2015 Balcones Poetry Prize awarded to What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford (Copper Canyon Press), edited by Michael Wiegers

Frank Stanford
Frank Stanford, 1973

Frank Stanford was born in August 1948 and died by his own hand in June 1978. Yet in his short life he produced an astonishing amount of poetry—the present volume contains more than 700 pages of verse. Stanford’s poetry was published in literary journals and small presses and has remained obscure, although he has had potent influence on those who know his work.

Born in Mississippi, Stanford grew up in Memphis and Arkansas, attending the University of Arkansas, and lived in Missouri and New Orleans as well. He published seven books of poetry during his life, including The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You, a passionate yet carefully crafted outpouring of over 15,000 lines.

Michael Wiegers
Michael Wiegers at the Sewanee Writers Conference, 2014.

Of Stanford’s poetry, the judges said, “Frank Stanford wrote as fiercely as he lived. He is a master storyteller, and his images from rural Arkansas never fail to surprise.” His “poems seem to be written by someone very old, someone or something who has lived and thought and suffered…as old as the earth itself, and as wise, and as deadly. Yet the poems never seem dated or archaic.” His “work is distinctly Southern, distinctly rural, yet…crafted with such mastery as to transcend regionalism. The soul, the voice of these poems, is simultaneously his own, and yet universal.”

Michael Wiegers is poetry editor of Narrative Magazine and executive editor of Copper Canyon Press. His previous titles include This Art, The Poet’s Child and Reversible Monuments: Contemporary Mexican Poetry (co-edited with Monica de la Torre).

Four finalists were also named:

  • Forest Primeval, Vievee Francis (TriQuarterly Books)
  • Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, Ross Gay (University of Pittsburgh Press)
  • Lighting the Shadow, Rachel Eliza Griffiths (Four Way Books)
  • Crow-Work, Eric Pankey (Milkweed Editions)

The judges for the 2015 prize were Joseph Ahearn, a poet and professor at Austin Community College; Ken Fontenot, a poet and novelist who lives in Austin; and Allyson Whipple, a poet and professor at Austin Community College.

Former winners of the Balcones Poetry Prize:

  • Once in the West, Michael Wiman, 2014
  • Interrobang, Jessica Piazza, 2013
  • When My Brother Was an Aztec, Natalie Diaz, 2012
  • Bone Fires, Mark Jarmon, 2011
  • Horses Where the Answers Should Have Been, Chase Twichell, 2010
  • Portrait and Dream, Bill Berkson, 2009
  • Dismantling the Hills, Michael McGriff, 2008
  • At the Drive-In Volcano, Aimee Nezhukumatahil, 2007
  • Drive, Lorna Dee Cervantes, 2006
  • No Accident, Aaron Anstett, 2005
  • Dancing on Main Street, Lorenzo Thomas, 2004
  • Bread Without Sorrow, John Hogden, 2002
  • Short History of Pets, Carol Potter, 2001
  • In the Surgical Theatre, Dana Levin, 2000
  • The Red-Shifting Web, Arthur Sze, 1999
  • Sparrow: New and Selected Poems, Reginald Gibbons, 1997
  • The Body Mutinies, Lucia Perillo, 1996
  • Every Substance Clothed, Kathleen Halme, 1995

Nominations for the 2016 prize will be accepted from Septemer 1, 2016 to January 31, 2017.

For more information: John Herndon, Austin Community College, 1212 Rio Grande Street, Austin, Texas 78701. jherndon@austincc.edu, sites.austincc.edu/crw.

2015 Balcones Fiction Prize awarded to People Like You (Atelier26 Books), a short story collection by Margaret Malone

In Margaret Malone’s debut story collection People Like You, characters in the thick of everyday experience absent of epiphanies, are caught off-guard or cast adrift by personal impulses even while wide awake to their own imperfections.

Malone’s writing has appeared in The Missouri Review, Oregon Humanities Magazine, Coal City Review, Propeller Quarterly, The Timberline Review, Swink, Nailed and latimes.com. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Oregon Arts Commission and Literary Arts, two Regional Arts & Culture Council Project Grants, and residencies at The Sitka Center and Soapstone. Malone has a degree in Philosophy from Humboldt State University and has taught creative writing as a visiting artist at Pacific Northwest College of Art. She lives with her husband filmmaker Brian Padian and two children in Portland, where she co-hosts the artist and literary gathering SHARE.

