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Hillary Gravendyk Prize: 2020

National: 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

Michael Samra

Michael Samra has lived most of his notable years in New York and his current home of New Orleans, with some deviations.  Educated at Brooklyn College and Pratt Institute, he worked as assistant editor for the poetry magazine Lungfull! and his writing has previously received the Himan Brown Award.  His latest works take the form of serial narrative poems unfolding in or because of worlds unruly unrelenting and ungraspable to their inhabitants; Among the Enemies, winner of the 2020 Hillary Gravendyk National Poetry Prize, is his first published full-length book.

Regional: 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

Photo of Jonathan Maule
Jonathan Maule

Jonathan Maule is a musician, writer, and performer. His recent album, Whole Night Through: A Soundtrack to the Novella in Verse is now available to stream online. His first book of poetry, Dog Star, was published by Big Yes Press. His written work has also appeared in AskewTalking RiverRain Taxi, RHINO Reviews!, Spillway, and Phoebe. He lives in the high desert with his partner, poet L.I. Henley.

National 1st Runner Up: [Repeat and fade] by David Maduli

National2nd Runner Up: A Book of Borrowed Light by MC Hyland

Regional 1st Runner Up: of thee I sing by Sherre Vernon

Regional 2nd Runner Up:  Altar of the Imagination by Marisa Urrutia Gedney

Regional 3d Runner Up: Universe Map by Chloe Martinez


Betsy Andrews: Crowded

Judith Baumel: Thorny Labor

Patricia Caspers: La Historia

Michael Chang: (( big shot manifesto ))


David Kozinski: I Hear It the Way I Want It to Be

Alexandra Martinez: A Spire of Bees

Marcel Price: New American Monarch

Mark Smith-Soto: Finders Keepers

David Sullivan: Nightjars

Mary Wilson: Both, Apollo

Natalie Young: All of This Was Once Under Water


Ruth Bavetta: Sky, Interrupted

Henri Bensussen: Ripped Seams / Threads of Hope

Kate Bucca: The Garden

Mary Buchinger: The Book of Shores

Flower Conroy: Nothing Hurts in the Hereafter & the Sun is a Bomb

Martin Cossio: The Sobering Up of Aging

Caryn Davidson: Full Sky



Mel Elberger: Giving the Hours


Jonathan Greenhause: What We Give Life To

Carmen Hall: Teardrops of Poetry

Sarah Heady: Comfort

Stephanie Heit: Psych Murders

Don Hogle: Questions for Anthropophagists

Leah Claire Kaminski: Live oak nearly on fire

Ellen Kombiyil: No Money for Boots

Leann Labra: Matriarch

Naomi Lowinsky: Death and His Lorca

Michael Levan: Not Sadness, But Something Else

Robert Lipton: Wire Mother

Patrick Milian: Pleasure Centers

Jed Myers: Burning Man

Christina Perris: Truth and Illusion

Jennifer Reimer: Keske

Luivette Resto: Promises Are Coffee

Kevin Riel: Goodnight Nobody

Al Salehi: Enter Atlas

Al Salehi: Hooked On Photonics

Emily Schulten: Easy Victims to the Charitable Deceptions of Nostalgia

Skye Shirley: Hardtack

Christina Acosta Short: Everything in Pulchritude

Darcy Smith: Bloodstones & River Skin

Jasmine Smith: South Flight

J.D. Smith: The Place That Is Coming to Us

Dana Stamps, II: JUST SHOW UP

Anastasia Stelse: Rearticulation

Alina Stefanescu: The South In My Mouth

Sharon Svendsen: String, Thread and Dust


Mary Langer Thompson: It’s A School Night

Georgette Unis: Wander These Grounds

Lydia Theon Ware i: Fruitful Moments

Diana Woodcock: When the Peacock Cried Out

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