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Due to its poignant relevance to the ongoing conflict in Palestine, Cow Creek Chapbook and the author have decided to offer Via Dolorosa and Advent Wreath to the public for free. We hope the profound messages within these poems will resonate with many. For those unable to afford a physical copy, we're providing a free PDF version to ensure accessibility to all.

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For our 2023 contest, judge Chad Abushanab chose Via Dolorosa and Advent Wreath, by E.D. Watson. 

From the Introduction:

“In 2018, I traveled to Israel and Palestine on a religious pilgrimage even though I wasn’t sure I believed in God anymore. I told myself I was going for the food and the adventure. In preparation, I tried to educate myself about the political situation in the Holy Land, and while I thought I understood what was going on there, my education didn’t truly begin until I arrived. This is the story of that journey.”

Praise for Via Dolorosa and Advent Wreath:

“A reality between Israel and Palestine rooted in history and modern violence persists—there is no resolution. The words ‘Who among us has not robbed God, who has not / withheld their coins or wheat / from the altar?’ and ‘The blood of my home, he says, fresh pressed / by Israeli bulldozers, Israeli tanks, Israeli boots’ highlight the injustice and displacement experienced by the people in Gaza. E.D. Watson's pilgrimage in 2018 and her poems reflect her personal transformation and the compassionate care extended by both Israelis and Palestinians in her quest for self understanding and understanding within the world. As depicted in the titles of her poems cut from the center of this collection, ‘Offering,’ ‘Surrender,’ ‘Unction,’ ‘Daybreak,’ ‘Hope,’ ‘Love,’ ‘Joy,’ and ‘Peace’—let Via Dolorosa and Advent Wreath be our collective hope for resolution and lasting peace. These poems will press into your chest as a necessary prayer.”


—Jen Yáñez-Alaniz, author of Surrogate Eater


“On the subject of political poems, Carl Dennis writes that the best of them ‘present speakers who try to be honest about the limits of their positions, who recognize that the best political choices are not ideal… that the good they bring is often accompanied by some harm.’ ... E.D. Watson’s Via Dolorosa and Advent Wreath fits nicely into this paradigm and takes full advantage of what such an approach offers its readers. Initially driven by a desire to re-awaken a sense of faith, the speaker arrives in Jerusalem hoping the Holy Land will spark within them, again, the belief in a higher power. What unfolds instead is a journey that moves away from the self as the speaker comes face to face with the systematic oppression of the Palestinian people. Though the speaker begins this travelogue ‘stinking of hope,’ they are soon washed in the tears of mothers who’ve lost their sons, widows desperate to make sense of senseless atrocities, and street vendors who see the true world behind the visitor-friendly trappings of tours and brochures. What emerges from the deluge of suffering is a realization of the speaker’s place in this world: an American tourist ‘choosing/ God in [their] own image...’”

—Chad Abushanab, author of The Last Visit


E. D. Watson is a poet, yoga teacher, and certified Practitioner of Poetic Medicine from Central Texas. She is the author of two collections, Honey in the Vein, and Anorexorcism, and her poems can be found in numerous journals and magazines. When she isn’t writing, she leads poetry and yoga workshops, designed to release trapped language from the body to enhance healing and self-knowledge. She believes poetry is alive and well, and is for everyone.

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