Tag Archives: Poetry

25th Annual Arts & Letters Prize Winners

Announcing the Winners of the 2023 Arts & Letters Prizes in Fiction, Creative Nonfiction, & Poetry:

Arts & Letters Prize for Fiction
Patricia Grace King, “Pax Americana”

“I thoroughly enjoyed reading “Pax Americana.” This story deftly intertwines elements of the interpersonal with larger societal and political narratives to produce a profoundly humane reflection on marriage, politics, youth, and choices, told in an assured and compelling voice.”

– Francesca Ekwuyasi, Judge

Brenda Salinas Baker, “The Apprentice” and Shane Dutta, “Sally’s Daughter”

Susan Atefat Prize for Creative Nonfiction
Jonathan VanBallenberghe, “Winchester Street: Living with My Father’s Suicide”

“Word by word, the author of “Winchester Street: Living with My Father’s Suicide” brings the reader inside the psyche of the narrator’s father, and his decision to end his life. Even more gripping, we also read about the narrator’s own feelings toward suicide—as well as the cultural allure of guns that cause so much destruction. The author’s composed voice underlies the deep trauma of the event. I greatly admire the clear and unsentimental tone as a portal into the depth of feeling this narrative conveys. The writing is stunning, the story urgent, the reflective voice compelling. This essay most assuredly deserves to win.”

– Sue William Silverman, Judge

Tatiana Hollier, “I Am the Ornament of the Sky” and Jaye Murray, “Sentry”

Rumi Prize for Poetry
Owen Lewis, “Something’s Wrong,” “More Than Twice,“ and “Waking Early This New Year’s Day”

“Though there were moments I liked in each of the manuscripts of the finalists, I have chosen this manuscript because this poet was able to sustain, in poems that were about something of real emotional substance, an acute attention to making the language both lovely and telling.”

– Rodney Jones, Judge

Robin Knight, Ari Mokdad, Sammi LaBue, Mark Smith-Soto, David Moolten, and Ruth Kessler

Each winner receives $1000; the winning pieces will appear in an upcoming Issue.

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.

Ampersand Interview Series: Roy Bentley interviewed by Kelsie Doran

Checkout our latest interview in our Ampersand Interview Series with Roy Bentley

In the latest Ampersand Interview, Assistant Managing Editor, Kelsie Doran, spoke with Roy Bentley about Ohio, Greek mythology, and his upcoming books, Hillbilly Guilt and Beautiful Plenty. You can read his poems in Issue 42 of Arts & Letters.

Kelsie Doran: We have published two of your poems, “The United States of America in the Summertime” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” Were these poems were written around the same time?

Roy Bentley: To be honest, I don’t recall when either poem was written. They returned to my attention with acceptance by your magazine. I’m not saying that to be a smartass, either. I write a lot—or did during the Trump Years—as a means of escaping the Senselessness.

KD: Ohio obviously has influence in both these poems and as I am a native Clevelander myself I am curious as to why Ohio has produced fodder for your writing?

RB: I love Ohio. It really imbues me—the oxygenated-by-inequality rural-Ohio air I have to breathe to live, the killing-me-softly water no one wants to indict for what it accomplishes quietly, daily—and yet I want so much for Ohio to want to be better. I want to be better; I know what it is to need to get to work on parts of your identity, to strive to be a better person. I mean, I write. Which to me means introspection as a discipline. And introspection is, I think, the first step to Awareness. If honestly applied…

KD: You mention Greek mythology in “The United States of America in the Summertime,” would you say the Greek myths have had an influence in most of your writing?

RB: I took a couple of courses in mythology early on as an undergraduate and got hooked. I have a bound version of The Aeneid within reach at all times!

KD: Where do you write most often? Do you like to have a specific writing space

RB: I do. My wife Gloria has a she-shed. I have the smallest bedroom of a three-bedroom house converted to an office. I write most evenings from around 9pm until 2 or 3am. Every evening, as a rule. If not writing, then sending out submissions or answering the occasional acceptance.

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

RB: Bob Dylan leads a list of songwriters who have taught me about Writing—songwriters have taught me as much as academics. On the academic side: Mary Oliver, Philip Levine—big Philip Levine fan! And I definitely worship at the altar of Robert Frost—he won four Pulitzers, for godssakes, and you hear little discussion of his work.

KD: When did you first consider yourself a poet?

RB: The first time I heard Dylan Thomas read his poems, on a record in a high-school English class in Ohio, I knew what I was—and would thereafter strive to become, if that makes any sense. Fifty years later, ten books of poems to my credit, the name poet fits. I’m comfortable with that. Sure. But, oddly, I like writer more.

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

RB: I have two books coming out this year: Hillbilly Guilt won the Hidden River / Willow Run Poetry Book Award and is due out any day—Main Street Rag is bringing out Beautiful Plenty. (Both sets of galleys done and approved!)

Roy Bentley is a finalist for the Miller Williams prize for Walking with Eve in the Loved City, has published eight books; including American Loneliness from Lost Horse Press, who recently issued a new & selected collection entitled My Mother’s Red Ford. Roy is the recipient of a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and fellowships from the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs and Ohio Arts Council. Poems have appeared in Evening Street Review, The Southern Review, Crazyhorse, and Shenandoah among others. Hillbilly Guilt, his newest, won the 2019 Hidden River Arts / Willow Run Poetry Book Award.