From Our Soundbooth | September 09, 2020

This week begins our featuring of the runners-up in each category of the 2020 Miller Audio Prize. We’re so excited to feature Troy Varvel‘s “Complete” today, which was selected by 2020 Guest Judge Alex Sujong Laughlin as the runner-up this year in the poetry category.

Troy Varvel is the author of the forthcoming chapbook Licking the Splinter (Kelsay Books). He earned his MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale, and his work has appeared or is forthcoming in Crab Creek Review, Dialogist, Iron Horse Literary Review, River Styx, and Yemassee, among others. Troy lives and teaches in the Texas Hill Country. Find out more at

Listen to “Complete” by Troy Varvel below:

Artist Statement

A lot of the poetry that I write comes from my experience with a speech impediment—a stutter—that I’ve had ever since I could speak. In this way, poetry is a place for me to examine fluency, disruptions, full-blocks and starting over on the page to see what sounds and rhythms arise from this sort of frustration.

Toward the end of my second year in the MFA program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, I was sitting in the office that I shared with one of my good friends and closest readers, Ian Moeckel (who appears as the second voice in this poem), and he looked up at me and said something along the lines of, “You should try writing your stutters the way that they occur in real life. As line breaks. It’ll force the reader to hear them.”

My mind was blown.

Later that day I sat in the library and drafted out what would become “Complete.” Dialogist was kind enough to publish the poem and the recording in January 2020. As for the recording itself, Pinckney Benedict, a fiction professor at SIU, has championed integrating audio and sound into the MFA program and into our own writing. He has worked hard to provide for writers at SIU the resources needed to produce quality work.