2022 Poetry Chapbook Prize Winner
Prize judge Carmen Giménez Smith has chosen Mubanga Kalimamukwento‘s unmarked graves as the winner of the 2022 Tusculum Review Poetry Chapbook Prize. She praises the prizewinning collection: “unmarked graves haunted me. The ghosts and the stark music in these poems of evocation were rapturous in their embodiments: elegy as loss, as benediction, as allusion. I feel enveloped by this speaker’s beautiful lyric. I can’t wait to see this book in the world.”
Mubanga Kalimamukwento is a Zambian storyteller. Her first novel, The Mourning Bird (Jacana Media), won the Dinaane Debut Fiction Award and was also listed among the fifteen most notable books of 2019 by Brittle Paper. Later that year, she won the Kalemba Short Story Prize. The novel was excerpted in The Johannesburg Review of Books.
Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in adda, Aster(ix), Doek!, Overland, The Killens Review of Arts and Letters, The Red Rock Review, and elsewhere. She’s been translated into Italian by Menelique and appeared on shortlists for the Bristol Short Story Prize, Bush Fellowship, Commonwealth Short Story Prize, Fractured Lit Flash Fiction Prize, Miles Morland Scholarship, Nobrow Short Story Prize and Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative.
When she is not writing, Mubanga serves as a fiction editor for Doek!, Associate Fiction Editor for the Water-Stone Review, Mentor at the Minnesota Prison Writing Workshop and tutor at Lolwe.
Her work investigates the experiences of Zambian women where culture, class, politics, and access to justice intersect. This has earned her fellowships with the Young African Leadership Initiative in 2017, the Hubert H. Humphrey (Fulbright) Fellowship in 2018, the Voodoonauts Summer Workshop 2020, the Hawkinson Scholarship for Peace and Justice in 2021 and the 1000 Voices Program (Every Woman Treaty) 2022.
She is now an MFA candidate at Hamline University, where she receives the Writer of Color Merit Scholarship Award and the Deborah Keenan Poetry Scholarship.
Carmen Giménez Smith also chose one honorable mention: Brent Ameneyro’s Puebla. She describes his poems: “Puebla considers the mythology of family in formally dynamic lyric poems that tell the stories of landscapes, past and present. Home here is land, sky, and the border. This collection aches with duende.” We’ll be publishing several of the poems in his chapbook in the 2022 issue of The Tusculum Review.
Brent Ameneyro’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, The Iowa Review, Ninth Letter, The Journal, Azahares, Hispanic Culture Review, and elsewhere. He has been the recipient of the 2019 Sarah B. Marsh Rebelo Excellence in Poetry Scholarship, the 2021 SRS Research Award for Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice, and other awards.
Giménez Smith chose both collections from the eight finalists selected by the preliminary judges. The other six finalists for the prize were: Rebecca Bornstein’s Not the First Girl, Brenda Edgar’s Black Dog, Benjamin Grossberg’s As Are Right Fit, Mark Simpson’s Sometimes You Feel like an Electric Fence, Meghan Sterling’s Fox’s Sleep, and Ahmed Zaid’s City of Mispronounced Flowers.
Kalimamukwento winning collection of poems garners a prize of $1,000, publication of the chapbook in The Tusculum Review’s 2022 issue, and the creation of a limited edition stand-alone chapbook with original illustrations. The issue and chapbook will be published in October and celebrated at a live launch on Tusculum University’s campus in November.
The Tusculum Review 2022 Poetry Chapbook Prize’s final judge Carmen Giménez Smith, a 2019 Guggenheim fellow, is the author of seven books including Milk and Filth, a finalist for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry and Be Recorder, a finalist for the National Book Award, the L.A. Times Book and the PEN Open Book Award. She was awarded an American Book Award for Bring Down the Little Birds and the Juniper Prize for Poetry for her collection Goodbye, Flicker. She is publisher of Noemi Press and a Professor of English at Virginia Tech.
2021 Fiction Prize Winner
The Tusculum Review was pleased to publish the winner of the 2021 Fiction Prize: L.A. Hawbaker’s “When the Water Comes.” Prize judge Amy Sturgis summarized and applauded Hawbaker’s story: “‘When the Water Comes’ offers a haunting portrait of a town and people drowned by the bayou. L.A. Hawbaker contrasts Mawmaw Jean’s stubborn determination to remain in the home her daddy’s daddy built against the yearning desire of the protagonist, Luke, to escape – to surrender his home, to flee with his neighbors, or to disappear into the beckoning otherworldly promise of the mysterious ‘air hole.’ The story conjures a sense of dread as slow and relentless as the rising water it describes, and it effectively captures the inertia of place. With expressive, elegiac prose, Hawbaker invites us to consider what is lost and swept away, what we sacrifice holding on to what we must inevitably release, and what forms our lasting and last hopes may take. It is an elegant achievement.”
