• 2021 Fiction, Poetry, and Nonfiction Contest Winners

    The Sewanee Review


    This past July, the Sewanee Review held its fourth annual Fiction, Poetry, and Nonfiction contest. This year we received over one-thousand submissions. Today we are pleased to announce the winners.

    Judge Brandon Taylor selected Allen Bratton’s short story “Philippa” as the winner for the fiction contest. Taylor calls it “a strange, dark story powered by a crepuscular psychological acuity and sharp dialogue. What will stay with me is the mood of hunger, want, and need that haunts our central character and the wounds of history that still linger. A potent, memorable story from a startling talent.”

    “Meeting Ricky Jones” by David McNair was named the runner-up. Taylor writes, “‘Meeting Ricky Jones’ is a sly, patient story about a boy who doesn’t even understand how lonely he is. It’s a story of remarkable tenderness and dexterity, never sentimental and full of surprise. There is such a gift for the unstated here, and the quiet multitudes that fill out depths of our lives.”

    Finalists for this year’s contest in fiction were: Michelle Ajodah, Yu-Mei Balasingamchow, Carly Berwick, Pau Byall, Kathryn Campo Bowen, Jinwoo Chong, Emily Ellerbe, Sonia Feldman, Lindsey Forche, Patricia Garcia Lujan, Bill Smoot, and Anna Snoekstra.

    Paisley Rekdal selected “Two Horses in a Field in Mid-December” by Lance Larsen as the winner of this year’s poetry contest. “It’s a poem full of surprising turns and images,” Rekdal says. “It is about the most archetypal of subjects: aging, mortality, and the longing to hold on to a world that will soon no longer hold on to us. It’s both meditative and humorous; it never takes itself too seriously. I liked the assurance of the voice and how it is willing to ramble.”

    “Escort Officer Duty” by Laura Joyce-Hubbard was chosen as the runner-up. Rekdal writes, “a sequence of taut lyrics that investigate one of the more invisible aspects of our endless war: the work of escort officers, who must carry out some of the more painful work of war. While highly readable, the poem deliberately leaves as much unsaid as said, requiring close attention on the part of the reader that becomes, over the sequence, a kind of devotional work.”

    Finalists for the poetry contest were: Gabrielle Bates, Francesca Bianco, Allisa Cherry, Adam Davis, Diana Dinerman, Benjamin Grimes, W. J. Herbert, George Kramer, Sara Mae, Jennie Malboeuf, Michael Mlekoday, Anne Reeves, Ed Ruzicka, Turner Wilson, and Justin Wymer.

    Stephanie Danler selected “Fifth Grader Mandarin Proficiency” by Sarah Matsui as the winner of this year’s nonfiction contest. Danler chose this piece for “its investigation of language and inheritance, but also its tenderness. Being an adult with a fifth grader’s understanding of her native language means that in many ways she’s still a child: splayed between two identities, trying to understand not only her mother’s language, but her mother’s love. There was a poet’s awareness of metaphor and style, the author lining up two images side by side (the Mandarin word for ‘burdened heart’ juxtaposed with the Mandarin word for ‘open heart (happy) fruit/meaning pistachio’ was one I couldn’t stop thinking about) and letting the reader’s mind jump. And lest we forget that a key component of tragedy is comedy, the piece was funny, with sentences I read multiple times in a row, just for pleasure.”

    “Confidence Man” by Nadine Monem was chosen as the runner-up. Danler writes, “it was the piece I read that I thought should be a wellspring for an entire book. I wanted more of it: the pathologically lying, polygamous father didn’t seem to be a run-of-the-mill narcissist but a character of complexity and pathos, carrying private pain the best way he knew how. I will always be drawn to stories about trying to love those who won’t let themselves be known, thus loved. The piece was both intelligent and haunting, with a mixture of wry observation and compassion.”

    Finalists for the nonfiction contest were: Constance Adler, Samantha Colicchio, Sara Fredman, Erik Gleibermann, Harrison Hill, Laura Joyce-Hubbard, Jiadai Lin, Ruby Hansen Murray, Christin Marie Taylor, Emily Weitzman, and Alastair Woods.

    In addition to receiving $1,000 each, the winners will be published in our upcoming Winter 2022 issue along with a craft essay by Sigrid Nunez, fiction by Megan Mayhew Bergman, poetry by Matthew Olzmann, and more. Subscribe today so you don’t miss any of this incredible work.

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