Frosted Fire First Pamphlet Prizewinner 2020
Lee Potts, as 2020 contest runner up, is a triage judge for the 2021 contest. His first pamphlet, And Drought Will Follow, published by Frosted Fire, was launched in an
online event by Cheltenham Poetry Festival on 10 April.
The judges’ comments on the books are below, followed by a brief selection of the pamphlet’s poems. Copies can now be ordered, and will be delivered early in April. An order can be placed here.
These poems are haunted by generations’ connection to the land, what it gives and what it denies. Living connections between water, trees and roots are not only evoked but invoked while people move in and out of focus through memory and presence. The poems are beautifully made, a pleasure to read and consider. Angela France
In And Drought Will Follow, Lee Potts offers us a haunting set of thing-poems. He brings the qualities of everyday objects to our close attention, but also shows how we weave their presence into our stories, leaving our emotional traces on them. In this quietly physical writing, Potts explores love and life in the shadow of mortality, the meaning of heredity, and the invigorating shock of our encounters with the material, whether we are digging into the earth or jumping into a cold pool. This is a rich and thoughtful debut pamphlet from a poet who makes every word count. David Clarke
Following are five poems from Lee’s pamphlet:
Crows crave and gather
Father abandoned his patch of ground, barren as a kiln’s brick floor.
Might as well plant rows of rust chips in coal dust, he said.
He followed stars that said water north and, finally,
settled like silt where the river widens and slows.
He planted an apple tree by our home and willows along the water.
. . .
Graveyards always occupy land that no farmers desire.
The departed are sown in the shadows of tombstones that tilt
and dissolve as the rains erase words their dead never saw.
Storms hide the stars all summer and lightning reaches down,
bores into the ground, and fuses soil, leaving behind brittle stone roots
glazed as smooth as porcelain and just as slow to grow.
As it rains, crows crave and gather rage back to their branches.
They each watch with one eye as I tend to a garden my father
will never see.
First published in UCity Review
Another of my father’s dense metal hand tools
that he’d never find or use again
once we took them from his shed.
That caught the exact size of things
by reach, touch, sight —
not needing inches and eighths
or arid calculation.
That turned perfect circles without
That had a not-so-well-oiled joint
twisting between two sharp points, important
only in how far one was from the other.
That my brother and I blunted.
Spiking it into rocky dirt and tree trunks
while almost always missing the
tiny, half rotten backyard apples.
That, after an unmeasured arc,
stuck, for a moment, just above my knee.
First published in Literary Journal
Honey Hollow Farm
Pray for the dead barn mouse caught deep in the oats barrel,
dried up and deceived and finally beyond any claw.
Pray for the yard dog and his two dozen ticks,
hanging like dirty teardrop pearls.
Pray for the angry mob of sparrows.
They hear the owl at dusk but simply cannot see it.
Pray for the pond still waiting to become glass again.
The morning storm unsettled its silt.
Pray for the harness hung from a nail
so near to the horses it aches to restrain.
Pray for the pasture, knocked flat with too much sun.
“The road,” it cries. “The fence.”
First published in 8 Poems
The Finding of Names
We continue to watch his landmarks shift
to an empire he can no longer cross into.
A garden far beyond the tree line dusk there
harbors all of creation he can no longer name.
Family photos now seem to him like penny postcards sent
by strangers, wordless, arriving without address,
depicting foreign places, the injuries time inflicts,
and room after room of people he does not know.
First published in Kissing Dynamite
What Having a Home Taught Me
Build the porch after the house
and it will groan to the trees
that grow to lean in above it
as long as it stands.
Use pennies in place of fuses
and every lamp will tarnish the walls
and each corner will fold
shadow into its empty pockets.
Pry up flat slate stones from the path
and drought will follow the bare dirt patches you left
right up to your garden gate.
First published in Riggwelter
And Drought Will Follow books
available in early April
If you would like a copy of Lee’s first book of poetry — a 32-page chapbook/pamphlet that won the Frosted Fire First Pamphlet Prize, then you can do so right now for delivery in early April.