2016 Poetry Contest Winner ~ Doug Van Gundy

Congratulations to Doug Van Gundy of Elkins, West Virginia on his winning poem, “Last Thoughts on Electronic Voice Projection.” Poetry contest judge Ellen Hagan writes of Doug’s poem, “As if transporting me to my own mamaw & the lasting memory of hearing her voice, this poem pointed me home. At once haunting & visceral, each image was stunning & simple. Each line was music, a constant rhythm & hook. I craved the stuffed pork chop, the giggling waltz & that sweet hunger to hear the voices we love - always.”

Last Thoughts on Electronic Voice Projection

My grandmother calls less and less frequently 
since she died, and when she does, it’s always to complain:  
she is cold, she is hungry, the coroner has made a mistake,

that sort of thing.  I listen as patiently as I can; I am still in love 
with the music of her voice.  While she was alive, she’d sing 
big band standards in her nasal soprano, the whole time

stuffing pork chops or washing the dishes, 
until I’d slip an arm around her back and waltz her 
around the linoleum:  me taking over the singing, she giggling 

like a little girl and dripping soap 
from the waterlogged rag in her hand.  Now her voice 
is ossifying through the degrees, getting thinner and thinner –

now FM, now AM.  Finally, she will open her mouth 
on the wordless static of the stationless radio or interstellar space.  
One day, I’ll answer the phone and hear even less 

than the background sound of the line, only the silence 
behind the silence, my memory of her having gone 
voiceless as a doll.


Doug Van Gundy teaches in both the BA and MFA writing programs at West Virginia Wesleyan College where he also directs the undergraduate Honors Program. His poems, essays and reviews have appeared in many journals, including The Oxford American, Ecotone, Appalachian Heritage, and Poetry Salzburg Review.  His first collection of poems, A Life Above Water is published by Red Hen Press. He is co-editor of the forthcoming anthology Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods: Fiction and Poetry from West Virginia. Doug also plays fiddle, guitar, mandolin, and harmonica in the old-time string band, Born Old.


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