Tupelo Press Announces the 2019 Berkshire Prize Results

Tupelo Press is delighted to announce that our judge, Oliver de la Paz, has selected Iliana Rocha of Edmond, Oklahoma from an extraordinary field of finalists as winner of the 2019 Berkshire Prize for her manuscript, The Many Deaths of Inocencio Rodriguez.

[Photo credit: Vernon Ng]

Iliana Rocha earned her PhD in English Literature and Creative Writing from Western Michigan University. The recipient of a 2019 MacDowell Colony fellowship, her work has been featured in the Best New Poets 2014 anthology, as well as The Nation, Virginia Quarterly Review, Latin American Literature Today, RHINO, Blackbird, and Waxwing,among others. Karankawa, her debut collection, won the 2014 AWP Donald Hall Prize for Poetry and is available through the University of Pittsburgh Press. She is currently the Graduate Director of Creative Writing at the University of Central Oklahoma and lives with her three Chihuahuas Nilla, Beans, and Migo.

Of The Many Deaths of Inocencio Rodriguez, Oliver de la Paz writes: “Formally vibrant, Iliana Rocha imagines and reimagines the deaths of the forgotten-Inocencio Rodriguez, AKA John Doe. Through multiple tellings and retellings, the author attempts to perform last rites for those who have received no ceremony. Indeed, the unceremonious deaths of the innocents and of innocence make for a poignant obsession here in a docupoetic kaleidoscope where found knowledge turns and churns into art, magnificent, devastating, and long-lasting. I am transfixed by the way that lyric and narrative are woven into this bold and elegiac tapestry that touches, not only on violent flashpoints but most essentially on the revenants that speak, long after loss, to the resounding failures of our humanity. This is an exquisite book.” 

The winner receives a $3,000 cash prize, publication by Tupelo Press, and national distribution.


Oliver de la Paz has selected three Berkshire Prize runners-up:

Danielle Blau of Ridgewood, New York  forpeep
Julie Phillips Brown of Lexington, Virginia for The Adjacent Possible 
Julia Thacker of Arlington, Massachusetts for The Winter Comb


Jesús Castillo, Landscapes in Empire, or Three Murals
Laura Donnelly, The Jack Loom
Dionne Custer Edwards, A Song of Tricks and Fire
Nava EtShalom, The Knives We Need
Matthew Gellman, Beforelight
Oksana Maksymchuck, Tongue Ties 
Angelo Mao, Abattoir
Cameron McGill, There, There
Angelo Nikolopoulos, PLEASURE
Michael Marberry, Lineage
Bino Realuyo, The Rebel Sonnets


Kanika Agrawal, Okazaki Fragments
Mary Lou Buschi, Paddock 
Kelly Caldwell, Letters to Forget
Andrew Collard, Pax Americana 
Raphael Dagold, Self Storage 
Mary Moore Easter, From the Flutes of Our Bones
Sophie Klahr, Two Open Doors In A Field 
James Knippen, Would We Still Be
Emily Mohn-Slate, Heavy Creatures
Celeste Lipkes, Radium Girl 
Jacquelyn Malone, The Bleach of Time 
Mary Pinard, Ghost, Map
Emily Pittinos, The Last Unkillable Thing 
Valorie Ruiz, In Stories We Thunder 
Lauren Shapiro, Arena 
Michael Torres, An Incomplete List of Names

We wish to congratulate Iliana Rocha, as well as our runners-up, finalists and semifinalists, and all who entered manuscripts in the Berkshire Prize, for delighting us with a wealth of terrific submissions. By your writing, each of you joins in the solitary and so-important work of making poetry. Many, many thanks to our judge, Oliver de la Paz, for blessing us with the so very consuming (and largely unsung) work of selecting a winner and runners-up, and for writing a superbly thoughtful citation.  Please bear in mind that the July Open Read Period closes in three days, that the Sunken Garden Chapbook Award,  judged by Cornelius Eady, opens for submissions on August 1st, and the Dorset Prize opens for submissions on September 1st. 

See submission guidelines here.