Literary Prizes

Hillary Gravendyk Prize

2020 National Winner: among the enemies by Michael Samra

Among the Enemies renders a dewy nightmare, cleanly, clearly and in deft complexity. Sometimes the enemy is metaphor. Sometimes the enemy is literal. Sometimes there is disjunction. At times the ‘enemies’ are so pervasive they feel environmental. At other times, the vagueness of the ‘enemy,’ in presence or context, is a baseless obscurity. The enemy as repetition becomes thought. The poems in among the enemy are ominous, odd, but never arbitrary. The poems press against reason. They are not obvious. They are not subtle. Ultimately, they weigh upon questions of moral courage. — Maureen Alsop, contest judge

Photo of Jonathan Maule

2020 Regional Winner: This Side of the Fire by Jonathan Maule

The submissions this year are incredible and I had such a journey reading them all. There were 4 that stood out and I truly agonized over them. There is one, however, that my husband and I kept talking about over and over again. That manuscript is This Side of The Fire. The “Red” sections that start the manuscript opened pathways to conversations about not just missing siblings but also death and estrangement and complex family bonds. Through the Idaho and California sections, we discussed redemption arcs and the way in which nothing is ever lost or ever really redeemed. It is a manuscript with meat on the bone. It sticks to my ribs and I am honored to recommend it as the winner for 2020.— Megan Gravendyk-Estrella, contest judge

2019 National Winner: The Silk the Moths Ignore by Bronwen Tate

Bronwen Tate is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at Marlboro College in Vermont. A citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, Bronwen earned an MFA in Literary Arts from Brown University and a PhD in Comparative Literature from Stanford University. Her poems and essays have appeared in publications including Denver Quarterly, Bennington Review, The Rumpus, and The Journal of Modern Literature. Her work has been supported by Stanford’s DARE (Diversifying Academia Recruiting Excellence) Dissertation Fellowship, as well as by fellowships from the Stanford Humanities Center and Vermont Studio Center.

2019 Regional Winner: Remyth: A Postmodernist Ritual by Adam Martinez

Adam Daniel Martinez first scraped his knee playing in his hometown of San Bernardino, California. Since then, as a first-generation Chicano college student, he has earned a dual MA/MFA in English and Creative Writing at Chapman University. Adam has written and performed music in the Inland Empire for over 15 years, most notably under the moniker Faimkills. He is the co-founder of Pour Vida, a digital literary zine. Currently, Adam enjoys sharing his love for words with his students as an English professor at Chaffey College. He lives in Redlands, California with his wife and two cats, Virginia and Percival.

2018 National: Former Possessions of the Spanish Empire by Michelle Peñaloza

Michelle Peñaloza was born in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan and grew up in the suburbs of Nashville, Tennessee. She is the author of two chapbooks, landscape/heartbreak (Two Sylvias, 2015), and Last Night I Dreamt of Volcanoes (Organic Weapon Arts, 2015). Former Possessions of the Spanish Empire, winner of the 2018 Hillary Gravendyk National Poetry Prize, is her debut full-length collection. Her poems appear in Prairie Schooner, New England Review, TriQuarterly, Pleiades, Electric Literature, Poetry Northwest, and other journals and anthologies. A Kundiman fellow, she is the recipient of the Starlin Poetry Prize from the University of Oregon, grants from Artist Trust and 4Culture, as well as fellowships and scholarships from VONA/Voices, Oregon Literary Arts, the Richard Hugo House, Lemon Tree House, Caldera, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and the Key West Literary Seminar, among others. Michelle lives in rural Northern California.

2018 Regional: All the Emergency-Type Structures by Elizabeth Cantwell

Elizabeth Cantwell lives in Claremont, CA, where she teaches high school, mentors teenagers, and writes as many poems as she can. She has published one full-length book of poetry, Nights I Let the Tiger Get You (Black Lawrence Press) and one chapbook, Premonitions (Grey Book Press); her poetry has also appeared in a number of journals, including DIAGRAM, The Missouri Review, The Cincinnati Review, PANK, and The Los Angeles Review. She is still sad about David Bowie.

2017 Malcolm Friend: Our Bruises Kept Singing Purple

Malcolm Friend is a poet originally from the Rainier Beach neighborhood of Seattle, Washington. He received his BA from Vanderbilt University, and his MFA from the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of the chapbook mxd kd mixtape (Glass Poetry, 2017) and the full length collection Our Bruises Kept Singing Purple (Inlandia Books, 2018), winner of the 2017 Hillary Gravendyk Prize. He has received awards and fellowships from organizations including CantoMundo, VONA/Voices of Our Nations, the Center for African American Poetry & Poetics, Backbone Press, and the University of Memphis.

Marco Maisto
Traces of a Fifth Column

2016 National Winner: Traces of a Fifth Column by Marco Maisto

Traces of a Fifth Column, the National winner of the 2016 Hilary Gravendyk Prize, is a manuscript composed as of a series of dense, lively fragments across a wide canvas, each of which are more than capable of carrying the weight of the entire collection. Traces of a Fifth Column is a rich, meditative collage of essay-sketches that attempt to comprehend, through exploring meaning, language and being.

rachelle cruz
Gods Will for Monsters

2016 Regional Winner: Gods Will for Monsters by Rachelle Cruz

2018 Winner of an American Book Award

In God’s Will for Monsters Cruz guides the reader through the uncharted roads of experimental poetry. Cruz maps out a singular journey using narrative prose, faux scholarly excerpts and even seemingly banal transactions to light the way.  This extraordinary work creates a stirring atlas of the author’s own life, history and ethnicity that allows the reader to become a local, a friend and a fellow traveler.

More about the competition.