Tupelo Press Names Winner, Runners-Up, and Finalists For The 2020 Berkshire Prize!

Tupelo Press announces a change in the award for the 2020 Berkshire Prize. The previously-named winner of the 2020 Berkshire Prize, Nulifar Karimi, has withdrawn her manuscript from consideration for publication. While we’re sorry to lose the chance to publish Karimi’s book, we are so very excited to announce that Brandon Rushton’s manuscript, The Air in the Air Behind It, has been selected by judge Bin Ramke as the new winner of the Berkshire Prize. Brandon will receive a $3,000 cash prize, publication and national distribution of his book.

Brandon Rushton was born and raised in Michigan. A recipient of awards from Gulf Coast and Ninth Letter, his poems appear widely in publications like The Southern Review, Denver Quarterly, Pleiades, Bennington Review, and Passages North. His essays appear in Alaska Quarterly Review and the critical anthology, A Field Guide to the Poetry of Theodore Roethke (Ohio University Press, 2020). He co-founded the non-profit poetry outfit Oxidant | Engine and, after earning his MFA from the University of South Carolina, joined the writing faculty at the College of Charleston. In the fall of 2020, he began as a Visiting Professor of Writing at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.   

Judge’s Citation 


It is an ordinary, an orderly world offered to us in The Air in the Air Behind It, and yet this world surprises at every turn, and it throbs with mystifying energy. Every statement made threatens to dissolve into its opposite, every movement is a threat and a thrilling treat. The structure of most of these poems is of the sentence—while line breaks signal giddying turns, turns of phrase and fable both surprising and satisfying: “Boredom makes me want/ to spill a secret to each bipedal/ organism passing/ on the street. I have a heavy heart…” and even this does not describe the compulsions of the book, or the way the language gets restrung like a glittery necklace broken with beads still lost under some of the furniture. Even up and down are unstrung, directions both comforting and treacherous: “the sky called/ attention to the crater the people pointed/ and watched the comet from.” This is a book of consolations, open and inviting and yet as mysterious as fog, and as nurturing to a parched landscape.


Bin Ramke has selected two Berkshire Prize runners-up: 

Jamaica Baldwin of Lincoln, Nebraska for Bone Language 

Su Cho of Milwaukee, Wisconsin for The Symmetry of Fish 


Deborah Bernhardt of Knoxville, Tennessee for Decohere 

Danielle Blau of Ridgewood, New York for peep 

Sara Brickman of Seattle, Washington for Little Houdini 

Eric Burger of Longmont, Colorado for Dark Picnic 

Katy Didden of Indianapolis, Indiana for Ore Choir: The Lava on Iceland 

A.D. Lauren-Abunassar of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for Coriolis 

Gregory Mahrer of Sebastopol, California for Brief As We Are

Emilie Menzel of Hillsborough, North Carolina for The Girl Who Became A Rabbit  

Elizabeth Metzger of Pacific Palisades, California for Lying In

Brandon Thurman of Fayetteville, Arkansas for Leftover Hymns 


Daniel Biegelson of Liberty, Missouri for why should everything we see interact with light 

David Crews of Somerville, New Jersey for Incantation 

JD Debris of Jersey City, New Jersey for The Scorpion’s Question Mark

Jaydn DeWald of Bogart, Georgia for The Rosebud Variations  

Teresa Dzieglewicz of New York, New York for Something Small of How to See a River 

Raye Hendrix of Eugene, Oregon for What Good Is Heaven 

Kelly Hoffer of Ithaca, New York for Undershore 

Eva Hooker of Notre Dame, Indiana for Portion 

Jane Huffman of Iowa City, Iowa for Dilemma 

Leah Claire Kaminski of Chicago, Illinois for Live oak nearly on fire 

Kristin Macintyre of Fort Collins, Colorado for Lush the Cradle 

Michael Mlekoday of Davis, California for Unbecoming 

Rita Mookerjee of Ames, Iowa for False Offering 

W Yandell of Mansfield, Texas for Flood_Rip_Burn_Stitch: A Trail of Recast Corpora 

We wish to congratulate Brandon Rushton, 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 Bin Ramke for blessing us with the so-very-consuming (and largely unsung) work of selecting a winner and runners-up, and for his thoughtful citation.  Please note that our Sunken Garden Chapbook Prize and Dorset Prize are currently open. We look forward to reading even more surprising and delightful poetry submissions.