The Squannacook at Dawn
by Richard Jordan
First Place Winner of The Poetry Box Chapbook Prize 2023
The poems in The Squannacook at Dawn range from formal verse to free verse to prose poetry and are linked by the speaker’s experiences with water. While many of the poems revolve around fishing, they also explore the speaker’s relationship with the loss of his father, the peace of the natural world, aging, environmental change, and spirituality.
Early Praise for The Squannacook at Dawn:
Each of the twenty poems that comprise The Squannacook at Dawn is so well crafted that the art is all readers experience, the craft a scaffolding that has been removed. Each poem begins with a sense of welcome and closes unpredictably, yet inevitably (i.e., no better ending seems possible). This is high praise, but it’s not my only reason for selecting this manuscript as winner of The Poetry Box Chapbook Prize for 2023. Read together and in the order they appear in the collection, these twenty poems create what feels like a twenty-first poem: the chapbook itself. The poet has not only written twenty fine poems—none an imitation of another in content or form—but when read straight through, the poems provide readers with a tightly woven and beautiful verbal tapestry, each poem contributing indelibly to the chapbook’s larger context or story.
—Andrea Hollander, contest judge and author of And Now, Nowhere but Here
The art of poetry and the art of fishing come together in these deeply felt, beautifully observed poems. The attentiveness to word and cadence speaks to and for all that the poet notices, be it river currents or dragonflies or ospreys. The earth and the waters are also very much speaking, and Richard Jordan has listened carefully. The scenarios vary as they reflect the amplitude of memorable occasions, but the aim is true in poem after poem—a sense of gratitude to be in the undiminished splendor that is out-of-doors.
—Baron Wormser, author of The History Hotel and former Poet Laureate of Maine
The Squannacook at Dawn is the perfect antidote to an age of human beings anxiously awaiting the next ping of their cell phones. If you’ve ever wondered where fly fishers get their patience and why they don’t get bored, the answer is clear in this vivid, wise collection. It’s in poet Richard Jordan’s dad, an iridescent scale glued to his thumb/ glinting in the April morning sun. These poems, some of them gently formal, others prose poems, dissolve the work week in the natural world’s healing magic: egrets, otters, and of course, rainbow trout. Even Jesus prefers the river to the church here—not just for baptism but for beauty and peace. Jordan is at his best observing the specific: loosestrife, cognac pipe tobacco, Macoun apples, the “jug-o-rum” croak of a bullfrog, mist. Even if your dad never taught you how to tie a fly, you need to spend some time in the shade near the water with a copy of The Squannacook at Dawn.
—Christine Potter, author of Unforgetting and Sheltering in Place.
In The Squannacook at Dawn, Richard Jordan uses close observation of nature, strong memories, and exquisite language to evoke the holiness of fishing. He pulls the reader in with precise details such as in the poem, “Night Fishing with Otters,” where he describes five young otters at the edge of sedge and bulrush and the mother otter with a hefty, flapping catfish plucked/ from the mud. Whether he’s delineating moments spent fishing with his father, witnessing old men talking, or remembering a house that once stood by a creek, he leads the reader to feel at home in nature, to appreciate the fleeting beauty of the world.
—Judy Kaber, author of Renaming the Seasons and former Poet Laureate of Belfast, Maine
About the Author
A Ph.D. mathematician by training and data scientist by vocation, Richard Jordan has been an avid reader of poetry for almost as long as he can remember and has been writing poetry for twenty years. His poems have appeared in many literary journals, including Tar River Poetry, Rattle (finalist for the 2022 Rattle Poetry Prize), Little Patuxent Review, Sugar House Review, New York Quarterly, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, Rappahannock Review and Valparaiso Poetry Review. When not doing math or reading & writing poetry, he is most likely at a river or lake somewhere casting away. He resides in Littleton, Massachusetts, a short drive from the Squannacook River.