The winners of the second Alta California Prize, selected by Francisco Aragón from an incredibly rich collection of submissions, are Florencia Milito‘s Sor Juana and Gabriel Ibarra‘s On Display. Francisco also recognized Felipe De La Rosa‘s Summer Blooms in Paramount as an honorable mention. In addition to the winners and honorable mention, eight poets were distinguished as finalists including:
- Elaine Alarcon, Blood Echoes
- Li Yun Alvarado, Luz Like Love
- Kenneth Chacon, How the Cholo Became a Mystic & Other Dreamer Poems
- Tomas Moniz, Theory of Falling Bodies
- Melinda Palacio, Alamar
- Jorge Quintana, Dying in America
- Linda Ravenswood, A Poem Is a House
- Danny Romero, My Father’s Friends
Florencia Milito is a bilingual poet, writer, and translator whose work has appeared in ZYZZYVA, Indiana Review, Catamaran, Diálogo, 92nd Street Y, Quiet Lightning, Ninth Letter, Latinas: Struggles & Protests in 21st Century USA, Zócalo Public Square, womenvoicesforchange.org, and GUEST, among others. A Hedgebrook and Community of Writers alumna and CantoMundo fellow, her writing has been influenced by her early experience fleeing Argentina’s 1976 coup, subsequent childhood in Venezuela, and immigration to the United States at the age of nine. In 2020, she read at the 8th Winter Warmer Poetry Festival in Cork, Ireland. Her bilingual poem Song of Transformation was featured in the UC Berkeley Arts Research Center’s Fall 2021 Flash Reading Series. Her bilingual collection Ituzaingó: Exiles and Reveries / exilios y ensueños was published in 2021 by Nomadic Press. Of Milito’s winning manuscript, Sor Juana, Francisco writes:
Sor Juana reveals an exquisite alchemy—the provocative life and death of the baroque master, but also the speaker’s own “inherited trauma” as “a child of [a] dictatorship,” which follows her into exile, prompting: “This is the heart of the wound.” The artistry here is replete with skill and grace. “History wedges itself / inside four syllables”—the thesis of this breathtaking book-length poem.
Gabriel Ibarra was born and raised in Fresno, CA. He earned an Honorable Mention for the 2011 Ernesto Trejo Poetry Prize, awarded by the Academy of American Poets, judged by the late Phil Levine. His poetry has been published in the Packinghouse Review, and from 2014-2016, to honor his roots as a Puentista, he served as a Puente Program Mentor at Fresno City College. Currently, he teaches as a full time English Lecturer at Fresno State, and serves as the Campus Liaison for the Fresno State Creative Writing Alumni Chapter, whose goal is to connect multiple generations of Fresno writers. Of Ibarra’s winning manuscript, On Display, Francisco writes:
“Mira, tu Papa is on TV,” says a mother, coaxing her boy to imagine that Erik Estrada is his father. “Our time together—episodes / rerun is never real, only instances / of his dark, oily hair mirroring mine / as I peddle closer, reach out, / trace the round static of his face.” Wow. It’s a heartwrenching moment that broke me. On Display is moving art, the poet’s craft up to the task.
Of honorable mention, Felipe De La Rosa’s Summer Blooms in Paramont, Francisco writes:
“I listen for the elotero,” the single-line stanza that opens Summer Blooms in Paramount, hints at what will unfold across its twelve pieces, deploying white space as part of its score, shuttling seamlessly across linguistic borders. There’s a lovely melange of southern California landscapes here, where “ephemera kisses / [g]low like dandelions” or where the speaker invites you to “[f]ly inside water swiftly open your pond-eyes” to these gorgeous poems.
Gunpowder Press and series editor Emma Trelles thank Francisco Aragón for his careful consideration, as well as all the poets who allowed us the opportunity to consider their work for publication.
This year’s judge was Francisco Aragón. He is the son of Nicaraguan immigrants and a native of San Francisco, California. He holds degrees in Spanish from UC Berkeley and NYU. After a decade living in Spain, Aragón completed graduate degrees in creative writing from UC Davis and the University of Notre Dame. In 2003 he joined the faculty of the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies, where he established Letras Latinas and where he also teaches a literature course in Latinx poetry and a poetry writing workshop. A CantoMundo fellow and a member of the Macondo Writers’ Workshop, he is the author of three books: Puerta del Sol (2005); Glow of Our Sweat (2010); and After Rubén (2020). He is also the editor of the anthology, The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry (2017) and the author of four chapbooks, most recently His Tongue a Swath of Sky (2019). His poems and translations have appeared in various print and online journals, as well as in more than twenty anthologies.
The series is edited by Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Emma Trelles. She is the daughter of Cuban immigrants and the author of Tropicalia (University of Notre Dame Press), winner of the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize and a finalist for Foreword-Indies poetry book of the year.
The first Alta California Chapbooks are Nicholas Reiner‘s Levitations and Crystal AC Salas‘s Grief Logic, both published in 2022.
Of Levitations, by Nicholas Reiner, Emma Trelles writes:
“Equal parts lament, memoir, and lyric, this chapbook is written in a wholly original voice that is as accomplished as it is precise. Each poem reveals another sharply crafted layer of memory and observation—whether about family, chess, death, or how remembering is a way of keeping love intact.”
Of Grief Logic, by Crystal AC Salas, Emma Trelles says:
“These poems read and sometimes physically appear like a sprawling Latinx pillowbook, filled with the intimate and honest particulars of family and what it means to navigate language, landscape, and girl/woman/hood. This chap is all heart, image, and sound
—and then some.”