The Barry Spacks Poetry Prize honors Santa Barbara’s first Poet Laureate, our beloved friend and teacher, Barry Spacks. The Spacks Prize is awarded annually for a full-length collection of poetry. The editors of Gunpowder Press will select finalists from manuscripts submitted between January 1 and April 30, 2021.
2020 Spacks Prize
We are excited to announce Curriculum, by Meghan Dunn, as the winner of the 2020 Spacks Prize. Gunpowder Press thanks Jessica Jacobs for her generosity in serving as the final judge.
Of the winning manuscript, Jessica Jacobs writes:
In Meghan Dunn’s incisive debut, we encounter a speaker both student and teacher. These poems delve into the moments that forged her, while offering timely accounts of trying to shepherd students through America’s dark racial history, bearing witness to modern-day lynchings, active shooter drills, and the shock of classmates dead far too soon. Beautifully crafted, every lesson bears surprises: “Cartography” is a study in the landscape of bodies and drift of borders; “Foreign Language,” in the difficulty of holding another’s grief; “Grammar Lesson,” in the moments that reveal us as less than the person we’d most like to be. In Curriculum, all of life, with its many loves and losses, is on the syllabus, and like the best classes, these poems reintroduce us to wonder, making us students again of a world we thought we already knew.
About the winner: Meghan Dunn lives in Brooklyn, NY, where she teaches high school English. Her work has appeared in Ploughshares, Narrative, Poetry Northwest, Four Way Review, and Southern Humanities Review, among others. She is a four-time recipient of scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and a 2019 Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Her website is http://meghandunnpoet.com/
The other finalists, in alphabetical order by poet’s last name:
Luminous Body, Glittering Ash by C.W. Emerson
Ishmael Mask by Charles Kell
The Right Blue Dream Home by Claire McQuerry
To Find Comfort in Others by Stephen Priest
Mother Lode by Peg Quinn
From the Gunroom by Keith Stahl
Divination with a Human Heart Attached by Emily Stoddard
The Public by Patrick Swaney
Sum Ledger by Adam Tavel (forthcoming from Measure Press—congratulations, Adam!)
Judge Jessica Jacobs is the author of Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going, published by Four Way Books, was named one of Library Journal‘s Best Poetry Books of 2019. Her debut collection, Pelvis with Distance, won the New Mexico Book Award in Poetry, was an Over the Rainbow selection by the American Library Association, and was a finalist for the Lambda Literary and Julie Suk Awards. Her chapbook In Whatever Light Left to Us was published by Sibling Rivalry Press. She holds an M.F.A. from Purdue University, where she served as the Editor-in-Chief of Sycamore Review, and a B.A. from Smith College. Her poetry, essays, and fiction have appeared in publications including Orion, New England Review, Crazyhorse, and Guernica. An avid long-distance runner, Jessica has worked as a rock climbing instructor, bartender, and professor—leading workshops around the country and teaching for Hendrix College, UNC-Wilmington’s MFA program, and Writing Workshops in Greece, among other programs—and is now the Chapbook Editor of the Beloit Poetry Journal. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina, with her wife, the poet Nickole Brown, and is at work on parallel collections of essays and poems exploring spirituality, Torah, and Midrash.
2019 Spacks Prize
Gunpowder Press welcomed esteemed Pulitzer Prize-winner Stephen Dunn as final judge for the 2019 Spacks Prize. This year’s winner, chosen by Stephen Dunn, is Glenn Freeman of Cornell, Iowa, for his collection Drinking with O’Hara.
The other finalists, in alphabetical order by poet’s last name:
- These Waters, John Belk
- Rosetta, by Karina Borowicz
- Luminous Body, Glittering Ash, by C.W. Emerson
- The Invention of the Parachute, by Ken Fifer
- Into Night’s Tent, by Stephen Frech
- I Come from a Long Line of Men Who Die in Their Sleep, by Robin Gow
- Our Spilt Blood at the Borders, by Jonathan Greenhause
- Medicine, 3AM, by Susan Kelly-Dewitt
- Cautious Horses Eyed Us, by Peg Quinn
The editors of Gunpowder Press were impressed by the precise language and striking images in these manuscripts. We also appreciate Stephen Dunn’s critical eye on selecting a winner from this strong group of manuscripts.
