Throughout its years of continuous publication Prairie Schooner has consistently maintained a national reputation for literary excellence. Building upon this venerable history, the journal selects one poetry collection and one short story collection from contemporary writers each year for this prize series. The series is sponsored and vetted by the staff of Prairie Schooner and a venerable committee of judges, and the selected manuscripts are published each year by UNP. This year’s winners are Hard Damage by Aria Aber and Extinction Events by Liz Breazeale.
The winner in poetry, Hard Damage, works to relentlessly interrogate the self and its shortcomings. In lyric and documentary poems and essayistic fragments, Aria Aber explores the historical and personal implications of Afghan American relations. Drawing on material dating back to the 1950s, she considers the consequences of these relations—in particular the funding of the Afghan mujahedeen, which led to the Taliban and modern-day Islamic terrorism—for her family and the world at large. Invested in and suspicious of the pain of family and the shame of selfhood, the speakers of these richly evocative and musical poems mourn the magnitude of citizenship as a state of place and a state of mind. Aber explores Rilke in the original German, the urban melancholia of city life, inherited trauma, and displacement on both linguistic and environmental levels, while employing surrealist and eerily domestic imagery.
Aber is a Ron Wallace Poetry Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her poems have appeared in the Kenyon Review, the New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, Narrative, and other publications.
In her fiction prize-winning collection of short stories, Liz Breazeale explores the connections between humans and the natural world by examining the processes and history of our planet. A myriad of extinction events large and small have ruptured the history of the earth, and so it is with the women of this book, who struggle to define themselves amid their own personal cataclysms and those igniting the world around them. Here extinction events come in all sizes and shapes: as volcanic eruptions and devastating plagues and meteor impacts, as estrangements and betrayals and losses. Dark, angry, and apocalyptic, Extinction Events is a compendium of all the ways in which life can be annihilated.
Breazeale is a technical communications editor for the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. Her stories have appeared in numerous publications, including Pleiades, Sou’wester, Territory, Arroyo Literary Review, and Fence.
Both collections are available now—order today!