We are beyond thrilled to announce the winners of the first annual Marystina Santiestevan First Book Prize and the first annual Minds on Fire Open Book Prize, but before that we would like to express our sincere gratitude and admiration to all who entrusted their labor of love to us. It was an honor.
We were astounded by the number of submissions received and, more importantly, by the overall excellence of the manuscripts, by the breadth and depth of their voices, and by the brilliance of more than a handful of them. Really impressive. So it was no easy feat to narrow the field to a final ten let alone to select just one. It’s no exaggeration to say that we wish we could publish more than two. In the future, we hope to do just that.
Two books stood out among a crowd of excellent manuscripts, and we couldn’t be happier. The two winning manuscripts, although quite different from one another, share several remarkable qualities. Both demonstrate a mastery of language, making it fresh and crisp without sacrificing sense; both bristle with real human emotion; and both offer authenticity, humor, and wisdom. It is both a pleasure and a shot-in-the-arm to witness such supple minds working to discover new worlds and new meanings.
And without further ado, the winning are…
Marystina Santiestevan First Book Prize
The winner of the first annual Marystina Santiestevan First Book Prize is Michelle Lewis of West Bath, Maine for her manuscript, Animul/Flame.
Animul/Flame was selected by final judge Bob Hicok. Lewis uses language, both strange and familiar, to create an enchanted world full of shadows and poems that read like fables for the future. A raw, explicit, and personal book that conjures the dark, the mysterious, and the mythological.
“This is the book that wouldn’t let go of me. I’d return to it intending to read a part and find I couldn’t divide it from itself, that I had to finish each time. While the poems connect and speak to each other, they serve less to tell a story than enact a life, to move through violence and menace and mystery in a search for a language of survival, a way of touching memories and events without succumbing to them again.”
"Animul/Flame is charged by an emotional integrity that yields exacting bite and insight. This is a marvelous debut."
“Animul/Flame is a wound. A landscape. A lineage. A radiance. A revised taxonomy assembled from the marrow-ash of time and sorrow, cataloging the violences of childhood, of men. We have our grief and our blood, Lewis writes. Why this voice beyond what we can vessel? Look past the broken air. This extraordinary debut is the voice we’ve been afraid to hear. She survives the ruin, the night, and we survive through her.”
Minds on Fire
Open Book Prize
The winner of the first annual Minds on Fire Open Book Prize is Jeffrey Morgan of Bellingham, Washington for his manuscript, The Last Note Becomes Its Listener.
"This book is concerned with a brother's epilepsy, his disability, how living with the poet's family affects them all, and especially the limits of empathy. It's about how we make meaning out of memory, particularly when faced with the stark limitations of memory's veracity. Morgan's greatest talent lies in his ability to render the quotidian into the extraordinary with ease and sincerity."German poet Günter Eich says that poets are “translating without the original text,” and Jeffrey Morgan’s The Last Note Becomes Its Listener translates the world into language with astonishing precision and clarity, offering a vision that’s peculiarly hyperfocused in its associative, often dreamlike thinking and perceiving. Throughout, Morgan’s observations enlarge my world with their accuracy. This is a wise and playful and moving book—startling in its powers of observation, lush with postmodern shimmering.”
"Jeffrey Morgan’s new collection hums in a sweeping timbre filled with consolations and intimacies. Ever casting an eye towards the heavens and to places where wonderment dwells, the poems are ever “ciphers for love’s circular logic,” imagining the potentialities of grief and meaning….Turn after remarkable turn, Morgan’s poems fill the page with music and the longing for music in the spaces between."
—Oliver de la Paz
Congratulations, Michelle and Jeffrey!
The editor would like to thank everyone who helped with the project especially those whose names that don’t appear on our masthead: Terri Ford and Kath Jesme, who read manuscripts until their hearts content and then some; Scott Bruno, the designer with the mad skills and the exquisite taste; and, of course, our friend and collaborator, Bob Hicok. Thank you! We couldn’t have done without you. Seriously, we couldn’t have done it.