We’re excited to announce the winners of the 2018 Wabash Prizes in Poetry and Fiction, as selected by our judges. The winning pieces and runners up will appear in our forthcoming issue, 30.2, which will be available in the spring.
Wabash Prize in Poetry, selected by Hanif Abdurraqib:
Winner: “My American Ghost” by John Sibley Williams
The poem has such surprising movements and carefully crafted breakings of the line. The reading experience was haunting, and ultimately extremely fulfilling. The imagery in the poem, specifically, rings several clear and echoing bells. The pace of the poem is inviting, allowing it to give way to surprise. The best work is work that allows you to leave it with no answers, but more questions, and more opportunities to return to your own work renewed. This poem did that for me.
Runner-up: “I’d Like To Say A Few Things To The World” by Shannon Castleton
I value its playfulness and whimsy, as much as I value its knowledge of weight and sadness. It all blends into a kind of soft and closely-held introspection that a reader can feel lucky to be witness to. The conversational narrative doesn’t shut a reader out the way those narratives sometimes can. Even though it makes its mission statement clear, there is still a door open for a reader to enter the poem, and find something that speaks to themselves, their anxieties, their quests for joy.
Wabash Prize in Fiction, as selected by Rachel Khong:
Winner: “Please Report Your Bug Here” by Joshua Riedel
Bizarre, imaginative, original, and immensely readable, this story somehow manages to comment on so much at once: work, tech, art, one’s twenties, romantic relationships, and what the hell we’re all doing here. The writing was admirably uncomplicated and unostentatious; the narrator’s voice was conversational, yet assured — confidently transporting us around in time, the way the best fiction does. Reading this story, I felt in solid, competent hands. By the story’s end — and this ending, by the way, is pitch perfect, affecting, understated, and melancholy all at once — I’m left wondering if I want to be in this world, or the other one. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author!
Runner-up: “Sixness” by Danielle Zaccagnino
This beautifully striking story is deft and stylish and poetic. It’s transporting, too: taking you not only into another perspective, but another world — possibly even another universe, where french bread can blind you and a kitchen can be “champagne-flooded.” Familiar things are rendered new; I loved things like the strange surprise of bricks being “joyless,” though of course they can be. This story stands out to me for its strange, dreamlike form, that somehow perfectly captures the hopeless tangle of love and baggage that anybody with a family can understand.
Winners Selected for Wabash Prizes in Fiction and Poetry
2016 Wabash Prize in Fiction, as selected by Adam Johnson
Winner: Caleb Tankersley, “Dean”
Johnson: Humor and physical desire always triangulate back to sadness in this young husband’s narrative of his attempts to adjust to his wife’s degenerative illness. No digression, however, will assuage the inevitable, and the final image of a man trying to bypass his wife’s wasted body to communicate brain-to-brain is haunting and affecting.
Runner up: Stefani Nellen, “How the Mind Can Exist in a Physical Universe”
Johnson: A quiet story of subtle observation, this tale of a young scientist who falls into the orbit of a famous mathematics duo is a remarkable meditation on the difficulty of expression and the incompleteness of a human alone.
David Crouse, “A Wrong in the World”
Julian Zabalbeascoa, “Igerilaria”
Gwen Cullen, “Infinite Tim”
2016 Wabash Prize in Poetry, as selected by Reginald Dwayne Betts
Winner: Chelsea Dingman, “Hunger [or the last of the daughter-hymns]”
Betts: Every good poem has accoutrements: music and metaphors that dazzle & sometimes, those things become the poem, the rhetoric swallowing whatever the point is. Not here. I read Hunger six times, each time a different level of meaning unfolding, my own new understanding surprising me. People talk of empathy, but the poet that makes you understand is the gift. With each line, Hunger does this & it is beautiful & it is heartbreaking.
Runner-up: John Sibley Williams, “Of Milk and Honey”
Betts: Haunting and mysterious, a matryoshka doll. From diction to direction, Of Milk and Honey challenges readers. & like the matryoshka doll, Of Milk and Honey gives you something more, & something different, just when you think you’ve figured out.
Jessica Guzman Alderman, “Hurricanes Over Sierra Maestra”
T. J. McLemore, “Standards Trio at the Casa di Dante”
Eileen Rush, “Colt”
Cate Lycurgus, “Light/Dark Meat”
Hannah Dow, “The Crowning”