The Black River Chapbook Competition Winner

Pilgrims: A Love Story

Publication Date: March 2010


Winner of the Spring 2008 Black River Chapbook Competition

Top 5 Facts About Pilgrims: A Love Story:
1) It won the Spring 2008 Black River Chapbook Competition

2) It requires a legal disclaimer: Jude Law is not really Jude Law. Same goes for Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

3) “It’s fakery and magic tricks, yes$$ says the author. “Misdirection. Diversions. Facades. But, disclaimers aside, these poems happened. To me.”

4) There are signposts to help you guide the way: “You Are Here”.

5) …but it is the result of a crazy premise, followed poem to poem down a tangled knot of rabbit holes.


“Jude Law and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, ‘dusty and dry and alone,’ ‘their minds a certain kind of wild,’ light out for the territories in a red Edsel, in search of something, but find nothing, and so realize their only recourse is to ‘make a something of a nothing,’ specifically a something which can accommodate Las Vegas, candle tricks, Emily Dickinson, and a ghost town ‘shrine of We-Don’t-Know.’ Beitelman takes us on a pilgrimage both sensual and metaphysical, both comic and tragic, warning us against ‘shimmer, shine, and show’ while delivering bushels of each.” ‘
-Joel Brouwer

Beitelman’s voice is sure as we navigate a roadmap between oasis and urban beehive, clarifications on loneliness, aloneness, and solitude. The ‘pilgrims’ in this sequence desire a fresh authenticity (of self and in relationship), but are finally left only to stare: ‘…There’s no one left but / You to watch You now’ amid the ‘shimmer, shine, and show.’ Mirrors. A disorienting existential pose surrounded by street-talk of the street-smart. Pilgrims: A Love Story draws the reader to the tough and simple sheen of language, and to its ever-questioning narrative. The old tale of ‘wait and see’ echoing once more.” ‘
-Katherine Soniat

About the Author

TJ Beitelman

TJ Beitelman is a writer, teacher, and manuscript consultant living in Birmingham, Alabama. He’s published a novel, John the Revelator, and a collection of short fiction, Communion, as well as three collections of poetry: In Order to Form a More Perfect UnionAmericana, and This Is the Story of His Life, all from Black Lawrence Press. His stories and poems have appeared widely in literary magazines, and he’s received fellowships from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the Cultural Alliance of Greater Birmingham. He taught writing and literature at Virginia Tech, where he earned an M.A. in English, and at the University of Alabama, where he earned an M.F.A. in creative writing and also edited Black Warrior Review. He currently directs the creative writing program at the Alabama School of Fine Arts in Birmingham. He can be found on-line at

Visit Author Page