2018 Contest Results!

Oct 18, 2018News

BWR is pleased to announce the winners and runners-up of our 2018 Contests in Poetry, Fiction, Nonfiction, and Flash. We are forever grateful to our inimitable judges: Vanessa Angélica Villarreal, Laura van den Berg, Kate Zambreno, and Jennifer S. Cheng.

Kanika Agrawal was selected as the flash prose winner for the piece, “from Okazaki Fragments.” Flash prose judge Jennifer S. Cheng writes:

The language of “from Okazaki Fragments” entranced me from the start. I do not know where I am, but like Okazaki and Okazaki, I am compelled to move with the sentences forward, “foreign and farther out of time.” I am located and dislocated. I am brought somewhere and not brought somewhere. The interaction between image and text, a rhythm of call and echo, demonstrates the lyrical potency in blending scientific data with incantation, in finding the story of lines and the plot of points. Here, the writer uncovers lyricism in science by way of persona, allegory, a convergence of pattern and rupture. I think about meaning-making, how sometimes it comes from the periphery. I think about the questions I am content to suspend, if only for a moment: Who/what exactly are Okazaki and Okazaki? How are their fates entwined? What shadow underlies them? There’s something that pulls me to return and return: a journey of movement I might press into any surface like transfer paper; a ritual of syntax that functions as a narrative unto its own; how each sentence holds an image in sequence, then holds it again while observing a shift in direction. I feel a little like I am hearing the world coded and decoded and coded again. It is an experience in which I happily suspend myself.

Alice Maglio was selected as the flash prose runner-up for the piece, “Let’s eat baby the steak is getting cold.”  Jennifer S. Cheng writes:

“Let’s eat baby the steak is getting cold” is a brief story that splits the space between haunted and relatable. Surrealist and allegorical, it renders a strange object of obsession, desire, and envy—a tooth—and seduces the reader into a powerful drama of the narrator’s deepening yearning for what is found in the mouth of “just a man, my man.” In taking on the familiar setting of a relationship between two people, it organically and irresistibly defamiliarizes it, blurring the space of domesticity and peculiarity. I was delighted by the story’s deft logic of images, its pleasurable echoes, and the narration’s pitch-perfect suspension between detached and personal. The story begins “I almost married a man…” and ends with the word “escape”; the meaning of what falls in between is something that resonates oddly and truthfully outward.

Amanda Kallis was selected as the nonfiction winner for the essay “Social Body.” Nonfiction judge Kate Zambreno writes:

An elegant, pained mosaic of fracture and fragments meditating on a face recently and mysteriously partially paralyzed. This essay reminds me of my favorite writing on illness and the body, from Virginia Woolf’s “On Illness,” to Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor to Eula Biss’s “The Pain Scale” to Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely. And like these thinkers, this writer is searching for something deep and profound at the limits of experience. This is not (just) an essay on an experience of bodily affliction, but also thinking through photography, perception, beauty, and form through the lens of symmetry. What does it mean, to be fragmented? What does it mean to be perceived as coherent, or whole?

J’Lyn Chapman was selected as the nonfiction runner-up for the essay, “Dark Grove, Shining.” Zambreno writes:

There is a beautiful moment in this meditation on nature, language, and motherhood which made me fall in love with it—the narrator writes of reading Charlotte Brontë’s novel Villette, in bed, the summer after her daughter was born, which moves into Brontë’s fascination with etymology, which reminds me of one of my favorite pieces of writing, Anne Carson’s “The Glass Essay.” What more can I say? An urgent and beautiful piece of writing the present-tense and the body that references Julia Kristeva, Francis Ponge and Etel Adnan—what’s not to love?

Ndinda Kioko was selected as the fiction winner for the story, “Little Jamaica.” Fiction judge Laura van den Berg writes:

“Little Jamaica” is an extraordinary dive into the mysteries of consciousness: into what it means to be alive; what the nature of mourning has to tell us about who we are; how we love, and fail, the living. The inventive twists-and-turns in Priscilla’s story brought me to a place where I could look up from the page and see the world anew.

RE Katz was selected as the fiction runner-up for the story, “On Weather.” Laura van den Berg writes:

After she is barred from the hospital room of her critically ill love, “B,” the narrator unspools her own history, both recent and distant, in this kinetic, deeply moving, and frequently hilarious story about love and injustice, trauma and healing.  .

David Joez Villaverde was selected as the poetry winner for the poem, “La Piedra de los Doce Ángulos,” Poetry judge Vanessa Angélica Villarreal writes:

David Joez Villaverde’s “La Piedra de los Doce Ángulos” explores the self as record, confession, revelation, and gospel, and refuses the ellipsis and compression expected of contemporary Western poetry by insisting on density and presence, entering a trancelike reimagining of self within the silences of history. Arranged in formally experimental essayistic fragments, chilling scenes are counted off first in Roman numerals, then Spanish, then Quechua, and as the counting method deteriorates and decolonizes, the language sparks the neural synapse to connect the detritus of the present to the only surviving shards of the past, clarifying its story in all its mystery and heartbreak. The language builds as it excavates, demolishing false constructs to find a foundation embedded deep in body and earth memory, summoned through time. This inventive, fearlessly non-linear, messy, vulnerable, expansive, ambitious piece is an astonishing disruption, blazing a new path for what’s to come.

Kanika Agrawal was selected as the poetry runner-up for, “from Okazaki Fragments.” Villarreal writes:

Kanika Agrawal’s “from Okazaki Fragments is an extraordinary study in the ways language is complicit, corruptible, and wounded with the unspoken genetic material of inherited and colonial trauma. With surgical precision, Agrawal untwists the helixes of language and, mimicking DNA replication, illustrates both the limitations and potentialities of expression. Using repeating forms, short fragments, long fragments, and replicating pairs, the form mimics DNA replication, thus challenging the genetic material of history, science, and language, and weaves them together to illustrate the hidden subjectivities in their so-called objective spaces. To track the repetition of “Okazaki” is to a track a replicating defect, but to also alight an inheritance, codify a dream, graph a memory. There is a powerful theory of language, narrative, and time as a field rather than as linear constructions in this poem, which sparks new definitions of family, identity, history, race.

Congratulations to the winners!

We also want to congratulate the finalists in each genre, listed below. This year was full of gorgeous, strange (in the best way), experimental, and powerful pieces and we thank these writers for their amazing work.

Flash Prose finalists:

May-Lee Chai

Ariel Chu

Judy Geraci

Sabrina Li

Angelica Manglona

Brittany Perham

Kara Vernor

Candice Wuehle


Nonfiction finalists:

M.K. Brake

R. Cass Bruner

Carly Fraysier

Lyric Hunter

Negesti Kaudo

Panpan Song


Fiction finalists:

Emily Abrons

Caren Beilin

Diana Clarke

Ilana Fogelson

Taraka たらかHamada 浜田

Angie Sijun Lou

Lydia Magyar

My Tran


Poetry finalists:

Liz Bowen

Aurielle Lucier

John Paul Martinez

Maude Tanswai

Gale Thompson

Kam Walters

Natalie Wee

Felicia Zamora