2017 Contest Results
BWR is pleased to announce the winners and runners-up of our 2017 Contest in Poetry, Fiction, and Nonfiction, judged by Rachel McKibbens, Nicola Griffith, and Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib. Each winner will receive $1,000 and publication in BWR 44.2 (forthcoming this spring), and each runner-up will receive $100. We are also pleased to announce the winner and runner-up of our inaugural Flash Prose Contest judged by Joyelle McSweeney. The winner of our Flash Prose Contest will receive $500 and publication in BWR 44.2, and the runner-up will receive $100.
M.J. Gette was selected as the flash prose winner for the piece, “Auto-da-fé: Confession and Camouflage.” Flash prose judge Joyelle McSweeney writes:
This author has confected a compelling new uncanny life form under the sign of the slime mold. With phrases of lyric flight, garlands of theory, camouflaged confession, diagrams and screenshots, this piece is something like an essay, something like a collage, something like a thaumatrope where one sees a bird flying, something like a breakdown on the dancefloor of a space-cruiser abandoning the planet for good. If a slime mold could burn, it would burn with this unwholesome green light.
Beth Bachmann was selected as the flash prose runner-up for the piece, “Ursonate.” McSweeney writes:
I admire the confidence of this short and beguiling piece. The author sets in motion a tarot-spread of elements—the war, the wheel, the gold—and alchemizes a novelistic series of arrivals and reversals. The result is timeless, but, like a dream, it indicates a particularity at once haunting and enticing. I want to drain out through the hole this brief piece has pierced in me.
Tony Wei Ling was selected as the nonfiction winner for the essay “The Best Lighting For My Body Was at the White Horse Inn and Bar, Oakland, California.” Nonfiction judge Hanif Willis-Abdurraqib writes:
I am moved by the geography in this piece. Not just the geography of a landscape — also the geography of body, of gender, of family. The speaker enters with high stakes and manages to traverse the entire narrative with the stakes remaining high, emotional, and at times painful. “When I’m pressed, I go with boy: a category that can’t last forever” is the line that sat on my skin well after my reading of this piece was done. A firm and nuanced consideration of boyhood, manhood, mothers, and the bright and complicated intersection of all those things.
Jacqueline Alnes was selected as the nonfiction runner-up for the essay, “I Remember, I re-re-remember.” Abdurraqib writes:
I am moved by this complex narrative about the fragility of the body, and the ways in which it can fail us, or dare us to remain triumphant in spite of its failing. I was most drawn in by the detail of this piece, and how it allows for the clinical and yet remains closely personal. It blends poetic imagery with a harsh and touchable reality, where a happy ending isn’t promised. It echoes life itself.
Tess Allard was selected as the fiction winner for the story, “The World Holds What It Remembers Most.” Fiction judge Nicola Griffith writes:
Halfway down the first page of “The World Holds What It Remembers Most”, the clarity and control of the narrative is obvious. The reader always understands the narrator’s context: the who, how, where, when, and what of an unfathomable event. Their experience is ours: we see, smell, hear, and feel as they do. The essential premise is beautifully executed, simultaneously nuanced and decisive; the only ambiguity is deliberately delivered. I particularly admired the harmony between the dominant emotion of the piece—loss—and the shape of both plot and story. That is, sadness drives the protagonist’s (and so reader’s) need to explore and understand the sequence of events, to reason back from effect to cause, to find out why. The writer is painting a wholly human experience, one that may be universal.
Ruth Mukwana was selected as the fiction runner-up for the story, “Taboo.” Griffith writes:
Like the winning story, “Taboo” immediately gives us a connection to the narrator: visceral and particular descriptions of a boy in a refugee camp. The story—the characters in their situation—never wavers in its assurance. The writer very economically sets up a series of very human conflicts—of age, culture, gender, privilege—without resorting to easy cliché. They leave the reader to ache with ten year-old Timothy and, alongside him, wonder what will happen.
Sarah Maria Medina was selected as the poetry winner for the poem, “From a Poet to her Rumbero.” Poetry judge Rachel McKibbens writes:
At the center of “From a Poet to her Rumbero” is a bucking heart, grappling with its fanged history & unbreaking fever. You sense its luminous pulse from the opening scene: i’m a dying sky of eagles / i’m arrowed into it. The poem’s language is unbridled yet moves with a sinuous grace, cinematic in scope–you can almost hear the trumpets blaring as each new line unfurls its glittering tapestry of Spanish and english: grey mirada turned ice y todo / i’m blessed with ancestor names / i’m protected by light / tú cantas y cantas y cantas / until i know all your harmony / but i won’t beg you to see me. I will always treasure the full-body, heart throttle of a poem that refuses to simplify love-grief & its many heads. From a Poet to her Rumbero is adventurous and much larger than its page, the form barely able to hold steady the text’s orchestral muscle, providing a gorgeous collision of ferocity & song.
Noah Baldino was selected as the poetry runner-up for the poem, “The Parade.” McKibbens writes:
The Parade is a searing and brilliant poem examining both the timeliness and timelessness of its subject matter. Here, the speaker presents us with anti-trans violence, an act so normalized and “unremarkable” a brutal moment of agreement is made: the hushed fists of soccer dads / pulped my lips, tugged my / breasts like rotten treasures. / It scares me too, sometimes, / this body. The beauty of this poem is how it resists the urge to pull punches, placing its readers in a position beyond that of witness: if this is what I must endure, you must help me endure it. Help me gather the teeth, confettied against the glinting pipes. Help me see the dead flies / mottled / a swarm of distant, dark balloons. Do not be mistaken – this is no sad resignation but, instead, the blood-holy howl of a body refusing to be shaped by its enemies.
Congratulations to the winners!
We also want to congratulate the finalists in each genre, listed below. This year was full of gorgeous, strange, and moving pieces, and we thank these writers for their amazing work.
Flash Prose finalists:
J. Bailey Hutchinson