Margaret Malone
Margaret Malone. Photo by Sabina Poole.

Final judge John Blair called the book “a masterfully minimalist collection of lives lived poorly but with the best of intentions.  Her stories are powerful, sad, and plain-spoken, and this debut collection takes the normative-yet-desperate circuits of the day-to-day that Bobbie Anne Mason and Frederick Barthelme brought to the forefront of American short fiction and makes them both new again and powerfully affecting.  These are marvelous and worthy stories, and very much deserving of recognition.”

Six finalists were also named:

  • Aftermath Lounge by Margaret McMullan (Calypso Editions)
  • Between You and Me by Scott Nadelson (Engine Books)
  • Girl Power by Katie Cortese (ELJ Editions)
  • Engels by Gavin McCrea (Catapult)
  • Nonprofit by Matt Burriesci (New Issues)
  • Wilberforce by H.S. Cross (FSG)

Former winners of the Balcones Fiction Prize:

  • Hold the Dark by William Giraldi, 2014
  • Girls I Know by Douglas Trevor, 2013
  • We Sinners by Hanna Pylvainen, 2012
  • Send Me Work by Katherine Karlin, 2011
  • Love Like Hate by Linh Dinh, 2010

Nominations for the 2016 Balcones Fiction Prize will be accepted from September 1, 2016 to January 31, 2017.

For more information: Joe O’Connell, Austin Community College, 1212 Rio Grande Street, Austin, Texas 78701. joconne@austincc.edu, sites.austincc.edu/crw.

Austin Community College announces the winner of the 2013 Balcones Fiction Prize: GIRLS I KNOW (Sixoneseven Books) by Douglas Trevor.

The Creative Writing Department and the Division of Arts and Humanities at Austin Community College are pleased to announce the 2013 Balcones Fiction Prize. The prize of $1,500 recognizes an outstanding book of literary fiction published during the year.

Douglas Trevor
Douglas Trevor

Girls I Know (Sixoneseven Books) by Douglas Trevor follows 29-year-old Walt Steadman—grad school dropout, sperm donor, and holder of other odd jobs— who survives a shooting in his favorite Boston café that leaves four people dead. During the course of the book, Walt, a female Harvard undergraduate named Ginger who is writing a book about women and violence, and an 11-year-old African-American girl whose parents were killed in the shooting, together come to face what it means to try to make sense of life in the wake of violent loss.

Trevor is the author of short story collection The Thin Tear in the Fabric of Space, winner of the Iowa Short Fiction Award and finalist for the 2006 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award for First Fiction. He lives in Ann Arbor, where he is an Associate Professor of Renaissance Literature and Creative Writing in the English Department at the University of Michigan.

Novelist Carolyn Osborn, who judged the 2013 prize, said Trevor’s novel provides “a contemporary answer to meaningless violence and, at the same time, hope for a reasonable future. These interwoven characters manage to help each other by accident, by luck, and by goodwill. Nothing is forced or fanciful. Resolutions are reached skillfully in clear prose leading a reader to see that rampant evil can be assuaged if not totally overcome. The writer is to be congratulated for his sensibly balanced point of view that allows his readers to understand people from different cultures, their griefs, their acceptances, and their means of survival.”

Five finalists were also named:

  • Hotel Juarez (Arte Publico) by Daniel Chacon
  • Nothing Serious (Permanent Press) by Daniel Klein
  • If I’d Known You Were Coming (University of Iowa Press) by Kate Milliken
  • Think of Me and I’ll Know (Triquarterly) by Anthony Varallo
  • The Golem and the Jinni (Harper) by Helene Wecker

The deadline for nominations for the 2014 Balcones Fiction Prize is January 31, 2015.

For more information: Joe O’Connell, 1212 Rio Grande Street, Austin, Texas 78701, joconne@austincc.edu, sites.austincc.edu/crw/.

