Creek Review, WomenArts, and Up the Staircase Quarterly. Currently enrolled in the Rainier Writing Workshop MFA program in Creative Writing at Pacific Lutheran University, Tammy lives in Oregon.

A Leaping Dog by C.W. Bigelow

Missile launching
to a zenith,
snapping like a whip
up, up, up,
before the Frisbee
is firmly
yanked from mid-air
in your jaws.
Never a fear
of landing,
or a doubt
I’d fling it
again and again
until I grew bored
and you’d follow me
home, head down,
tag wagging,
disc secure
in your mouth.
the leash was
an experiment
in empowerment –
a caustic combination
of youthful
and laziness –
as myths often do
when your natural curiosity
and thirst for freedom
became our undoing.
Ignoring my late command,
the collision
with the racing car
shot you spinning
across the road,
visions of our
life together flickering
like lightning
etching a stormy sky.
Cradling your
broken body,
new wrinkles of guilt
chased away
my carefree youth.
your final leap
into the sky,
I’m rushed through
an introduction to
the cruel reality
of life.
After receiving his B.A. in English from Colorado State University, C.W. Bigelow lived in nine northern states, both east and west, before moving south to the Charlotte NC area. His short stories and poems have most recently appeared in The Scrambler,The View From Here,The Shine Journal, The Gloom Cupboard, Indigo Rising, Litsnack,Sister Ignition, Full of Crow, FeatherLit, Curbside Splendor, Literary Juice,The Dying Goose, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Potluck, Dirty Chai,The Flexible Persona, Literally Stories and Compass Magazine,FishFood Magazine, Poydras Review and a story forthcoming in Five2One.

REVIEW: Benediction (Alice Notley) – REVIEWED BY CLARA B. JONES

Alice Notley
256 pages
Letter Machine Editions
Tucson, Arizona

Reviewed by Clara B. Jones

This month, Yellow Chair Review features poems on the theme, “Popular Culture,” a fitting category for the poems of Alice Notley, a brilliant associate of the New York School of Poetry. David Lehman’s book, The Last Avant-Garde: The Making of the New York School of Poets (1999, Anchor Books) presents the movement as part of “popular cultural history” whose members (e.g., John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Barbara Guest, Ron Padgett, Notley’s first husband, Ted Berrigan) drew creative energy from “the bliss of being alive and young.” According to Lehman, these poets sought authenticity in their lives and speech and were subversives and “non-mainstream.” The New York School extends from the early 1950s to the mid-1960s, originally including visual artists, writers, and their admirers whose early members gathered regularly in New York’s Cedar Tavern. Lehman proposes that these “playful, irreverent, tradition-shattering” innovators created a “New Aesthetic” that made New York City the “culture capital of the world.”

At age 70, Alice Notley, who has lived in Paris since the 1990s, is considered one of America’s foremost poets. She has described her writing this way: “I think I try with my poems to create a beginning space. I always seem to be erasing and starting over, rather than picking up where I left off, even if I wind up taking up the same themes. This is probably one reason that I change form and style so much, out of a desire to find a new beginning, which is always the true beginning.” Notley, who has more than twenty-five books in print, some of which she illustrated, is particularly noted for her “epic poems,” and Benediction, dedicated to her second husband, the late British poet, Douglas Oliver, is a blessing to him in long-form. Divided into two untitled parts, these poems are an homage to common, but, not, arbitrary, speech, intimate “prose essays” that I did not want to stop reading. In the poem, “City of Tingling,” Notley writes, “my hair tangled and hangs down is it is hair real hair, understand? Is hair real hair.” and, in the poem, “Memory,” “it only takes a moment to have been in such a past all along…” Using copious white spaces and repetitions, as well as, diverse forms, Benediction’s contents treat feelings as real entities and generate a sense of free-association and improvisation. What makes these poems remarkable, however, is that the language is, nonetheless, controlled and non-random.

Notley and her work deserve to be taken very seriously and will be of particular interest to serious readers interested in experimental poetry by females as well as of particular interest to historians of poetics and aesthetics. Additional information about Notley, including, an informative interview, can be found in Frost EA, Hogue C, Eds, 2006, Innovative Women Poets, University of Iowa Press. Alice Notley has been called “one of America’s greatest living poets,” and Benediction will show you why.
Clara B. Jones is a retired scientist, currently practicing poetry in Asheville, NC. Her poems, reviews, essays, and interviews have appeared or are forthcoming in many venues, and Clara’s collection, Ferguson And Other Satirical Poems About Race, won the 2015 Bitchin’ Kitsch Chapbook Competition, available at

Hypervigilance by Matthew Borczon

I thought
it was
enough to
believe that
I would
go to
to help
people not
hurt them
felt right
I could
separate myself
from the
only that
doesn’t work
and death
ends up
in your
bunk and
in your
shower stall
its on
the airfield
and in
every room
you walk
and you
taste it
on your
food like
feel it
on your
skin like
you can’t
wash it
off your
hands like
use soap
use bleach
use God
use anything
you can
get them
to send
from home
because you
only thought
of the
ones you
could save
but its
the weight
of the
ones who
die that
climb on
you like
60 lbs
of Kevlar
and its
their deaths
that keeps
you scanning
every room
for trouble
keeps your
back against
a wall
and it’s
their voices
that will
tell you
when its
time to
Matthew Borczon is a writer and nurse from Erie, Pa he was stationed in the busiest combat hospital in Afghanistan from 2010-2011. He writes about his time on Camp Bastion and all he saw there. His poems have appeared in Busted Dharma, Big Hammer, Dead Snakes, Dissident voices, hanging loose and other small press publications.

Dear Samuel by Manuel Camacho

I will love you forever

Your brother saw you
Or did he see Death?
He stared into that dark empty
Room whimpering scared, scared

The next day they told us
Your heart had stopped
You were floating inside
Your mother, loose weed
In a fish bowl
Her cervix the dirt
Above your coffin

She and I held hands
Through a Hades of beige
Halls and white laser lights above
To watch you born
A floppy salamander
The clammy skin, the squishy chest
Startlingly hard bones
The bud of your penis, the open
Mouth, your little tongue

The placenta that failed
You picked apart, immortalized
In the literature, your mother as well
A curious case! 300 AFP!
And I’m another father
Of a child like you
Initiate to that grim fellowship

Where is God? God has a reason
That’s what people want to say
God was your mother
Wrapped with me in the shower
Her head at my back as I wept
Into the sink.


Manuel Camacho is a writer and musician who lives with his wife and son in the San Francisco Bay Area. A graduate of the University of California at Davis, Manuel’s poetry and short fiction have been published in The Suisun Valley Review and Talisman.