The Department of Literary Arts is pleased to announce the selected writings for the 2012 Prizes in Literary Arts. Comments from the judges follow each selection.
Thank you to all who entered their work, and congratulations to the selected writers.
To download a full listing of selected writings, see Literary Arts Prizes.
Academy of American Poets Prize
“Homewriting” by Ethan Reed: The story suggested by the lines of story and attendant details rises persuasively in the mind of the reader where the poem actually composes its enactment. With phrasing slightly askew, background rendered in hints and near events, a tension accrues. The language moves true to its time and tone, attentive to all neighboring sounds, their push and flow. The more simply the poem appears to be laid out, in orderly quatrains full of common nouns, essential adjectives and familiar verbs, the more mysterious the whole thing grows. This is a very satisfying engagement.
Kim Ann Arstark Memorial Awards
“The Enigmatic Demoiselle, Eloign and Other Poems” by Tuong Vy T. Nguyen: humorous, quirky writing -- with an attention to formal considerations and playful perspectives.
“A Certain Length of Handhold”by Allison Trionfetti: A magnificent long-poem, dramatically vital, emotionally rich -- with imagery in repetition and a taut, tense, outcome.
“Everything Tasty” by Eric Adamson: Classic, hallowed, personal and yet resonantly epic. These small moments cast refreshing light around them.
“Around the Bone: A Memoir” by Rebecca Ansorge: An investigation, via a shell, into the anatomy of a tornado, and other disasters.
“Fish Story & Other Poems” by Maggie Millner: Expansive, erudite, work that weaves between thinking and imagery, the path of small experiences, governed by larger laws.
Feldman Prizes in Fiction
“Five Stories” by Evelyn Hampton: A series of precise and satisfying pieces that explore phenomenological limitations. These are always intriguing tales, quite well written, and they move in directions that are quietly unlike what you might expect. The characters struggle to maintain their identity, explore the tropes of disappearance and loss. It's amazing how much the writer manages to get into 23 short pages.
“Mary Poppins’ Parasol” by Tuong Vy T. Nguyen: Genuinely bizarre moves and gestures pass through these ten stories, and the writer has a real talent for capturing what seems like the wrong word and making it, somehow, right. There are flashes and bursts of genius here, moments when language short-circuits or situations become exceedingly strange and even absurdly funny. But the writer's authority always carries us onward.
"Evil! Doctor Zjock Zjockenstein!! et al.” by Nick Potter: A wonderful combination of words and images, in which the words complicate the images and vice versa. The writer can be incredibly funny, even slapsticky, but beneath that humor there lies a kind of dark attention to the things of the world, and there is a view of life that's intriguing and slightly disturbing...
Beth Lisa Feldman Prize in Children’s Literature
“Why Stanley Motorcycle is in a Book” by Nick Potter, is a long excerpt from a children's novel in progress. It is elegantly written, very well sustained, delightful, compelling, intelligent, unique, even brilliant. That it manages to be a work of metafiction that will delight ten year olds and their parents alike is nearly a miracle. A few terrific illustrations are included. The only thing wrong with the book is that there isn't yet enough of it. Excellent work!
Frances Mason Harris ’26 Prizes
“sick farm incantations” by Valerie Hsiung - a manuscript that holds together in mysterious and deeply satisfying ways. Incantatory and authentic - - the best sort of strange.
“Discomfort” by Evelyn Hampton is filled with surprises and beauty at every turn. The nature of the perceptions and the way they find their way to language, and linger, is a pleasure like no other.
John Hawkes Prize in Fiction
“Hermaphrodite in Iowa & Other Stories” by Tuong Vy T. Nguyen: Sensuous, comic, disturbing, compellingly imaginative prose, reminiscent of John Hawkes' earliest work. In Hawkes that sensuousness was anchored in the human psyche, however strange or eccentric its bearer. Here, too, though often displaced into the inanimate and the particulate, with startlingly original consequences.
“Evil! Doctor Zjock Zjockenstein!!” by Nick Potter: Bold, playfully witty writing, comparable to that of our recent visitor Ben Marcus, further enriched by the wistful Goreyesque drawings. What John Hawkes would have most admired, though, is the way a word can arrive suddenly to surprise a whole sentence.
