PAST WINNERS & JUDGES
Reasons for Smoking by Xandria Phillips, judged by Claudia Rankine
Xandria Phillips' Reasons for Smoking was chosen by Claudia Rankine as the winner of our 2016 contest.
Xandria Phillips is a poet who hails from rural Ohio. She was raised on corn, and inherited her grandmother’s fear of open water. Xandria received her BA from Oberlin College, where she studied creative writing and Africana Studies. Currently, Xandria is Winter Tangerine's associate poetry editor and an MFA candidate at Virginia Tech. She has received fellowships from Cave Canem and Callaloo. Her poem "For A Burial Free Of Sharks" was selected by Lucas De Lima as the winner of the fifth annual Gigantic Sequins poetry contest. Xandria’s poetry is present or forthcoming in Callaloo, West Branch, Transition, Nepantla, and elsewhere.
Claudia Rankine has said of Xandria's writing: "'Let’s deflate something that we can all agree is / monstrous, and take its air inside us,' writes Xandria Phillips in 'Elegy for the Living and Breathing.' A decolonization of space and self is made physical in this stunning, textured, and ambitious collection of poems. This work positions snapshots of contemporary black, queer selfhood against an embodied historical backdrop in order to trace the tolls and infringements of white dominant structures and embedded historical violence upon the body. When I read it, I am reminded of the ways in which language can be repurposed as an amplification device against narratives that seek to erase, bury, and diminish. The poems in Reasons for Smoking articulate how living, touching, noticing, speaking, and remembering are necessary and subversive acts."
But What Will We Do by Adrienne Raphel, judged by Robyn Schiff
Adrienne Raphel was raised in southern New Jersey and northern Vermont. Raphel has an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and is a PhD candidate at Harvard, where she studies poetics and plays word games. She writes for the New Yorker online, and she has had work featured in, among other publications, the Paris Review Daily, the Atlantic online, Lana Turner Journal, Prelude, Poetry Northwest, and the Toast. Her first full-length collection What Was It For, winner of the Rescue Press Black Box Poetry Prize, is forthcoming in 2016.
Robyn Schiff has said of Raphel’s work “What indeed will we do with the dangerous chants and terrifying, unsettling tonal shifts at play in But What Will We Do? This violently charming, apocalypse-charged collection is ‘wound and unwinding’ toward a reeling undertow where menacing rhyme and swirling repetition lure the innocent into the harm’s way that the best poetry promises. There’s something seriously sinister in the revelry here, where a ‘boy is practicing the origami goose/ on a thousand-dollar bill; the roses rot, war planes fly overhead, and everyone’s meanwhile marching down the basement stairs, all ‘Still to the tune of the carousel.’”
City Country by Tony Mancus, judged by Ben Lerner
Tony Mancus is the author of two other chapbooks, Bye Land (Greying Ghost) and Bye Sea (Tree Lights Books). In 2008, with Sommer Browning, he founded Flying Guillotine Press. He has taught creative writing for many years—most recently with Writopia Lab DC and previously at Hunter College in New York. He currently works as a technical writer.
Ben Lerner has said of Tony's work: “Neither the built space of the city nor a fantasy of pastoral escape; instead, these poems are a zone where the natural and artificial interpenetrate, often violently: electricity circulating through a doomed calf, the blade of a mower that “bends like / a thought / into the future.” In other words, the work is real--poems that summon considerable lyric powers to cut through the genre’s false consolations: “and the guests / guess wrong / about the necks // of birds / of reptiles / of mammals // of the hurt on the human form…” The line is the blade; see it shining in Tony’s hands.”