2020 MacGuffin Poet Hunt Prize Winner
2020-21 Connecticut Commission on the Arts
Fellow in Poetry
2020-21 Paterson Poetry Prize Finalist
for An Archaeology of Days
2020 Palm Beach Poetry Festival Art Couture
Ekphrastic Poetry Contest Prize Winner
2018 Steve Kowit Poetry Prize Winner
from San Diego Art & Entertainment Guild
From An Archaeology of Days (Negative Capability Press, 2019)
A plover with a broken wing flops
on the granite outcropping abutting
my seawall. At my computer, I cannot
avoid seeing it if I look out the window.
I can fold the newspaper on slaughters
in Syria, Myanmar, faces of children who can
no longer recognize their unveiled mothers
blown into concrete barricades or wedged under
car tires. To blot out this bird, I must lose
my view of Long Island Sound, my beach.
The bird hops, stumbles dragging feathers.
Closing my blind, I block out not only glare
but thought of the plover like the truck driver
in Laredo, South Texas who slammed rear doors
of his 18 wheeler on 73 illegal immigrants who
had crossed the Rio Grande by raft to stash houses.
Late July, 2017, the trucker knew air conditioning
did not work and the four vents were blocked.
On the interstate, sun-flash of semis, the cab cool,
in the back air was stale as a kiln, motion baked
out of it. The “King of Country,” George Strait’s
All My Exes Live in Texason the radio drowned
heels of hands pounding like ball-peen hammers
on the metal wall. No way to torch the doors open.
Stopping at Walmart in San Antonio to relieve
himself, the driver opened trailer doors to pitch
black. Clobbered by light, bodies were birds that
scattered like a pack of cards thrown up into air.
One man lurched out, ran to a customer to beg
for water. Too late to shut doors, the trucker feigned
surprise at the cargo. Ten people dead, those too weak
to stand, did not leave. I open the blind, my bird
is gone. Then, like the human tide from Mexico,
back over the wall of rock it comes. I can block out
the sight, but now like the trucker, I can’t ignore
its wing. What if the plover won’t go away to die?
I’d like to believe I have a heart unlike the driver who
shut that trailer tractor door. Drawn by the bird’s cries,
my dog leaps, straining to get on the beach. Knowing
what he will do, I’m tempted. Should I open the gate?
~ Vivian Shipley
Paterson Award for Sustained Literary Achievement
Vivian Shipley’s voice is compelling as she speaks for the women in her book. She gives word to their loss and loneliness, their passion, as well as her own. These poems fill the reader with a sense of wonder at the existence of such ordinary people, their extraordinary struggle and alienation, their grief and rebellious attitudes in the face of life’s tragedy.
— Stellasue Lee, RATTLE
In her haunting new book of poetry, Vivian Shipley effectively captures the striking voices of many people forgotten by history. All of Your Messages Have Been Erased (Louisiana Literature Press 2010) works to shift the balance of power in the fight between history’s selective ear, and the individuals who struggle to be heard.
— Adam Nunez, Blue Mesa Review
Not one poem in All of Your Messages Have Been Erased can be ignored and, as a result, we will not be able to erase the messages delivered in this book. This collection shows Shipley as a master poet, one of our finest. … Absorb the words, the music of Vivian Shipley’s language, that we are fortunate enough not to have to miss. This is a collection you will not want to miss.—Yanaguana Literary Review
We may seek the emotional lives of others in a theatrical drama, but Vivian Shipley never overlooks the significance of small things, even in the light of historical events.
— David Chorlton, FutureCycle Poetry