Weston Senior Prize
“A Certain Length of Handhold” by Allison Trionfetti marries word and image formally and conceptually in this short text of “submerged craft” and “form in use” combining found images with collaged language. Masked somewhat as a swimmer’s manual, the primary content is water, and the way it acts on or absorbs a body, while remaining as itself a body. Beyond this, there is a tenuous narrative of posture and position (rigid as a beam, or waterlogged and fluid), stasis and locomotion, tension and length: the body in water becomes also a structure, an object, a canoe, an inanimate plank, or the inanimate becomes active in water: “a restless pier…a recovered beam”. Throughout the text, a delicate ars poetica emerges: The length of hand-hold as the swimmers in the photographic image elongate below the water marks the point of tension between connection and disconnect, it is also the length of the body’s line, and the length of the line of the text, the question of where and when to break form, break lines, maintain tenuous connections.
Selected Poems from María Baranda's “Atlántica y el Rústico” trans by Lara Crystal-Ornelas: Maintaining both the precision of Maria Baranda’s almost scientific diction and, somehow, the music of her changeable rhythms as simple subject verb object sentences shift into lapidary, interruptive, revisionary clausal sequences, Lara Crystal-Ornelas renders a difficult poem, and its odd and gorgeous lexicon, into a stunning English translation.
“Horny Child, Stoned Out of Her Mind” by Nikolos Gonzales is a brief but remarkably sustained and rounded psychotropic fantasy. This piece stands on its own but could easily have risen as an extract from some novel-length project. It was a certain seemingly effortless confidence in the deployment of detail and allusive word-choice that immediately attracted— “the corner bit of brownie stuck in the back of the fridge shamelessly covered in transparent Ziploc safety”—then the flow of enjoyably crafted sentences, with rhythm in variety, and a range of complexity and length. ‘Horny Child’ switches back and forth between two registers. On the one hand there is the third person narration of an improbable, near-future, sci-fi, erotic, gonzo, cosmic, apocalyptic fantasy. Eventually we feel sure that this in the mind of the stoned child herself and yet it is coherent, fantastically, with the story of the child eating the presumably drug-laced brownie and thus half tricks us into believing that all of this exists in some mad, mad world a little too much like that which will soon be inhabited by global youth. The third-person register alternates with first-person representation of the horny girl-child’s thoughts, not quite or only just holding herself together, but definitely holding the piece itself together and finally in shorter, coming-down alternations, managing a return from what might well have been “the worst trip in the world” but was, instead, fantastic, edgy fun.
Weston Graduate Prize
“Not Only” by Mary Wilson exhibits a poet who has honed an exacting sense of line, of language, of abstractly-rendered emotion. I am reminded of the philosophical precision of William Bronk, but combined with the exquisite perceptiveness of the usually overlooked found in the work of Leslie Scalapino. There's a nuanced tenderness to these poems, each alive with a sense of yearning, and through desire, examinations of the human condition through rhetorical vocabulary. "Images in which praise becomes..."
“It Comes and Overcomes Me” by Sarah Schwartz: To enter It Comes and Overcomes Me: an Investigation in Six Acts one must "go out equipped with eyes," and not simply to read what the words are saying but also to witness the space of the page becoming architectural--a crucial architecture for living and remembering. To enter one must be unafraid of occasional glimpses, brushes against one's skin, of an actual tactile, three-dimensional city. This is a piece where you believe in the interstices of the concrete and the abstract, of the performed and the sculpted, of void and life. I am still reeling over the last lines: “I come / upon the next // or if all is still // the same: / I come upon it.” A profound meditation of space, action, and immobility.
“Blondlot's Transformation” by Evelyn Hampton takes a noir attitude to sound slippage. It sweeps the reader off into a page-turner of slipping identity and disappearance/reappearance that is masterfully duplicated at the material level through layers of rhyme, off-rhyme, assonance, alliteration, and other sound effects. Playing off of genre expectations on the one hand and poetic unpredictability on the other, it achieves a raucous balance that underscores the volatility of language.