Chivas Sandage won the 2021 Claire Keyes Poetry Award, judged by poet Afaa Michael Weaver, for a group of 8 poems that will appear in Soundings East. Poet Ilya Kaminsky chose the title poem of Sandage’s recently completed second collection, Summertime in America, as a finalist for the Georgia Review’s 2020 Loraine Williams Poetry Prize. Kaminsky wrote: “Out of engagement with the natural world and history comes a deeper understanding and as we ‘travel backward / and forward in time’ we see that sand, too, is not mere sand but ‘braille under our feet.’ ” The poem was also longlisted for awards from Frontier Poetry and Palette Poetry’s Sappho Prize.
The Massachusetts Cultural Council’s 2020 Artist Fellowship Program awarded Sandage a $1,500 artist grant as a finalist for her work on the narrative nonfiction book, The Wind Blew Through Us: Love, Murder, & Justice in Texas. This book project is about the 2012 double shooting of Kristene Chapa and Mollie Olgin, a young lesbian couple attacked while on a date in Portland, Texas.
Sandage is the author of Hidden Drive (Antrim House), a finalist for the 2012 ForeWord Book of the Year Awards in poetry and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is a digital columnist at Ms. Magazine and her column, Ms. Muse, features contemporary feminist poets and their work. Her essays and poems have appeared most recently in The Rumpus, Salmagundi, Southern Humanities Review, and Texas Observer.
She was a finalist for the 2018 Sonia Sanchez-Langston Hughes Poetry Contest and the 2017 Patricia Dobler Poetry Award. The poet Naomi Shihab Nye chose her work for an award and publication as runner-up for the 2017 Auburn Witness Poetry Prize. Two of her poems received national awards in the 2014 Provincetown Outermost Poetry Contest judged by Marge Piercy.
Her work has also appeared in the Artful Dodge, Daily Hampshire Gazette, Drunken Boat, Equality Texas, Evergreen Review, Hampshire Life Magazine, Hartford Courant, Knockout Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Naugatuck River Review, The New Civil Rights Movement, SmokeLong Quarterly, Southern Women’s Review, Upstreet, Verse, Manthology: Poems on the Male Experience (Univ. of Iowa Press, ‘06), Morning Song: Poems for New Parents (St. Martin’s Press, ’11), Paradise Found: A Walking Tour of Northampton, Massachusetts through Poetry and Art (Levellers Press, ’14), and Same-Sex Marriage: The Moral and Legal Debate (Prometheus Books, ‘04).
As an Assistant Professor at Westfield State University, Sandage taught Composition, World Literature, and Contemporary Cross-Cultural Literature. She earned an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a BA from Bennington College. Connecticut Center for the Book at the Connecticut Humanities Council awarded a planning grant for a high school writing program she designed. The Northampton Arts Council, supported in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, has awarded artist grants for her writing, teaching, and performance work.
Since 2006, Chivas has taught women’s writing workshops and retreats in Massachusetts and Connecticut. An editor, writing coach, and consultant, she works with writers and poets.
Currently, Chivas lives with her wife in Easthampton, Massachusetts, and San Marcos, Texas.
Chivas Sandage’s poetry has a lyric precision and terse musicality that any poet would envy, a grace with cadence and image that makes it all look easy. That capacity is all the more remarkable when we consider that the poems are often formed from the most difficult of reckonings—from a troubled family history, from the challenges of motherhood, and from the bewildering intricacies of Eros. That mysterious and visceral power that Lorca called the Duende is ever-present in the pages of this fine collection. As she writes in a poem entitled “Ars Poetica,” the written word is, for her, “Not an echo/but a force—bitter ink/pungent as blood. The pulse/of each letter quickens/as it presses against the page.” (David Wojahn, author of World Tree)
Awards and Recognition
- Hidden Drive (Antrim, 2012): Finalist for the 2012 ForeWord Book of the Year Awards in Poetry (https://botya.forewordreviews.com/finalists/2012/poetry)
- 2021 Claire Keyes Poetry Award, judged by poet Afaa Michael Weaver, for a group of 8 poems that will appear in Soundings East.
- The Massachusetts Cultural Council’s 2020 Artist Fellowship Program awarded Sandage a $1,500 artist grant as a finalist for her work on the narrative nonfiction book, The Wind Blew Through Us: Love, Murder, & Justice in Texas. This book project is about the 2012 double shooting of Kristene Chapa and Mollie Olgin, a young lesbian couple attacked while on a date in Portland, Texas.
Press and Media Mentions
- MSNBC “Originals” documentary about Kristene Chapa, who survived the 2012 double shooting that killed her girlfriend, Mollie Olgin. Chivas Sandage speaks about the book she is writing with and for Kristene, and evidence that suggests the attack was a hate crime.
- “I Take Bullets:” Lesbian Badass Mary Kristene Chapa’s Vibrant Life After 2012 Shooting (appeared in Autostraddle, 2015)