2017 Gauntlet Participant: Sylvia Collings


“Hope. Sameness. I write about what I have been through in hopes someone else can relate. Like maybe something I wrote could save them in a way. I just hope that readers feel understood, loved and supported.”


Hometown Strangers

Stare into my eyes

Let me make constellations out of your freckles

Open your lips to show me your smile-

Its contagious

You leave me a child

In giggling fits and blushed cheeks

Sweaty palms and sleepless nights

Dare I mention my appetite

Cliche love could be right around the corner

If only I knew your name  


Sylvia Collings is an aspiring writer, photographer and hippie.

2017 Gauntlet Participant: Jessica Swafford


“I try to find the truth of a moment or make sense of something that has stuck with me or confused me. I write trying to obtain some sort of explanation for what intrigues, bewilders, or disgusts me. I write until I have an epiphany or until the end product of the poem hits me in the gut. If these things fall into place, the writing will find its audience.”


This Is How I Love Myself

I had a knot

From a fall

Two years ago

It never went away

But crusted over

Barnacles on a hull

I scrubbed it with soap

Caressed it with lotion

Hid it with sleeves

It is only recently

That it has shown improvement

I smothered it with acid

Scales falling away

It is nearly gone

Except for a heart-shape place

This is how I love myself

Not the preservation

Of what is there

But the destruction

Of the parts

I can no longer

Stand to look at



Jessica Swafford is a poet and mixed media artist from Georgetown, Kentucky. She has been published in several journals including The Heartland Review, Inscape, Pollen, and The Georgetown Review as well as the anthologies, & Grace and Her Limestone Bones. She was a 2016 Top 10 finalist for The Gravity of the Thing’s Six Word Story Contest. She was also the winner of the 2014 May B. Smith Essay Competition. Most recently her work was included in A BROAD Perspective, part of the BROADS United movement. She is currently participating in The Gauntlet, a yearlong generative writing workshop.

The Bluegrass Bookend w/ Haley Crigger

Listen to prose writer Haley Crigger on the Bluegrass Bookend!

Part 1 

Part 2 

Part 3

Part 4


Haley Crigger  has kind of been all over the place. After graduating from Centre in 2013, she was a high school English teacher for a couple years in the Mississippi Delta. Then she moved to Long Beach, California and sold industrial supplies. Now she’s working on her novel in an MFA program.

2017 Gauntlet Participant: Clay Shields


Irreverence and reverence.


Bathroom Graffiti Diptych

Love yourself enough.

                                        I have low blood pressure.


Clay Shields received an M.A. from the University of Kentucky and now all he wants to do is deface it. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in STORY Magazine, Rabbit Catastrophe Review, Anthropoid, and Reservoir. He has crooked middle fingers, a floating clavicle, and is allergic to bee stings.

2017 Gauntlet Participant: Tina Parker


I hope a reader finds a raw honesty, and a sense of connection that brings deeper understanding.


On Women, Their Bodies

One uterus fussed
Another complained
I shushed them with cotton
Tampons saturated in glycerine

One uterus sang a right pretty tune
Another bickered with her tubes
One clamped down on my fingers
Another sputtered blood in my face
I cured them all with a daily salt douche

One tilted, tried to hide
Another shed its skin each time I went in
Some had long been empty
Most were full full of jewels
Full of pins
One held the watch and chain
I’d missed for years


Tina Parker grew up in Bristol, Virginia, and now lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband and two young daughters. Her chapbook of poems Another Offering is available from Finishing Line Press, and her poetry collection Mother May I is available from Sibling Rivalry Press. Her poetry has received support from the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and individual poems have appeared in Rattle, PMS: poemmemoirstory, Appalachian Heritage, Still: The Journal, and The Collapsar, among others. To learn more about Tina, visit www.tina-parker.com.