Posted By

Our talented writers did not disappoint at this year’s literary awards ceremony.


From left to right:

Clidiane Aubourg, Carolyn Pledge Amaral, Jonathan Duckworth, Monica Restrepo, Michael Martin, Megan Arlett, Farah Yamini, TC Jones, Ariel Henriquez, Catrease Ancion, Alessandra Siblesz, and Christopher Feros.


Graduate Winners and Runners Up

Poetry Winner: Megan Arlett

Of Megan’s winning poem, “Genesis II,” judge Aaron Smith says:

This poem is striking in its elegance, in its use of direct, exacting diction and organic form. The moment of observation when the speaker stands on the bedside table witnessing a changed world opens gorgeously into the realization that what we’re told, or not told, bears its own kind of sad, fragile weight. A beautifully executed poem.

Poetry Runner-up: Jonathan Duckworth for “Good Nights”

Of Jonathan’s poem, judge Aaron Smith says:

This poem manages an admirable tension between concise, controlled writing and a speaker who is freely wondering and arriving at a place of mental safety. Clear, specific images and skillful use of line.

Fiction Winner: Jonathan Duckworth

Of Jonathan’s winning story, “An Angel Fell,” judge Anjanette Delgado says:

“An Angel Fell” is a perfect story. It moves forward without hurrying, never calling attention to the author, easily immersing the reader in this world where living really does revolve around the straight-forward concern of survival. You never notice the devices, the planted details, the hand of the writer. The main characters are well delineated within the scope of the story, and the turn of events at the end, obvious only after you’ve read it, and somehow, thanks to the writer’s skill, not predictable before then. An accomplished piece of fiction and a very satisfying read.

Fiction Runner-up: TC Jones for “Scratch-off”

Of TC’s story, judge Anjanette Delgado says:

“Scratch-off” is a wisp of a story. So complete and yet so light and elegant. Nothing feels forced or fortuitous. It’s a story about a moment, about a short encounter that resonates only because of the narrator’s loneliness as he transitions into adulthood and deals with loss, memory, the insecurity of youth, his hormones, the need to belong. I think this is what we try to do as writers when we set out to write about the nothing that could be everything. It’s hard to achieve. This story does it.

Non-Fiction Winner: Carolyn Pledge Amaral

Of Carolyn’s winning piece, “The House on Cottage Road,: judge Karen Sayler McElmurray says:

I read this piece again and again, loving it from the very start as it summons Sydney, Nova Scotia, a dying steel city, and a father who built an apartment building calledThe Brendolyn, a fusion of names and the place where this family disembarks . I loved how this piece contructs and deconstructs memory, looking for what made a family via a father who was brilliant and violent and wounded. This work gathers what remains.

Non-Fiction Runner-up: Monica Restrepo for “Squaring the Deck: A Meditation”

Of Monica’s piece, judge Karen Sayler McElmurray says:

I loved the layered voices in this piece—Maria Virginia, the grandmother; a mother who paints and gifts a painting called “Desilucion;” the author feeling the space made inside her via birth. Who owns what—body, words, stories, art—is at the heart of this piece, constructed via a deck of cards shuffled and reshuffled What do we do with the stories we are given? Love harder?


Poetry Winner: Farah Yamini for “Exoteric”

Of Farah’s poem, judge Aaron Smith says, This poem is both bold and vulnerable, public and personal. The content works wonderfully with the “question-answer” form. Each probing question yields answers that are emotionally, verbally and “poetically” surprising.

Poetry Runner-up: Catrease Ancion for “Mother”

Of Catrease’s poem, judge Aaron Smith says, This poem offers a complicated aspect of “mother,” and the content—made from spare, exacting images—is supported by skillful use of line and stanza.

Fiction Winner: Christopher Feros for “The Grizzly Ghost”

Of Christopher’s story, judge Anjanette Delgado says, Grizzly Bear (sic) was ambitiously plotted and succeeded in charting 15 years in the life of a man on the run, after committing and covering up a crime. It is original and does a great job of keeping the story coming from one point of view, while using a variety of devices to show us how others (the parents, the city, the people who were looted) feel and think about the events. Finally, it achieves emotion through detail while avoiding excess sentimentality and keeping the story logically moving forward. It was a very satisfying read for me and well ahead of the other stories in the category.

Fiction Runner-up: none selected

Non-Fiction Winner: Clidiane Aubourg for “Trigger Response”

Of Clidiane’s piece, judge Karen Sayler McElmurray says:

This is a piece full of whisperings—an absent father, a mother trying to hold together family, a sister gone finally and deeply lost to voices inside her. I love that this piece is about both silencing voices, and finally finding them again–“words that eventually save [us] from [a] cluttered mind.”

Non-Fiction Runner-up: Alessandra Siblesz for “Silence”

Of Alessandra’s piece, judge Karen Sayler McElmurray says:

This short piece is a lovely moment that accumulates so well. Told in present tense, we have memories of chaos. The sounds of Cuba, its waves and a mother’s singing. A father’s accumulated anger. A wish, one more time, for peace.

POETRY JUDGE: Aaron Smith is the author of three books published by the Pitt Poetry Series: Primer (forthcoming 2016); Appetite, an NPR Best book and finalist for the Paterson Poetry Prize and the Lambda Literary Award; and Blue on Blue Ground, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize selected by Denise Duhamel. His chapbooks include Men in Groups and What’s Required, winner of the Frank O’Hara Prize. His work has appeared in numerous publications including: Ploughshares and The Best American Poetry 2013. He is an assistant professor in creative writing at Lesley University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

FICTION JUDGE: Anjanette Delgado is the award-winning author of The Heartbreak Pill (Atria Books, 2008) and The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho (Kensington Publishing, 2014 and Penguin Random House, 2014). A native of Puerto Rico, she holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Florida International University and lives in Miami, Florida. You can learn more about Anjanette on her website: http:/

NON-FICTION JUDGE: Karen Sayler McElmurray writes fiction and creative nonfiction. Her memoir, Surrendered Child, won the AWP Award Series for Creative Nonfiction and was listed as a “notable book” by the National Book Critics Circle. She is also the author of Strange Birds in the Tree of Heaven (University of Georgia Press), a novel that won the Lillie Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writing and, most recently, The Motel of the Stars, part of the 2009 Linda Bruckheimer Series from Sarabande Books.

We also had the pleasure of hearing from this year’s winner of the 2016 FIU Academy of American Poets Prize, Ariel Henriquez.

Winner: Ariel Henriquez

Of Ariel’s poetry, judge Natasha Saje says: I loved this poet’s clarity, patient sense of pacing and emotional openness— all three poems in this group are publishable. I particularly liked the control and speed of “View of the Statue of Liberty from the Brooklyn Bridge.” “Before Snowfall” had wonderful metaphors—for instance “winter arrives every year like a janitor”— while “Driving Past Lake Tohopekaliga” was a perfect mix of narrative and imagination.

Honorable Mention: Michael Martin

JUDGE: Natasha Sajé is a professor of English at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, and on the faculty of the Vermont College Low-Residency MFA. She received her MA from Johns Hopkins University and a PhD from the University of Maryland. She is the author of a book of poetry criticism from University of Michigan Press, and three books of poetry—Red Under the Skin, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press in 1994, as well as Bend (Tupelo, 2004) and Vivarium (Tupelo, 2014).