Colorado Humanities has awarded Abigail Chabitnoy with the Colorado Book Award in the Poetry Category, for her first collection of poetry, How to Dress a Fish.
Winners of the 2020 Colorado Book Awards were announced and read briefly on Saturday, May 30, during a celebratory virtual event held. Please click here, view to the Facebook Live video. (You do not need a Facebook account to watch in your browser.)
Finalists filled two Zoom rooms for the traditional picture, and over one thousand viewed the Live program. An after-party for the winners and finalists was held via Zoom.
In How to Dress a Fish, poet Abigail Chabitnoy, of Unangan and Sugpiaq descent, addresses the lives disrupted by US Indian boarding school policy. She pays particular attention to the life story of her great grandfather, Michael, who was taken from the Baptist Orphanage, Wood Island, Alaska, and sent to Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Pennsylvania. Incorporating extracts from Michael’s boarding school records and early Russian ethnologies—while engaging Alutiiq language, storytelling motifs, and traditional practices—the poems form an act of witness and reclamation. In uncovering her own family records, Chabitnoy works against the attempted erasure, finding that while legislation such as the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act reconnects her to community, through blood and paper, it could not restore the personal relationships that had already been severed.
Abigail Chabitnoy is a poet of Unangan and Sugpiaq descent and a member of the Tangirnaq Native Village in Kodiak, Alaska. She received her MFA at Colorado State University, where she was an associate editor for Colorado Review. Her poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Tin House, Gulf Coast, Pleiades, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Nat Brut, Red Ink, and Mud City.
How to Dress a Fish was also short-listed for The 2020 Griffin International Poetry Prize.