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We are pleased to announce the winners and finalists of the 9th Annual Contests in Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction.

Each winner is awarded a $500 prize, while each finalist is awarded $100. Both winners and finalists will be published in January 2019 on


Jane Lovell“Tallow,” “Exhibit: ‘Song of Lost Species’,” and “armadillo” by Jane Lovell

Judge Jane Hirshfield writes: It’s not always simple to say why, out of a group of excellent finalists, one voice steps forward. I was drawn in the end to select this set of poems for their precision of description, clarity of diction, and tactfulness through which they address their central point. At the center of all three is our human relationship to the non-human world, limned differently in each of the poems. “Tallow,” for me the strongest of the group, offers an unflinching description of the transformation of living creature into rendered use. The last line (“She was our chosen one, our beauty,”) for all its simplicity, holds and honors the inevitable grief in the contract we make between kept animal and human keeper, when both are recognized in their full dignity and worth; the deft switch to past tense creates the power. “Armadillo” also portrays one particular animal’s particular life, its unknowable history changed into object for our human carrying. “Exhibit: ‘Song of Lost Species’” takes place in a gallery: bell jars hold taxidermied birds whose living actuality appears only through technology’s reproduction. The poem’s unstated question: Will this secondhand depiction be the next generation’s only knowledge of the world my own generation was given? These poems stood out for me for their word-choices—“cockled,” “tines,” “syphon”; for their depth of knowledge; for their ability to acknowledge how much cannot be known; and for the moral and ethical awareness so thoroughly in them. We live among and by the taken lives of other beings. Let us, at the very least, acknowledge the history and cost.

The finalists in poetry are poem sets by Lois P. Jones and Mary B. Moore.


Sarah M. Wells“The Violence of the Given World” by Sarah M. Wells

Judge Elizabeth Dodd writes: This essay examines the the threat of male violence, the dark possibility of deadly response in the nation’s environment of universal armament, against the foregrounded figures of her own young sons at play in their yard. I admire this author’s insistence on inhabiting multiplicity–the comfort of the rural home and the nationally tolerated savagery of school shootings; the spontaneous joy of the boys and the possibility that it may morph into anger; caring for their young bodies that will grow up to hold a strength that can be tender or brutal. Raising boys against the violent grain of American culture is an essential narrative for our time, rendered here in just the ordinary summer events of one afternoon.

The finalists in nonfiction are “Terrestrial” by Jordan Escobar, “Tacit Cartography” by Hannah Huff, and “The Last Time” by Martha Elise Park.


John Thomson“Out of Good Ground” by John Thomson

Judge Daniel Orozco writes: “Out of Good Ground” is a beautifully understated story about the resilience and fragility of a hard-lived life. A middle-aged man accompanies his 80ish-year-old mother and her older sister on a kind of “death trip” across Michigan, as she takes stock of her past by visiting forgotten sites and long-lost relations. Far from being grim or sentimental, their journey is steeped in a gentle humor and packed with precisely observed details, resulting in an emotionally resonant drama.

The finalists in fiction are “Vax” by Alan Barstow and “Caverns” by Kara Delemeester.


  • Poetry: Jane Hirshfield is an award-winning poet, essayist, and translator and the author of several collections of verse, including The Beauty (2015), a finalist for the National Book Award.
  • Nonfiction: Elizabeth Dodd is the author of Horizon’s Lens and In the Mind’s Eye and teaches creative writing and environmental literature at Kansas State University.
  • Fiction: Daniel Orozco is the author of Orientation and Other Stories (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). He teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Idaho.

Next Contest

We will begin accepting submissions for the 10th Annual Contests in Poetry, Nonfiction, and Fiction in January 2019. There will be no theme for the 2019 contest.

For additional information, view the contest guidelines or contact us.

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