2017 Gauntlet Participant: Audrey Rooney


A well-seen, well-heard life, both wry and sweet, the occasional abyss no longer off-limits.  An invitation to seek out beginnings and endings, with the possible discovery that, at long last, there aren’t any. 


First Death

       Child, drowned by an alligator at Disney World, August 2016.

          after Dylan Thomas

My fail-safe psalm

fails. No shepherd there

beside still waters.  Only

baby steps, bliss

of wet sand, small hands

busy at scoop and pail

in tall reeds where

hinged daggers glide,

lunge, stretch open wide

slam shut.


Audrey Rooney, three times a Kentucky dweller, now living in Lexington, recalls a life filled with words.  Her mother was a published poet in Cleveland, where Audrey was born in 1938.  

As a journalist she has published in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Kentucky.  She is a trained soprano, still sings, and her watercolors and drawings hang in collections here and abroad.

Undergraduate philosophy studies, two postgraduate forays (MA in art history, doctorate in history), a long marriage, a daughter and a son, their daughter and sons, clusters of wondrous friends – all tinctured with loss and discovery – inform her poems. In 2016 Accents Press published her collection, Fountains for Orpheus.

Workhorse Writers Chapbook Books Series Selections

The following manuscripts were selected by a passionate team of readers for the inaugural Workhorse Writers Chapbook Series. Each author will receive 75 copies of their book and $150 dollars. These books will be available to order in the coming months. 


Biscuits and Blisters by Misty Skaggs


what if desire is a hungry thing | stories of broken teeth by Hannah LeGris


Whatever Light Used to Be by Dan Howell


You can have all three books (and a copy of each year’s Lexington Poetry Month anthology) delivered to you and support our mission to provide opportunities for working writers to share their work and grow in their craft by clicking on this link: Support Workhorse.

Workhorse Writers Chapbook Series

Our first chapbook reading period is open from December 1st to the 31st!

The Basics

We are looking to publish 3 poetry chapbooks by working writers, which we define loosely as anyone who does not make a living from writing alone. The manuscript should be 14-26 pages of poetry that has not previously been published as a whole. We aren’t considering translation at this time.

How We Choose What to Publish

Workhorse’s mission is to provide opportunity and access to writers at all stages of their practice. We incorporate writers/readers from our community to discuss the manuscripts and come to a final decision on what to publish. We hope to publish local writers and writers who we would like to introduce to our community. If you want to know more about us before submitting visit www.workhorsewriters.com.

What Authors Receive upon Publication

We want to provide an opportunity for a zero cost publication for our authors. Along with no reading fee to submit, author’s receive 75 copies of their book (from a print run of 150), $150 dollars toward travel expenses for readings they may give, and, if local, a featured reading at the Wild Fig to celebrate their release.

Help Us Sustain and Expand This Opportunity

This reading series is possible thanks to the generous support of people in our community of writers. If you would like to become one of those people, click this link to checkout ways to get involved. And join us on Facebook and Instagram!

Thank you. We can’t wait to read your work!

The Details

  • Manuscripts should be 14-26 pages.
  • We cannot publish previously published collections.
  • Only submit one collection.
  • Simultaneous submissions are fine.
  • We do not need a cover sheet.
  • One poem per page, multi-page poems are good.
  • Use a standard, 12-point font  Times New Roman.
  • We cannot allow revisions once a manuscript has been submitted.
  • Decisions will be made by February 15th, 2018.

Click to Submit to the Workhorse Writers Chapbook Series

2017 Gauntlet Participant: Philip Corley


I want everybody to recognize that we are all human beings, that we all face the same human experiences, and with that mindset, we can learn how to come together and help each other out.


Eating Dopamine

He eats dopamine for breakfast,

he eats dopamine for lunch,

he eats dopamine for dinner, and

he eats dopamine at midnight.


He gets hungrier when he’s thirsting,

imbibing wrong conclusions.

He found a delicacy, lying in the dirt

and oh, he took a bite.


He was eating dopamine with ten-year-old discoveries.

He was eating dopamine on first web encounters.

He was eating dopamine to fight depression, loss.

He was eating dopamine and getting hungrier.


One man faked a few injuries

but he couldn’t fake the electrician’s chair.

One man made a few slaves,

they were never seen for years.

Another man caught her by herself in her room ,

swore a secret and had his way,

not even a decade in, she was destroyed.

All of them were eating dopamine.


He’s eating dopamine

because dopamine is eating him.

He’s out in the world hunting

like a hyena or a vulture,

every day eating at the feast

laid out for millions like him.

When the food never runs out,

how can we ever expect to change the culture?


