Author Archives: Darian Araiza-Samples

24th Annual Arts & Letters Prize Winners

Arts & Letters Prize for Fiction Zoe Pappenheimer, “Apparitions”

“Apparitions” is a beautifully written story that weaves together two very compelling storylines and juxtaposes two very complex relationships. I loved the seamless way the author moves between past and present, between memory and present action, and the way the tension grows gradually through small moments in the story, through those unspoken conversations that seem to be taking place between these characters. As the title implies, there are metaphorical ghosts in this story, including ghosts of all of the characters’ former selves, but there is also a very emotionally charged surface story, one that raises questions that are both topical and timeless. This is truly a remarkable story by an extraordinarily talented writer. I loved everything about it.”

– Andrew Porter, Judge

Holly Pekowski, “Almost There;” Adam Peterson, “Stumbledown”

Susan Atefat Prize for Creative Nonfiction
Jodie Noel Vinson, “First Do No Harm”

“First Do No Harm” is a timely, deeply personal meditation on the experience (and ripple effects) of long Covid, as well as a rigorously researched investigation into medical history (and its own ripple effects today). The author writes of volunteering at a vaccine clinic as “an acknowledgement that we are all connected, that our decisions—to get on a plane, to shop at a store, to wear a mask, to get the jab—have consequences on other lives; that to do no harm is never a passive decision, but an always active awareness.” This essay in itself is a beautiful reminder that we are all connected, a beautiful example of an active, compassionate awareness at work. I’m grateful to have read “First Do No Harm” and am honored to award it the Arts & Letters/Susan Atefat Prize for Creative Nonfiction.

– Gayle Brandeis, Judge

Alisa Koyrakh, “The Love of Doing”

Rumi Prize for Poetry
W. J. Herbert, “The Birth of Venus,” “Liminal Passage,” “Ice Storm,” and “Journal of the Plague Years”

“The other selections were great, but I kept coming back to these…they work beautifully separately and apart. I love this poet’s lyric touch. Elegant diction and a light touch with imagery…These poems have an irresistible grace to them!”

– Allison Joseph, Judge

Laurence O’Dwyer, Vernita Hall, Saudamini Siegrist, and Donte Collins

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

Issue 44

Spring 2022
Order Online

Digital Issue Forthcoming

Unclassifiable Contest Winner

Helen Hofling


Becky Hagenston
La Mesa

Derek Anderson

Nana Howton

Dinah Cox
“Oh, I Know”


Rodney Jones
Something is Happening, But You Don’t Know What It Is, Do You Mr. Jones
Identifying With Stars In A Time of Pandemic
All Human Time Is Simultaneous

Rebecca Foust
Life Is Beautiful

Aleš Šteger, translated by Brian Henry
Returning Home

Meg Reynolds

Hala Alyan
Ode To My Lungs
Buck Moon

A. Molotkov
Damp Postcard
Time Scale


Boyer Rickel
On Insomnia

Jessie Van Eerden
When I Dream Us Into The Book of Ruth


Stevem Ostrowski
Facing It

Michael McGillicuddy
Herald’s Lament

Jessica Alexander & Katie Jean Shinkle

Laura Newbern
Creative Nonfiction Editor

Peter Selgin
Fiction Editor
Chika Unigwe
Poetry Editors
Kerry James Evans
Managing Editor
William Warren
Assistant Managing Editor
Darian Araiza-Samples
Assistant Editors
Denechia Powell
Courtney Schmidt
Timothy Connors
Shannon Yarbrough
Merick Alsobrooks
Kelly Piggott
Paul Bryant

Ampersand Interview Series: Tara Westmor interviewed by Darian Araiza-Samples

Checkout our latest interview in our Ampersand Interview Series with Kat Mustatea

In the latest Ampersand Interview, Assistant Managing Editor, Darian Araiza-Samples, spoke with Tara Westmor about the intersection of ethnography and poetry, poetic form, and her upcoming poetry collection, An Historic. You can read her poem in Issue 41 of Arts & Letters.