Austin Community College announces the winner of the 2013 Balcones Poetry Prize: INTERROBANG (Red Hen Press) by Jessica Piazza

The Creative Writing Department and the Division of Arts and Humanities at Austin Community College are pleased to announce the 2013 Balcones Poetry Prize. The prize of $1,500 recognizes an outstanding book of poetry published during the year.

Jessica Piazza
Jessica Piazza

Interrobang by Jessica Piazza, published by Red Hen Press, is a first book. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Piazza earned a BS at Boston University, where she interned with US Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky, and an MA at the University of Texas; she recently completed a PhD in English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California.

The judges said, “Piazza’s poetry has an air of potent volatility. She works with a great knowledge of and love for words.” “The wordplay, with sounds developing sense in surprising ways, makes for great fun and insight. Often working within the sonnet form, the poet “makes it new” through her voice that remains uninhibited by rhyme scheme or line length and even seems to thrive on such strictures.” She “will grab you by the hand and run with you through familiar mazes of form, stopping briefly to delight in intimacy and assonance.”

The poet will visit Austin Community College to read from her work April 8, 2015.

Four finalists were also named: Ain’t No Grave (New Issues Press), by T.J. Jarrett; Duppy Conqueror, (Copper Canyon Press), Kwame Dawes; Flame in the Air (Casasola Editores) by Vidaluz Meneses, translated by Maria Roof; and The Government of Nature (University of Pittsburgh Press) by Afaa Michael Weaver.

The judges for the 2014 prize were Dave Oliphant, poet, author, editor and professor retired from the University of Texas and Austin Community College; Peggy Kelley, poet, attorney and yogini living in Austin; and Louisa Spaventa, poet and professor of writing and literature at Austin Community College.

The deadline for nominations for the 2014 Balcones Poetry Prize is January 31, 2015.

For more information:

 John Herndon, Associate Director, 
The Balcones Center for Creative Writing, 
Austin Community College, 
1212 Rio Grande Street,
 Austin, Texas 78701. 
512-828-9368, sites.austincc.edu/crw/.

Balcones Fiction Prize Winner of 2012 Announced

Hanna Pylvainen has been awarded the Balcones Fiction Prize for We Sinners, which final judge the acclaimed novelist Sarah Bird called a “stunningly assured debut novel.”

This is the third year for Austin Community College to offer the $1,500 which also comes with a trip to Austin for a reading. The national award goes to the best book of literature published in the previous calendar year. A record 101 books were nominated for the prize.

ACC is unique among community colleges in offering a national book award. The college having a separate creative writing department is also a rarity.

Hanna Pylvainen
Hanna Pylvainen

Pylvainen is from suburban Detroit. She graduated from Mount Holyoke College and received her MFA from the University of Michigan, where she was also a Zell Postgraduate Fellow. She is the recipient of residencies at the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo, a fellowship at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and a 2012 Whiting Writers’ Award.



Bird said of awarding We Sinners (Henry Holt), “Pylvainen takes us inside an obscure Finnish fundamentalist denomination that is both Bible–Belt familiar and utterly exotic. At its heart, it’s an examination of family and faith, and the sorrows that ensue when belonging and believing become one and the same. In the light of Pylvainen’s austerely beautiful prose each of the eleven family members portrayed shines with surprising profundity that reminds us of the uniquely illuminating power of fiction.”

At Bird’s request, Margaret Hermes received a special second-place award for her story collection Relative Strangers (Carolina Wren Press) and its “lightning strikes of illumination.” Bird said of the book, “Hermes examines the pivot points in lives just beginning and those viewed retrospectively with longing and regret. Innocence and experience battle as the vibrantly alive characters pick their way through world that, in lesser hands, would be humdrum. Hermes makes us see again that each ordinary day is a minefield filled with choices that, sometimes, detonate decades later.”

The other finalists for the Balcones Fiction Prize are:

  • Sighs Too Deep for Words by William Jack Sibley (William Jack Sibley)
  • Slant of Light by Steve Wiegenstein (Blank Slate Press)
  • The Galaxie and Other Rides by Josie Sigler (Livington Press)
  • The Care and Feeding of Exotic Pets by Dianna Wagman (IG Publishing)
  • Losing Clementine by Ashley Ream (William Morrow)

The deadline for the 2013 Balcones Fiction Prize is January 31, 2014. For more information, see: