Announcing 19th Annual Arts & Letters Prize Winners

A&L Prize Winners 2017

Congratulations to the winners of our 19th Annual Arts & Letters Prizes. Winners in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction receive $1000 and publication in the upcoming Fall issue of Arts & Letters. The Drama Prize winner receives $500 and a travel stipend to see his one-act play performed at Georgia College and State University.

Rumi Prize for Poetry
Judge: Richard Garcia
WINNER: George Looney, for poems after photographs by Walker Evans

“’It Isn’t Always Classical’—the first line is a great opening for a poem, I can imagining a story or even a novel starting with those lines—‘Waiting it out is what those who live here/would say they’re up to, if asked.’ These are poems with complicated, nostalgic narratives, with many characters, some alive at the time of the photo, some absent or deceased. There is mention of music in the poems, and they seem to have a ghostly soundtrack. These poems are of a high achievement, complicated, intelligent, and lyrical.”

—Richard Garcia


Keith Wilson
Jennie Malboeuf
Lucas Jacob
Richard Widerkehr
Kateri Kosek
Samuel Piccone
Benjamín Naka-Hasebe Kingsley
Patricia Colleen Murphy


Fiction Prize
Judge: Amy Hassinger
WINNER: Leslie Campbell, for “The Tasmanians”

“I found this story rich with the heavy content of its characters’ lives, particularly Mariam’s, as she tries—and fails—to escape from a past that haunts her mercilessly. The narrative is as full of well-chosen objects as her own closet, and they seem to spill out into the story and take it over in a way that supports her drastic decision at the end…. I love how the story is weighted with a larger sense of history—the world pressing itself into the lives of these very specific characters in their very specific universe. Beautifully done.”

—Amy Hassinger


Wes Civilz, for “First World Problem”
Stephen Hundley, for “Dog”
Sarah Earle Záhořík, for “The Present Unreal”


Susan Atefat Prize for Creative Nonfiction
Judge: Sonja Livingston
WINNER: Courtney Zoffness, for “It May All End in Aleppo”

“’It May All End in Aleppo’ is worthy of a prize for the language alone. A gorgeous meditation on place, the writing is lush and descriptive and brings together images of 1960’s Aleppo with the haunting images of modern Syria we’ve all seen. But it’s the added twist of the writer’s perspective as a ghostwriter—and her palpable association to her subject and his beautiful war-torn birthplace—that makes this piece so unique. The writer conveys not only the minarets and pomegranates and rug stalls of old Aleppo, but the ugliness, too, the history of intolerance, the fleeing families, the child washed ashore. More than anything, the essay illustrates the life-changing and tender connection that comes when we open ourselves so fully to another’s story.” 

—Sonja Livingston


Margaret MacInnis, for “Being Dorothy in Kuwait”
David Rompf, for “False Vertigo”
Elizabeth Mosier, for “From Scratch”
Kelly Bowen, for “Mystic Trinities”
Barbara Tran, for “The Living Room”


Drama Prize
Judge: Iona Sun
WINNER: Marc Aronoff, for “The Lantern Bearers”

“I chose ‘The Lantern Bearers’ because it has a simple elegance that unfolds the complex tale of a man and woman. The dialogue has a unique style that undulates and will be a great challenge to direct next spring.”

—Iona Sun


Cary Pepper, for “Death Does Larry”
Robert Daseler, for “Obelists at Sea”
Rachel Joseph, for “Stripped”
Joseph Eastburn, for “The Godhead”
Mark Fink, for “The Happy Place”
Kristin Hanratty, for “Wine”


Many congratulations to all of our finalists! 2018 Prize submissions will open in February.

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