Winner: “What We Did After We Stopped the Boats” by Yiwei Chai
Judges’ commentary: The language in "What We Did After We Stopped the Boats" is simple, compact, and never overwrought. While the text is oblique enough to admit numerous interpretations, the poem calls to mind the experience of refugees who risk everything to come to a place of promise and sustenance. Tones of stoicism, pathos, and compassion inform this remarkable piece.
“Necessity” by Matthew Spireng
Editors’ commentary: The beauty of this poem is the way it establishes its own curious, capacious world within a few lines. With wit, clarity, vividness, and understatement, Matthew Spireng guides us through questions concerning horse supplies, gas shortages, and grieving. This is a poem intended to be kept close by—perhaps in the center of a bookshelf or on top of a coffee table—in case of emergencies.
“Always a Game of You” by Eric Stiefel
Editors’ commentary: Elusive, allusive, and filled with rhythmic profusion, Eric Stiefel’s poetry focuses upon themes of desire and ontology. In its thoughtful engagement with the legacy of The Waste Land, this poem invites us into a house of sinister and astonishing beauty.
“Horse Girl” by Jimin Lee
Editors’ commentary: With its swift and graceful imagery, “Horse Girl” explores questions of cultural identity alongside the pressures of personhood. Exemplary in its execution, powerful in its drive, this poem leaves us eager to see more from Jimin Lee, an emerging poet whose career promises to be long and ferocious.
“The Young in New York” by Rebecca Pyle
Editors’ commentary: One of the marvels of Rebecca Pyle’s verse is the way it seems to curl in upon itself, gaining strength from the inward spiral of its syntax. In its examination of the aging process, this poem displays both complexity and humor. By the end, readers may find themselves questioning their own notions of theft, ownership, and experience.
Our 2018 Poetry Prize was selected by a distinguished panel of judges that included Jamie-Lee Josselyn, Lynn Levin, Jessica Lowenthal, Michelle Taransky, and Yolanda Wisher. Visit their bios to learn more.