Darian Araiza-Samples: You call yourself an anthropologist poet- in what ways do you find that ethnography intersects with your poetry?

Tara Westmor: I think about this question often. Both as a current PhD student in anthropology and as a poetry MFA graduate. In many ways both poets and ethnographers are hyper attuned to observation and witness. And in this current political moment, both poetry and ethnography should be an act of care. In more specific terms, both genres endeavor to examine larger cultural themes, and shine a light on how those themes play out. For example, many of my poems are about female mental illness, particularly mine, in a world dominated by male historiographies (specifically in Dayton, Ohio where I am from). How do mid-western women grow up in worlds devised of these male industrious histories? Although my poems are a very specific example, other poets do an exceptional job of observation and highlighting in their poems. Jericho Brown’s debut collection Please is a witness of Blackness in academia, oh! or Bettina Judd’s critique of modern medicine built on Black female bodies in her gorgeous and devastating book patient. Documentary poets, Mark Nowak, Phillip Metres, and real-life anthropologist/poet Nomi Stone all do this similar work.

DAS: Your poem, “These I Remember Most:”, uses hanging indentation in an interesting way. When you are drafting poems, do you consider form early on in the process or does that come later as your poem reaches completion?

TW: Sometimes I do consider form and sometimes I don’t. You can’t force a form that won’t take. Sometimes, the form I start with, dictates the “aboutness” of The Poem. Other times, I write in thick blocks of prose and lineate later. “These I Remember Most:” actually started as a list (things I remembered from living in that strange house in the middle of Dayton), but what I remembered most, my sister’s beautiful eye, revealed itself on the page as I wrote it.

DAS: This poem is a beautiful intimation of childhood and sisterly love- do the complexities of family relationships find their way into your writing often?

TW: Thank you! I’m in a phase where I can’t write about much else. I’ll go to write a poem about the city, or about something I’ve read, and my sisters appear. Like many young and naïve poets, I started writing poems about my relationships with suitors or lovers. As I mature, my sisters enter the poem. A stronger love. Lately, I’ve been writing about my female relationships. I have three sisters and a mother who loves with such a deep well. And that well, the love between mothers and daughters is so complicated in a patriarchal world. The writing potential there is as deep as the love they give.

DAS: What/who inspires you most as a poet?

TW: My mother read to us a lot as a child. She also loved the city where she grew up. I think somewhere, I conflated the two. The city is a story. I’m very inspired by history, or more precisely, the stories we don’t include in that “history.”

DAS: When did you first consider yourself a poet?

TW: Haha, what a loaded question! I used to carry around a thick leather-bound notebook when I attended grade-school where I kept all my poems. I think I called myself a poet in secret then. Now, I call myself a poet in public, but don’t think it’s true in secret. My sister has the beautiful eyes, surely she’s the poet. My mother holds all the love, surely we should call her a poet.

DAS: What are you reading right now?

TW: I’m always reading several books at once. Currently, my bag contains poetry collections When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Further Possibilities by Chen Chen Blue Guide by Lee Briccetti, and Bright Archive by Sarah Minor, I’m also reading Carole McGranahan curated essays called Writing Anthropology and Paisley Rekdal’s Appropriate: A Provocation. And lastly, a book about Dayton: David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers.

DAS: What is next for your writing? Is there anything you can share about forthcoming projects or poems?

TW: I am working on two projects. First, a poetry collection (of which “These I Remember Most:” is included) currently titled An Historic. And secondly, I am co-curating a collection of poetry called Anthro/Poetics, that explores the ways ethnography and poetry intersect.

Tara Westmor is an anthropologist poet, raised in Dayton, Ohio. She received her MFA in poetry from New Mexico State University and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of California-Riverside. She has work published and forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review, The Greensboro Review, Hunger Mountain, Prairie Schooner, The Sink Review, and elsewhere. She is co-curating an anthology, called Anthro/Poetrics, of the intersections between ethnography and poetry.