L.A. Hawbaker is a writer based in Chicago by way of New Orleans, Hawaii, Poland, and Prague. Her work has appeared in Allium Journal, Bright Wall/Dark Room, Newcity Magazine, and others. You can find her on Twitter @laurahawbaker or www.lahawbaker.com.
Sturgis also recognized finalist Bronwyn Mauldin’s “Beans and Rice”: “In ‘Beans and Rice,’ Bronwyn Mauldin crafts an absorbing tale of revenge with its origins located in El Salvador and its final tragedy enacted behind a car wash in Los Angeles. This is more than a story of two men and two murders; it’s a saga of broken systems and broken trust across countries and generations. What do parents – or homelands – ask of or want for their children? Both Mauldin’s prose and gaze are unflinching, and this lack of sentimentality makes the end of ‘Beans and Rice’ hit with great force.”
Bronwyn Mauldin is the author of Love Songs of the Revolution and The Streetwise Cycle. Her work has been published by Akashic Books, CutBank, Literature for Life, Necessary Fiction, Gold Man Review, and dada anthology Maintenant. She is founding editor of the Artists 4 Democracy newsletter. Her zines can be found in bookstores and libraries across the US and in a time capsule. She has been a writer in residence at Mesa Verde National Park and Denali National Park.
Prize judge Amy H. Sturgis’s longstanding generosity to the review and Tusculum University is much appreciated; before judging this contest, she presented a lecture on Indigenous Futurism as part of the English Department’s Summer 2020 Afrofuturism course and lecture series. Sturgis holds a Ph.D. in Intellectual History and specializes in the fields of Science Fiction/Fantasy and Indigenous American Studies. She is the author of Tecumseh: A Biography; The Trail of Tears and Indian Removal; Presidents from Hayes through McKinley, 1877-1901; and Presidents from Washington through Monroe, 1789-1825. She has published countless articles, essays, and stories; spoken at a number of colleges, universities, and other venues; and been interviewed for many podcasts, documentaries, and television programs. In 2017, she guest edited and solicited work for Apex Magazine’s “Celebration of Indigenous Fantasists.” Two of the stories in the issue won prestigious Hugo and Campbell awards, two firsts for Native authors.
2020 Nonfiction Prize Winner
From a crowded field of intriguing essays, judge David Lazar chose Jamie L. Smith‘s essay, “Mythology Lessons.” Lazar praised Smith’s work:
“‘Mythology Lessons’ is a deftly choreographed and deeply felt essay. The essayist uses a tripartite structure and a combination of tones and dictions to fully exploit the possibilities of the essay—to create a moving exploration of how ideas and experience intertwine, how thinking about the past is an obsessive activity, thinly concealed by the forms of intellection and apparent arrangement, which may help us move towards what is difficult to consider, but will not, in the words of James Agee, ‘tell me who I am.’ Still, the attempt, which in this case is considered, offered with both the risk of revelation and the efforts of discretion. The result is a poetic acceleration at the end which is moving and earned.”
Smith won the $1,000 prize, publication in the Review, and the creation of a limited edition chapbook of her essay with a cover designed by printmaker Sage Perrott.
Jamie L. Smith is a PhD candidate in English at the University of Utah. She received her MFA in creative writing from Hunter College. Her work appears or is forthcoming in the Bellevue Literary Review, Pigeon Pages, San Antonio Review, Peculiar: A Queer Literary Journal, Not-Very-Quiet, and the Indie Blu(e) anthology Smitten: Poetry by Women for Women.
Judge David Lazar also selected two essayists for honorable mention.
He recommended Robin Storey Dunn‘s “Gimme Shelter,” describing it as “an autobiographical essay that is willing to unsentimentally look at the details of the past and question what, if anything, has changed.”
Robin Storey Dunn is a high school dropout and a community college graduate. Her writing has appeared in Gertrude, Pigeonholes, The Windhover, and Rue Scribe. Additional work can be found at her website. She lives in Austin, Texas with her wife and children.
Both Jamie L. Smith’s “Mythology Lessons” and Robin Storey Dunn’s “Gimme Shelter” were listed as Notable Essays and Literary Nonfiction of 2020 in Best American Essays of 2021.
