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2023 Winner: Kathleen Fagley, Switchboard Shift

 Kathleen Fagley

Kathleen Fagley

Switchboard Shift by Kathleen Fagley of New Hampshire has been selected as the winner of the 2023 Concrete Wolf Chapbook Award.

Judge’s thoughts: Such a difficult decision with so many wonderful manuscripts. Ultimately, Switchboard Shift stood out for the uniqueness of its subject matter, the feeling of wholeness of the collection, and the way in which the poems elucidate the vulnerability not only of the one answering our medical phone calls but of all of us facing health-related and emotional crises.

Kathleen Fagley is a Pushcart-nominated poet whose chapbook, How You Came to Me, was published by Finishing Line Press in July 2012. Her work has appeared in The Stillwater Review, Memoir Journal, Cutthroat, Nimrod Journal and others. She taught poetry and creative nonfiction at Keene State College in Keene, NH from 2016 until 2020.

Watch this recording of Kathleen reading from Switchboard Shift, along with C.L. Downing:

Equivocal, the voices in Switchboard Shift: Kathleen Fagley has braided a tenuous tapestry of hospital codes, calls, and responses between “an operator tethered to her station” and anxious speakers on the line. Hoping to “convey seriousness without panic,” she is “pressed into [her]seat by the weight of emergencies.” When “a small voice answers back...distant as the earth from the moon,” she has learned that “it is not a choice that [she] listen.” So should you.

—Christina Lovin, author of Echo: Poems and A Stirring in the Dark

Excerpt from Switchboard Shift

Text Fields

Board lights up, then digits flash
before I hear the voices:
a man with stomach pains,
a woman blew out her knee,
another I have to tell to speak up,
her baby hasn’t moved for 24 hours.
She is seven and half months pregnant.

Eight hours of this and I feel as if
my ears are stopped up with water,
I feel the pain of these voices.

The doctor leans against the wall
between two rooms, the alpha pager
flashes her number and
text I entered in the tiny field of white:
Baby hasn’t moved in 24 hours.
Second call back.

Switchboard Shift


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2023 Runners-Up
Marcia Hurlow
Constance Hooker Koons
Dog Physics
Within Reach
2023 Finalists
Kimberly Becker
c3 Crew
Chris Dahl
Angela Just
Christi Klug
Michael Magee
Jed Myers
Elizabeth Switaj
J. R. Thelin
Don Thompson
The 8 Ancient Greek Words for Love
River of Doubt
The Last Thing I Would Smell
Overhaul: A Midlife of Demolition and Reconstruction
Shiny Things
In Dazzle
The Articulations
Eating Out: Café Chronicles