Abigail Chabitnoy

How to Dress a Fish

Griffin Poetry Prize 2020
International Shortlist

How to Dress a Fish

Poet: Abigail Chabitnoy

Publisher: Wesleyan University Press

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Abigail Chabitnoy


Abigail Chabitnoy earned her MFA in poetry at Colorado State University and was a 2016 Peripheral Poets fellow. Her poems have appeared in Hayden’s Ferry Review, Boston Review, Tin House, Gulf Coast, LitHub, and Red Ink among others. She is a Koniag descendant and member of the Tangirnaq Native Village in Kodiak, Alaska, grew up in Pennsylvania, and currently resides in Colorado. How to Dress a Fish is her debut poetry collection.

Judges’ Citation

“Bringing languagelessness into language, Abigail Chabitnoy’s How to Dress a Fish is an act of remythologizing and personal re-collection, a text of redress to the violence of US colonialism. Like the contronym cleave, like swallowed fish that appear whole, her poems assemble a narrative of displacement and emergence, of that which is half-revived and half-buried, to address instability and unify across divides. With gestures of archival investigation and assemblage, the poems move with undercurrent, sections, elision, and invention into voicings of self, land, story, and mythic place. ‘One face is not enough/ to adapt/ to survive/ to be both predator and prey/ and a shark is after all/ not so different’. How to Dress a Fish speaks of division’s expression and history’s fracturing violence. This is a mending inquiry.”

It was winter.

It was winter. I was sweating. You and I were in a boat, going back to
Unalaska and my body went cold to spite my discomfort. You can be
wind. You can be feathers. You can be fur or fin or teeth. I am not even
earth. Not even bone. But permafrost in a warming state. Cold, not cold
enough. Porous. Full of holes. Not filled but

From How to Dress a Fish by Abigail Chabitnoy
Copyright © 2019 Abigail Kerstetter

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