Out of over 950 entrants, Daniel Khalastchi has been selected as the winner of the Brittingham Prize in Poetry and Joshua Nguyen has been named the winner of the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry. Each will receive $1,000, and their collections will be published this fall by the University of Wisconsin Press. Judith Vollmer has been awarded the Four Lakes Poetry Prize; her collection will be published next spring along with finalist collections by Emily Rose Cole and Laura Villareal.
Carmen Giménez Smith, editor of The Nation’s poetry section and codirector of CantoMundo, served as this year’s contest judge. Her collections include National Book Critics Circle Award finalist Milk and Filth (2010) and Be Recorder (2020), which was shortlisted for both the National Book Award and the PEN Open Book Award.
Daniel Khalastchi is the author of Manoleria and Tradition. A former fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Daniel earned his MFA from the University of Iowa, where he currently directs the Magid Center for Undergraduate Writing. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications, including The Rumpus, Poetry Northwest, and The Iowa Review. Giménez Smith praises the Brittingham-winning volume, “When the world is turned upside down, when vaccines are 5G and democracy is fascism and insurrection is freedom of speech, satire is often the most acute mirror to interpret an age. Vivid, bleak, and startling, American Parables is an allegorical masterpiece of mordant irony I plan to carry with me in this uncertain post-JAN6 era.”
Joshua Nguyen is a Vietnamese-American writer from Houston. He received his MFA from the University of Mississippi, where he is currently pursuing his PhD. His work has been published in The Texas Review, Crab Orchard Review, and Gulf Coast, among others. Come Clean, winner of the Felix Pollak prize, is his first full-length collection. Giménez Smith says, “I am so deeply moved by the subdued lyric force of this collection, if only subdued could capture the elegant control Nguyen exerts on his line. Sensuously constructed, in Come Clean he looks at the vast landscape of history through the desire for Marie Kondo’s order and a cure for imposter’s syndrome, in a book that’s as current as it is timeless.”
Judith Vollmer is the author of five previous collections, including The Apollonia Poems, which won the Four Lakes Prize four years ago. Her winning collection, The Sound Boat, features new and selected poems from her earlier volumes. Her writing has appeared in Poetry International, The Women’s Review of Books, The Georgia Review, and elsewhere. She is a professor emerita of English at the University of Pittsburgh–Greensburg and teaches in the MFA Program at Carlow University. According to Lawrence Joseph, “From the deeply moral and radical qualities of her first book to spectacular new poems, Vollmer has created a body of work singular in American poetry. With the sense, intellect, sound, tone, rhythm and music only the most real and truest poetry provides, The Sound Boat embodies, on every level, the regions of the human soul.”
Emily Rose Cole will also have her collection, Thunderhead, published as part of the series. She holds an MFA from Southern Illinois University Carbondale and is a PhD candidate in poetry with an emphasis in disability studies at the University of Cincinnati. Her poems have appeared in American Life in Poetry, Poet Lore, and the Los Angeles Review, among others. Judy Jordan praises Thunderhead, saying, “Fiercely imaginative, these heart-wrenching, lyric narrative poems are haunted by the body as a depository for trauma, the body with cancer, the body with MS, the body cut open and sacrificed, teaching us that grief comes from love while transforming us with exquisite and beautiful language that is simply breathtaking.”
Girl’s Guide to Leaving is the forthcoming collection by Laura Villareal, a Stadler Fellow and a National Book Critics Circle Emerging Critic. She earned her MFA from Rutgers University-Newark and her writing has appeared in AGNI, Black Warrior Review, Waxwing, and elsewhere. Giménez Smith says, “A folklore troubadour, Villareal ably unfolds a path through memory. Running wild and running home, this guide isn’t just for leaving but rather for making space in sites where one can ‘witness local miracles’ or to tell a heroine’s story without remorse. This is a rangy and ambitious book I can’t wait to see in print.”
Submissions for the next competition will be accepted between July 15 and September 15, 2021.
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For more information on the Wisconsin Poetry Prizes, please visit https://uwpress.wisc.edu/series/wi-poetry.html