Lazar also took notice of “Shopping at Target while Muslim,” by Margaret A. Johnson. “The narrator of this essay manages to remain balanced and intimate while instigating questions that are charged and essential, no small achievement,” Lazar wrote.
Margaret A. Johnson, Ph.D. is an award-winning author, sociologist, business owner, and interfaith activist. Her memoir essays have been published in The Fountain Magazine and online at MuslimGirl, AltMuslimah, and Thrive Global. She has numerous academic publications from her former career as a university professor. As a business owner, she is the managing director of Transfirex, Inc., a global language translation company. She serves as the president of her mosque board and as the co-lead of the Washington DC Chapter of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom. She is writing her memoir, My American Pilgrimage: From Southeast Texas to the Ka’ba in Mecca. She can be found online at www.coexistmarge.com and on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @coexistmarge.
Final judge David Lazar’s books include the forthcoming Celeste Holm Syndrome (Nebraska) and the anthology Don’t Look Now (Ohio State), co-edited with Kristen Iversen, as well as I’ll Be Your Mirror: Essays and Aphorisms, Who’s Afraid of Helen of Troy, After Montaigne, Occasional Desire: Essays, The Body of Brooklyn, Truth in Nonfiction, Essaying the Essay, Powder Town, Michael Powell: Interviews, and Conversations with M.F.K. Fisher. Nine of his essays have been “Notable Essays of the Year” according to Best American Essays, including 2016-18. He is Professor of Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago. Lazar is founding editor of the literary magazine Hotel Amerika, now in its nineteenth year, and series editor, with Patrick Madden, of 21st Century Essays, at Ohio State University Press. He was a Guggenheim Fellow in Nonfiction for 2015-16.
2019 Poetry Chapbook Prize Winner
Tanya Paperny is a writer, editor, and translator in Washington, D.C. Her journalism, essays, poetry, and literary translations have appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Washington City Paper, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, The Literary Review, and elsewhere. Her poem “Prababushka,” about her revolutionary great-grandmother, was selected as Split This Rock’s “Poem of the Week” in 2018, and Tanya is at work on a literary nonfiction book about the same badass great-grandmother. Tanya is the recipient of fellowships from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, the Vermont Studio Center, and OMI International Arts Center. The child of Soviet Jewish refugees, Tanya’s work deals with the aftermath of atrocity.
Prize judge Bhanu Kapil is an English rose, not that you’d know it at first glance. Born in the UK to Indian parents, she now lives and works in the US, where she is a professor at Naropa University and Goddard College. She maintains an exciting and beautiful blog, The Vortex of Formidable Sparkles, which recently passed its “million point” and is also the author of five spectacular yet relentlessly grim books, most recently Incubation: a space for monsters, which is to be re-published in a new edition, with a preface by Eunsong Kim, by Kelsey Street Press. Bhanu is is also currently writing a new work, an inversion of The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This is not going well. Will Bhanu ever become a widely read British novelist? Please send practical advice on how to become a British novelist and/or a note of encouragement to email@example.com. In better news, in summer 2018, Bhanu had her first solo European exhibition, curated by Harry Burke during Art Basel, at S.A.L.T.S. In summer 2019, Bhanu, a devotee of Hanuman, will be launching The Hanuman Institute, an art school for writers, both online and off, in venues that include Loveland, Rishikesh, Edinburgh, Malmo, Johannesburg and Oakland. You can find her on Twitter at @thisbhanu.
2018 Poetry Chapbook Prize Winner
Stella Reed is the co-author of We Were Meant to Carry Water, forthcoming from 3: A Taos Press in 2019. She teaches poetry to women in domestic violence and homeless shelters through WingSpan Poetry Project in Santa Fe, NM. She’s recently published in The Bellingham Review, American Journal of Poetry, Tahoma Literary Review and has a piece forthcoming this summer in the Black Lawrence Press anthology, They Said.
Prize judge Emilia Phillips is the author of two poetry collections from the University of Akron Press, Signaletics (2013) and Groundspeed (2016), and three chapbooks, most recently Beneath the Ice Fish Like Souls Look Alike (Bull City Press, 2015). Her poems and lyric essays appear widely in Agni, Boston Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, and elsewhere. She’s an assistant professor in the MFA Writing Program and Department of English at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Her third book, Empty Clip, was published by the University of Akron Press.
Previous Contest Judges
Previous contest judges for The Tusculum Review include: Mary Jo Bang, Aimee Bender, Kate Bernheimer, Jericho Brown, Amy Gerstler, Jaimy Gordon, Allison Joseph, Michael Martone, Clay Matthews, Sara Pritchard, Nate Pritts, and Wayne Lee Thomas.