The Winners of the 2015 Iowa Review Awards

TIR staff

We're delighted to announce the winners and runners-up of this year's Iowa Review Awards in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction. Many thanks to all who entered and to our judges, Kevin Brockmeier, Srikanth Reddy, and Wayne Koestenbaum. Without further ado...



Winner: Terrance Manning, Jr., "Buffalosburgh"

"'Buffalosburgh' is admirably patient with its own material," writes Kevin Brockmeier, our 2015 fiction judge, "and yet it understands its characters so deeply and depicts their troubles so sympathetically that not for one instant does it lose its sense of urgency. I am impressed above all else with the fullness of the lives on display in these pages, not only Zack's but every member of his family's, any one of whom, I sense, could wander off the page and step immediately into the plenitude of his or her experience. 'Buffalosburgh'—to borrow its own vocabulary—knows the difference between a story and a lie, and it has the rare gift of uncovering the one inside the other."

Terrance Manning, Jr. is a graduate of Purdue’s MFA program in creative writing. Recently, he received first place in Boulevard's Short Fiction Contest for Emerging Writers, The David Nathan Meyerson Prize for Fiction, and Crab Orchard Review’s John Guyon Literary Nonfiction Prize. His work appears or is forthcoming in Witness, Ninth Letter, Southwest Review, Hunger Mountain, The Carolina Quarterly, and other magazines, and has been selected as a finalist in such contests as the Cincinnati Review Awards, Colorado Review's Nelligan Prize, and the American Short Fiction Short Story Award. He lives and writes in Pittsburgh, PA.

Runner-up: Megan Lee Beals, "Silk Will Hold Her Bones Together"

Brockmeier writes, "'Silk Will Hold Her Bones Together' is the most disturbing story I've read in quite some time, and this despite the fact that its characters want only the best for each other. The horror here arises not from jump-scares and gore but from the daring and potency of the imagery, the claustrophobia of the setting, and the way the prose skitters and leaps and extends its webs down the page. I reached the last sentence thinking not only about how nimbly the story had satisfied its own premise but also about how frightening it can be to hold or touch or talk to someone you've loved and to realize that she's changed."

Megan Lee Beals works by day in a bookstore and by night on a novel. In the interim, she knits. Her previous short fiction can be found at Literary Orphans, Luna Station Quarterly, and in The Future Embodied anthology.


Winner: Christopher Kondrich, "Placeholder," "Division of Labor," "Multiverse," "Ruin Value"

"Utterly strange yet disarmingly intimate," writes poetry judge Srikanth Reddy, "these poems lead us into metaphysical uncertainties—'pleats into which an I can slip and fade'—while guiding us, confidently, through unexplored grammars of feeling and conceptualization. What I admire most about this speaker is how funny, tactful, and eminently personable he remains throughout his lyric researches into the periphery and minims of personhood. It brings to mind John Ashbery in his middle period, or maybe late Wallace Stevens. 'There is the history of night,' the voice informs us, 'in each night / I spend here allowing / lowercase sand to spill from me.' I'll look forward to reading what this fractured hourglass of a writer does next."

Christopher Kondrich is the author of Contrapuntal (Parlor Press, 2013) and a recipient of the Paris-American's Reading Series Prize. New poems appear or are forthcoming in Boston ReviewCimarron Review, Colorado ReviewGreen Mountains ReviewGulf Coast, and The Kenyon Review. He holds a PhD from the University of Denver, where he was an editor for Denver Quarterly; currently he edits Tupelo Quarterly and teaches at the Lighthouse Writers Workshop. 

Runner-up: Kevin Riel, "So Far," "Like Jellyfish," "North Pacific Gyre"

Reddy notes, "These whip-smart poems only gain further emotional and musical velocity from the precision and torque of their artful construction. In one lyric, the poet anatomizes 'estrangement // verbatim, / a form / almost indivisible,' bringing to mind Marianne Moore's crisp iterations. In another, we meet 'the dazzling idiot hunger,' and for a moment we'd be forgiven for thinking we'd come across a scrap of Shakespeare.  At its heart, abjection and wonder drive this voice in equal measures, which makes the speaker of the poems so vulnerable, appealing, urbane, and trustworthy. It's a remarkable performance, and even more so for its impression of unrehearsed, Wildean ease. Hard work seldom looks so effortless. Try it yourself."

Kevin Riel’s poems are forthcoming or have recently appeared in the Beloit Poetry Journal, New Madrid, RHINO Poetry, and in Split Lip Press’s Utter Foolery: Best Global Literary Humor 2015. He is a PhD student in English at Claremont Graduate University, where he is also editor-in-chief of Foothill: a journal of poetry.


Winner: Katherine E. Standefer, "In Praise of Contempt"

"'In Praise of Contempt' takes a no-nonsense approach to sexual morality," notes nonfiction judge Wayne Koestenbaum, "and sets forth a surprisingly unconventional theory of how to live and how to love, with some of the freshness of such feminist classics as Virginie Despentes's King Kong Theory or Shulamith Firestone's The Dialectic of Sex. The sexual stories that 'In Praise of Contempt' contains are refreshingly anti-pious; the author's voice is clear, cool, and committed to an erotics that is blissfully contrarian and unruly. I especially admired the author's insights into the interlocking relation between desire and contempt."

Katherine E. Standefer writes about the body, consent, and medical technology from Tucson, where she is working on a book that traces the global supply chain of her internal cardiac defibrillator. She has an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of Arizona, and her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from Fourth Genre, the Colorado Review,, Fugue, Camas, the High Country News, and Edible Baja Arizona, among other publications. A Certified Sexologist, Standefer has taught sexuality education to more than 7,600 people and works in the emerging field of narrative medicine. Follow her at

Runner-up: Laurie J. Murray, "Maidenhair"

Writes Koestenbaum, "'Maidenhair' speaks lucidly about a violent marriage and places the trauma neatly within a formal setting—the contemplation of a painting. I admire the author's ability to delineate a painful circumstance without sentimentality or embroidery; the clarity of the narrative matches its emotional intensity. From the unforgettable incident at the heart of 'Maidenhair,' we learn about literature's ability to bear plainspoken witness."

Laurie J. Murray is a lecturer of English at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina, where she teaches freshman English composition and communication. She is slated to teach creative nonfiction in the fall 2015. She received her MFA in creative writing from Ashland University in 2013 and is currently working on a memoir about how coastal Maine played an important role in her healing from domestic violence. She has been a reader for River Teeth: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative since 2011.


Congratulations to all!