Philip Corley, at 28 years old, has lived in the Lexington area his whole life, and has developed a fondness for the city he has always called home. He graduated in 2011 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology, but was unable to continue his schooling beyond that. However, his true passion has been writing. He started writing poetry while he was still in high school over ten years ago. Despite doing it for so long, he has only recently started going public with his work, with hopes to be getting a collection together soon for publication. Along with the poetry, Philip has also been working on a fantasy novel, the first in a series he has spent years planning. Until these projects take off, Philip finds work as a manager at a fast food restaurant. Philip has been attending the Gauntlet Poetry Class, hosted by Christopher McCurry, learning more about the craft. He hopes that this class will help him find the best way to balance his increasingly demanding job with his goals as a writer to be most productive with his time.

2017 Gauntlet Participant: Dennis Preston


I hope you are inspired, entertained, maybe even motivated to take a look at your own life, and the path you are taking, as well as the choices you are making.



Thought about you today.

I suppose it’s because I dreamed

about you last night.  Nothing different:

drama and chaos.  You came in

like a whirlwind, and left

the same way.  The damage done

in between was devastating.  

I shouldn’t blame you though.

I’ve always been fascinated

with storms.


Dennis J. Preston lives in Owensboro, Kentucky.  Retired from teaching, he is pastor of The Mt. Zion Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  He received his doctorate from Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and enjoys reading, writing, traveling, and spending time with his family.  He has published poems in Trajectory, This Wretched Vessel, & Grace, The Messenger of Sudden Thunder, as well as three books of poetry: In the Ash Heap: Poems From the Book of Job, The Tree of Days, and Prayer at First Light.    


2017 Gauntlet Participant: Doug Self


God Washed Up

Her body is not so white as anemone petals nor so smooth—Nor so remote a thing–that a man should forget there is no beach without water and sand—nor is there life without water and a notion.

Keep breathing under the ocean, the salt will help you float like the Dead Sea—

Her body is not so white anymore,



                                          and rubbery.

A recently beached whale bloated into blubbery.


She sings of only blood or love

while inhaling shell shards and glass, face



as the death rattles break on the shore behind,

momentarily submerging her feet,

leaving strands of seaweed

between her toes.



The little boys on the beach circle around,

plastic shovels and pails in hand,

refusing to bury her.


Doug Self is a poet.

2017 Gauntlet Participant: Hannah LeGris




what if I can’t get out of bed

what if I can’t stop sliding my tongue against yours

what if I just want to live off the taste of your mouth

what if I’m still kissing you and I’ve forgotten how to write poetry because all my poems were about being frustrated and unhappy and I’m not that

what if you said all you need to do is push the pen across the paper but I don’t write on paper unless I’m making lists

what if all my lists are fragments of conversations I had planned to make into a poem

what if all my conversations are with you and I’m too busy paying attention to what you’re saying to write any of it down

what if I’m too distracted listening to ladies and gentleman we are floating in space

what if I’m leaving in a week and what if your flight doesn’t arrive

what I have to drive to atlanta and tell my lover I’m in love with you

what if I am accidentally boastful and foolish because love makes you irrational

what if I can’t be any other way  

what if he is surprised and hurt but would never tell me

what if he tells me years later and I feel like an asshole  

what if he is wearing those tight jeans from japan

what if he and I drink cocktails and eat steamed fish and ride our bikes and popsicles drip down our hands and the handlebars get sticky in the heat and strangers’ dogs lick them clean what if he turns on the lights strung around his tiki bar

what if he carefully makes me a drink that I’ve never had before

what if we split it  

what if the cocktail is the perfect amount of sweet

what if there’s a part of me that misses how easy it was to be angry at him

what if I secretly write down all of our conversations and make poetry out of them

what if I leave and nothing and everything has changed and I don’t care

what if the body really does heal itself

what if time is all it really takes

what if I meet you in austin it is too hot to sleep in the desert

what if we refuse to turn on the air conditioner and our bodies stick together  

what if my skin burns against yours

what if you slide your teeth along my nipples and I taste like the salt blocks our horses swept their tongues across in the pasture

what if they licked that salt because they needed it to stay alive

what if desire is a hungry thing

what if heartbreak has its place


Hannah LeGris holds a MA in English Literature from the University of Kentucky and a BA in English from the College of Wooster. She has taught memoir and creative non fiction with The Young Women Writers Project, the SwallowTale Writing Project at the Fayette County Detention Center, and to University of Kentucky students. She has never studied poetry until The Gauntlet. Hannah works in the Lewis Honors College at the University of Kentucky, where she teaches service learning, recruits prospective students, and advises. She enjoys running, biking, letter-writing, mixed-media collage-making, and throwing dinner parties.   

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.