Dunn is the author of over a dozen books of poetry, including the National Poetry Series Prize-winning Local Time (1986), Landscape at the End of the Century (1991), Loosestrife (1996), Different Hours (2000), which won the Pulitzer Prize, What Goes On: New and Selected Poems 1995-2009 (2009), Here and Now (2011), Lines of Defense (2014), and Keeper of Limits (2015). His works of prose include Riffs and Reciprocities: Prose Pairs (1998), and Walking Light: Essays and Memoirs (reissued 2001). In addition to the Pulitzer, Dunn’s honors and awards include fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. He won the James Wright Prize and an Academy Award for Literature. Dunn is distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at Richard Stockton College.
2018 Spacks Prize
There were 128 submissions for the 2018 prize. Of these, 10 finalists were selected, including the winning manuscript. The other finalists were:
Steve Bellin-Oka, Ash Sonata
Nina Clements, Our Mother of Sorrows
Amy Davis, Wayward
Kathy Goodkin, Crybaby Bridge
Andrew Gottlieb, Tales of Distance
Emily Hazel, The Brave Betweens
Kip Knott, Temporary Agnostic
Jonathan Weinert, Indifferent Country
Reed Wilson, Orpheum
Lee Herrick is the author of Gardening Secrets of the Dead and This Many Miles from Desire, and a third book, Scar and Flower, is forthcoming from Word Poetry Press in 2019. His poems have appeared in many literary magazines, anthologies, and college textbooks, including The Bloomsbury Review, Columbia Poetry Review, The Normal School, Indivisible: Poems of Social Justice, and Visions Across the Americas, 8th edition, among others. He is a Fresno Poet Laureate Emeritus and serves on the advisory board of The Adoption Museum Project. Born in Daejeon, South Korea and adopted at ten months, he teaches at Fresno City College and in the MFA Program at Sierra Nevada College.
2017 Spacks Prize
Other finalists were:
Steven Huff, A Fire in the Hill
Barbara March, Here Is a Woman
Jeff Oaks, Little What
Lisa Rosenberg, A Different Physics
Lynn Schmeldler, History of Gone
Emily Schulten, The Way a Wound Becomes a Scar
Melissa Stephenson, After Mating for Life
Angela Voras-Hills, The Account of Worms
Pui Ying Wong, The Feast
Jane Hirshfield’s most recent, eighth book of poetry is The Beauty (Knopf, 2015), long listed for the National Book Award and named a best book of the year by The San Francisco Chronicle and the Washington Independent Review of Books. Her newest book of essays, Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World (Knopf, 2015), received the Northern California Book Award. Previous honors include The Poetry Center Book Award, the California Book Award, the Donald Hall-Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry, Columbia University’s Translation Center Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, the Academy of American Poets, and the National Endowment for the Arts. While never a full time academic, Hirshfield has taught or been a poet in residence at U.C. Berkeley, the University of Virginia, the Bennington MFA Writing Seminars, U.C. Santa Barbara, and elsewhere. Hirshfield was the 2016 Mohr Visiting Poet at Stanford University. In 2012 she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
2016 Spacks Prize
- Nan Cohen, Unfinished City
- Jeff Ewing, The Wind Apples
- Andrew Gottlieb, His Winter Beast
- Adam Houle, Stray
- Kathleen McClung, The Typists Play Monopoly
- Emily Schulten, The Way a Wound Becomes a Scar
- Anna Scotti, Bewildered by All This Broken Sky
- James Scruton, Ordinary Plenty
- Erin Elizabeth Smith, Down: The Alice Poems
2015 Spacks Prize
- Susan Kelly-Dewitt, Bird Singing in the Moonlight
- Christine Kitano, Sky Country
- John Morrison, Monkey Island
- Barbara Presnell, Blue Star
- Lindsay Tigue, System of Ghosts
- Carine Topal, Some World
- Lillo Way, Wingbone