This past July, the Sewanee Review held its fifth annual Fiction, Poetry, and Nonfiction contest. This year we received nearly one-thousand submissions. Today we are pleased to announce the winners.
Judge Raven Leilani selected Grace Chao’s short story “The Year I Became My Mother” as the winner for the fiction contest. Leilani says that Chao’s story “renders grief sharply, its dailiness—how it lives alongside the small, rote rhythms of life—and its extremity, which can be both a kind of self-immolation and self-discovery. The author writes toward that contradiction, exploring the chronic revisiting of loss, but also how the recounting of a story can get a person through.”
“Dark Day” by Maria José Candela was named the runner-up. Leilani writes, “‘the author of ‘Dark Day’ writes unsentimentally about the frank business of being embodied. The prose is surprising and direct, attuned to the logistics of care and the claustrophobic liminality of romantic ambivalence. In this story, want is presented in its raw form, unmanaged and human.”
Finalists for this year’s contest in fiction were: Josie Abugov, Marilyn Abildskov, Eliza Gilbert, Caitlin Plante, A. J. Rodriguez, Amanda Schmidt, Sophia Shealy, and Daryl Qilin Yam.
Richie Hofmann selected “Pantoum with Ecclesiastes” by Sarah Ghazal Ali as the winner of this year’s poetry contest. “I chose this poem for its deft and inventive handling of the pantoum form,” Hofmann writes, “in which the subtle rearticulations and recombinations of phrases and lines yield to new meanings and new feelings. The poem imports all the knottiness of the devotional poets, but also gives fresh life to the spiritual and experiential problem of being seen. I love the maximalism of its subject and the minimalism of its utterance; I feel trapped in its repetitions and liberated by them at the same time. Grappling with wisdom, grappling with form, the poem understands ‘there is nothing new,’ but makes out of the vanity something chilling, beautiful, and memorable.”
“Demarcation” by Alexandra Burack was chosen as the runner-up. Hofmann writes, “It’s so easy to admire this poem’s remarkable shifts in diction and tone, the way it juxtaposes the indignities of life and love with the deep and existential solitude of being a human. I love when a short poem can contain the vulgar and the lyrical in such proximity. The poem’s fresh, surprising vocabulary and its eminently keen eye for observations (both physical and psychological) kept drawing me back for reading after reading.”
Finalists for the poetry contest were: Kate Adams, Alexander Duringer, Alan Elyshevitz, Elisávet Makridis, Angelo Mao, Mamie Morgan, Glen Vecchione, and Katharine Whitcomb.
Lisa Taddeo selected “The Murmur of Everything Moving” by Maureen Stanton as the winner of this year’s nonfiction contest. Taddeo chose this piece for “the way it moved along the same storm systems of high agony and the quiet routine of daily despair—just like the terrible diagnosis it describes. It is moving and tortuous without being cloying or sentimental. The ending is simple and spare and poignant and made my mouth go dry.”
“In the Mood for Love” by Alexis Cheung was chosen as the runner-up. Taddeo writes, “I admired this essay most for its anchoring capacity; I felt throughout as though I were keenly in the storyteller's hands, that they were keeping me engaged and focused; even when moving into other texts and away from personal history, the writer was always in control and had the reader in mind. There was an emotional distance, too, that I appreciated, this piece stood out for its tidy subtleties.”
Finalists for the nonfiction contest were: Meghan Cason, Annabel Graham, Miles Griffis, Vera Hough, Pernille Ipsen, Tracy Neiman, Jamie Passaro, and Lara Vergnaud.
In addition to receiving $1,000 each, the winners will be published in our upcoming Spring 2023 issue along with a craft essay by Monica Youn, fiction by Justin Taylor and Lily Meyer, poetry by Garrett Hongo and A. E. Stallings, and more. Subscribe today so you don’t miss any of this incredible work.