23rd Annual Arts & Letters Prize Winners

Arts & Letters Prize for Fiction
Karen Day, “The Cellar”

“[“The Cellar” is] a taut and wonderfully written story that uses the suspense of a looming natural disaster and the claustrophobia of a basement hideout to explore as well as explode the secrets, tensions, hopes, and dreams of a Midwestern family in crisis. Through precise dramatization, “The Cellar” moves beautifully in and out of time, casting a revelatory weight on the present with each excavation of the past.”

– Novuyo Tshuma, Judge

Finalists:
Thomas Maya, “El pan de cada dia,” Perry Glasser, “Not That Anyone is Asking,” and Reena Shah, “Stardust”

Susan Atefat Prize for Creative Nonfiction
Lee Anne Gallaway-Mitchell, “The Tax of Quick Alarm”

“One thing I particularly love about “The Tax of Quick Arm” is how immersed the author made me feel in the life of a military spouse in Korea—this is a life I’d rarely, if ever, contemplated on my own, and suddenly she had me *right there,* and she did it with grace and efficiency. The dual way she uses the MOPP system is also brilliant. And most of all, I feel like this is an essay the world *needs* right now, when so many women are at MOPP 3 because of systems they did not build and can’t control. It is, sadly, wonderful timing for this piece to find an audience.”

– Kristi Coulter, Judge

Finalists:
Jill Christman, “The Sandbox Ghost,” Frank Walters, “Judging the Distance,” Mary Petty Anderson, “Newt Terrell,” and David Mairowitz, “Transcribing Robert”

Rumi Prize for Poetry
L.A. Johnson, for “Where Warm and Cool Air Meet,” “Downriver,” “Radiant Stranger,” and “House Full of Someones”

“What is sight, what is smell, how do they lead us into life, into what we believe and become? In “House Full of Someones” we are strangers, we are putting our eyes to the window, we are with the speaker of the poem, we are curious, what world is this? We are caught in between the dead and the living, we are in the language. I am in awe of how the poem progresses, of what it seeks to achieve. At the end, the poem knows that knowledge is gotten through waiting, through patience, and as we wait with it, I ask myself, what have I learnt? Yes, it is too late for the dead to go back, to be alive, but what possibility lies in death? What becomes of us, of the dead in this world? What have we smelled, what have we seen, what do we wait for?

There are poems that teach us about the fullness of our humanity, that open spaces and show us the world that exists just beyond what we have been used to. When I read “Where Warm and Cool Air Meet”, “Downriver” and “Radiant Stranger,” I was ushered into a world where grace is alive and grief is pain, but also the gateway to hope. In the world of these poems even joy must be disguised before it is achieved and at the end of pain there is rebirth, a human life for a lemon. At first this looks impossible, but the language of these poems is alive, it is real, it leads us not just into the process of grief but also through the process of rebirth.”

– Romeo Oriogun, Judge

Finalists:
Danielle Williams, Monique Ferrell, Julia Kolchinsky Dasbach, Tom Laichas, Sally Lipton Derringer, George Kramer, Christopher Shipman, Doug Ramspeck, and Betsy Sholl

Each winner receives $1000; the winning will appear in our Fall Issue.

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