Poetry, judged by Molly Spencer, author of "If the House"
First Prize: “plastered black souls,” by Oakley Phoenix
Judge’s comments: Like Whitman, the poet of “plastered black souls” makes use of accumulations of imagery, sound, and meaning. But this poet calls for a new, more inclusive order than Whitman imagined, in which “we are tapestries” and “we’re ours. / we’re each other. / we’re each other’s.” The poet calls forth the gorgeous and powerful multitudes of communities long marginalized and sends them forth in power once more: “sharks and tapestries and therapists and sailors. closets and fires and music.” Oh, how they sing.
Second Prize: “A Romance Begins Like This,” by Lani Southern
Judge’s comments: “A Romance Begins Like This” is a wise poem, one that knows the seed of an ending is present in every beginning. Through image and metaphor—one life snagging on another, a river that is a chance at forgiveness, a day that becomes “a dislocated jaw gaping from the brush”—the poet makes two of poetry’s enduring subjects—love and death—strange and new.
Third Prize: “The Castle,” by Olivia Frenkel
Judge’s comments: “The Castle” makes use of a classical form to illuminate an ever-present wound: all the destructive messages we absorb from the dominant culture as children. By embracing the pantoum form while also amending it, the poet makes use of its gestures of return, recurrence, and obsession to heartbreakingly reveal the damage of white supremacy in the speaker’s life and family.
Prose (Fiction & Nonfiction), judged by Janice Lee, author of "Imagine a Death"
First Prize: “Queer Horror,” by Noah Bolls
Judge’s comments: A wonderfully multitudinous and multi-faceted exploration of self and identity and relationships. The fragmented structure created a layered and masterful tapestry, and the way that the vignettes accumulated and worked with each other as encounters is really masterfully done.
Second Prize: “Janine,” by Ria Martinez
Judge’s comments: So many unexpected and pleasurable turns of language in the prose, and the use of 2nd person POV really works to enact a particular tension and experience. The emotional narrative is layered and compelling, and haunting use of repetition.
Third Prize: “Vigilance and the Blue Jay,” by William Nordhorn
Judge’s comments: Such an imaginative exercise in POV, the story from the scarecrow's perspective was great to read. So much explored here, and so much empathy created in a really unique way.
Honorable Mention: “Working on Being White,” by Graham George
Judge’s comments: I really appreciated the vulnerability and willingness presented in this honest exploration of whiteness, and I hope the author continues to write about and share their experiences.
Honorable Mention: “A Conversation at Vinnie’s,” by Ellen Lovre
Judge’s comments: The prose in this piece on a language and sentence level, is really masterful, tight, and shows a great ear and a lot of experience reading and writing. I hope the author keeps writing, this submission showed so much skill and technique.
Please congratulate our winners. We are grateful to Mark and Melody Teppola for the generous gift that makes these prizes possible.