We're thrilled to announce the following winners and runners-up of the 2013 Iowa Review Awards. These stories, essays, poems, and photos will appear in our December 2013 issue. Thanks to all who entered, and thanks to our judges, Susan Orlean (nonfiction), Mary Jo Bang (poetry), ZZ Packer (fiction), and Alec Soth and Kathleen Edwards (photography).
Winner: Laura Lynn Brown (left; Little Rock, AR), "Fifty Things about My Mother"
Runner-up: Meghan Flaherty, "Womb"
Nonfiction judge Susan Orlean writes, "Spare and simple, built of snippets and tiny moments, 'Fifty Things About My Mother' develops into a deep and complex portrait of a woman who died too young. It is a masterful use of tone and detail, managing to be both artful and effortless while conveying a world of emotion. 'Womb' travels through family history with a vivid, exacting, almost reportorial voice. The resulting narrative is engrossing and intimate, beautifully told."
Winner: Meredith Stricker (left; Carmel, CA), "Hazardous Materials"
Runner-up: Rebecca Lilly, "The Orchardist," "Hairy Old Man," "The Water Goddess," "Uncle Lowry," "Abelon Graveyard," "Our Family Business"
Poetry judge Mary Jo Bang, on her choices: The poems in Meredith Stricker’s 'Hazardous Materials' series rest on a bedrock of notation. The borrowed lines—from varied sources: Kafka, Coleridge, Dickinson, Benjamin, Bill Viola, to list only a few—are sometimes used as epigraphs, sometimes as scaffolding, and frequently as echoes that argue that all utterance is interconnected. While the poems traffic in lyric beauty, it’s never at the cost of pretending the real world with its real ruin doesn’t exist: oil spills and waste water infused with prescription drug residues, 'that rawness, the mess / the Veiling of beauty // lost in twigs, “cured” of language, unfinished and starry.' I have great confidence in these poems, in their inclusivity and their formal reach. Language is never more than a fractured mirror of world but these poems come closer than most to capturing the complexity of what is in front of us.
"Rebecca Lilly’s prose poems are fabulous reports of encounters between a motley crew of imagined speakers that include a talking shadow, a tweed-wearing wolf, a Rumplestiltskin-resembling dwarf, a caterpillar, a graveyard watchman named Jacob Arnold, Old Uncle Lowry (with a 'castle in Malibu designed after Poe’s House of Usher'), along with an unnamed speaker and his brother Michael. These poems ask a great deal of the reader and it’s to Lilly’s credit that we willingly suspend our disbelief and enter these scenarios in good faith. The reason we do is that beyond the cleverness of their invention, the characters sound so like us and struggle with the same conundrums with which we struggle. The poems alternate between arch proclamations, lyric description, and novelistic rifts, continually demonstrating both humor and a distinctive and convincing poetic intelligence."
Winner: Elise Winn (left; Woodland, CA), "Honey Moon"
Runner-up: Ronit Feinglass Plank, "Rick's Wax Hands"
Fiction judge ZZ Packer writes of "Honey Moon," "These are truly postcards from the edge, told in plain, clear, transparent prose that becomes almost hypnotic. The story manages the trick of moving both forward and backward at once, and in the end becomes a beautiful homage to the present."
And of "Rick's Wax Hands": "I loved the voice of this story, but I loved most of all how the author shows how one small moment is all it takes to see the world for what it truly is—as well as for what it never could have been."
Winner: Colin Edgington (left; Phillipsburg, NJ), "Umbrae"
Runner-up: Maury Gortemiller, "Do the Priest in Different Voices"
Photography judge Alec Soth, on Edgington's work: "In an era of Facebook and Instagram, I admire an artist like Colin Edgington, whose work whispers, makes you move in closer in hopes of hearing a secret."