Announcing the 2015 Winners of the Wabash Prizes for Fiction and Poetry!

1st Place Poetry: “Elegy with the Wing of a Bird” by Jody Rambo

Mary Szybist had this to say about the winning poem: “I’m moved by the way ‘Elegy with the Wing of a Bird’ inhabits the bewilderment of grief. We sense with the speaker all the ways her mother is and isn’t present after death, and share the speaker’s anticipation, past all reason, of her mother’s return. The poem directs its sorrow outward not toward an abstraction or a divinity, but more unexpectedly, to a community of sisters. There is urgency in this poem to maintain this intimate ‘we,’ which, despite the loss of their common mother, despite the way death isolates survivors, the speaker relentlessly, perhaps heroically, attempts to confirm and preserve. ‘How strange we will seem to her, each huddled near/our separate fires,’ reflects the speaker in imagining her mother’s return, a mother who every day ‘vanishes hymnally.’  The strangeness of the phrasing highlights at once the terrible isolation of grief, as well as the consolations of a grief that can be shared (hymnals are what allow songs to be sung by an entire congregation).  I admire this poem’s tenderness and how it speaks of the forest of grief “in transfigured tongue.”

Runner-Up Poetry: “Object Permanence, or Lost in the Museum” by Hannah Aizenman

“I admire the elegance of ‘Object Permanence or Lost in the Museum,’ its ambition and scope, how it takes us on such a vast and complex journey in just a few lines. The poem begins with an allusion to the Aeneid, but its project is not to sing again ‘of arms and a man.’ Here is a woman speaking of her own journey through the museum of history, a woman whose testimony (‘I tired of being useful’) raises pointed questions: What reality have women had when their bodies are not present? When their bodies are not useful? I admire the poem’s restraint, its willingness not to offer solutions, but rather to allow questions about how to proceed or escape stand in their starkness. The ‘made place’ is ‘only/ a made place,’ and the speaker can only measure it ‘against everything [she] see[s].’” – Mary Szybist

1st Place Fiction: “Bullet O’Clock” by Alexander Lumans

Janet Burroway said this about the winning short story: “‘Bullet O’Clock’ is astounding in its control of interwoven strands of narrative, the ambitious use of a first-person-plural narrator (almost impossible to pull off, here completely successful), an advancing strain of surrealism that suggests the mental strain of the multi-narrator, and altogether a pervading sense that the author can make form itself contain the meaning. I don’t hesitate to say that this story is a work of art, a faceted jewel. It is to the Iraq war what “The Things They Carried” is to Vietnam.”

Alexander Lumans was the Spring 2014 Philip Roth Resident at Bucknell University. He has been awarded fellowships and scholarships to the Arctic Circle Residency, MacDowell, Yaddo, VCCA, Blue Mountain Center, ART342, Norton Island, RopeWalk, Sewanee and Bread Loaf. He received the 2013 Gulf Coast Fiction Prize. His fiction has appeared in Gulf Coast, Black Warrior Review, West Branch, Story Quarterly, Blackbird, Cincinnati Review, and The Normal School, among others. He graduated from the M.F.A. Fiction Program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale and now teaches at University Colorado-Denver and Lighthouse Writers Workshop.

Runner-Up: “Experiencers” by Liz Breazeale

Burroway says “Experiences” “is a finely crafted story of uncertainties, on one level about a troubled mother-daughter relationship, but one that also plays with possibilities of alien life, hallucination, wishful thinking, and psychology, inviting sympathy for the narrator without allowing the reader to opt for any one explanation over another.”

Liz Breazeale holds an MFA in creative writing from Bowling Green State University, where she worked as a staff editor for the Mid-American Review. She lives in Bowling Green, Ohio, and is a content editor for Blue Monday Review. Her work is forthcoming or has appeared in Fence, Passages NorthCarolina Quarterly, Booth, Tupelo Quarterly, apt, and others