Tupelo Press is especially delighted to announce that our judge, Jane Wong, has selected Indifferent Cities by Ángel García of Champaign, Illinois as winner of the inaugural Helena Whitehill Book Award.
Ángel García, the proud son of Mexican immigrants, is the author of Teeth Never Sleep (University of Arkansas Press), recipient of a CantoMundo Poetry Prize, an American Book Award, and finalist for a PEN America Open Book Award and a Kate Tufts Discovery Award. His work has been published in the American Poetry Review, McSweeney’s, Crab Orchard Review, Huizache, The Acentos Review, and most recently in The Missouri Review and fugue journal. He has received fellowships from CantoMundo, Community of Writers, Vermont Studio Center, and MacDowell. He currently teaches in the MFA Program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Here’s what our contest judge, Jane Wong, had to say about the winning book:
“To read Indifferent Cities is to linger in ‘mud strewn’ memory, ears pressed to the earth, listening to what courses underneath. As I read, I didn’t realize I was holding my breath. What I was holding on to: my own lost languages, my own lost fathers. This book, put simply, bewildered me and broke me apart. As the poet writes: ‘I try to remember what I’ve never known.’ Verdant with visceral imagery and inventive form, Indifferent Cities seeks out ghosts: the ghosts of familial mythologies, the ghosts of displacement, the ghosts of language, of loneliness. From the very first poem, we feel the speaker’s longing to know:‘my mother pours stove-warmed water over / my back to console me for what I can’t understand.’ I know that stove-warmed water intimately. In Indifferent Cities, we enter the vast arteries of the speaker’s interiors. We zoom in so close, we can feel the aching jaw. From “Friday Night”: ‘for my father leaping up from the couch to grab him, if not / for my father smelling my brother’s breath, their faces / so close I could have mistaken it for a kiss.’These poems are also formally and sonically felt — via grayscale (faint etchings), contrapuntals, and Spanish woven throughout. Poems tilt — literally — across the page: “[it began, the language slanting toward the bottom/corner of the page.]” From the poem ‘Mourning’:
‘I kiss my grandmother’s cheek
a wet-slick gravestone overgrown with dandelion’
Read across and down and with no map, the world of the living and the world of the dead intermingle, flush with lyrical tenderness. I love this book so much and I am honored to swim in its depths.”
Our sincere congratulations to Ángel García, and all of our finalists and semifinalists.
Finalists for the Helena Whitehill Book Award
Emma Berdanier of New York, New York. Wound Theory: A Fiction.
Julia Bousma of New Portland, Maine. Death Fluorescence.
Jessica Bozek of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Grief Machine.
Stephen Danos of Portland, Oregon. Crowd Noise.
Adam Day of Louisville, Kentucky. The Strategic Crescent.
Joanne Diaz & Jason Reblando of Normal, Illinois. La Ruta: Walter Benjamin’s Final Passage.
Chard di Nord of Putney, Vermont. Late Work in Early Winter.
Joan Kwon Glass of Milford, Connecticut. Hungry Ghost 아귀.
AT Hincapie of Colorado Springs, Colorado. What Survives a Fire.
Christopher Nelson of Grinnell, Iowa. Fugitive.
Siobhan Scarry of Newton, Kansas. For the Green & Signifying Fields.
Julia Thacker of Arlington, Massachusetts. All the Flowers Are for Me.
Leah Tieger of Los Angeles, California. Disaster Tourist.
Semifinalists for the Helena Whitehill Book Award
Lauren Berry of Littleton, Colorado. When the Fever Left My Hands.
Isabella DeSendi of Hoboken, New Jersey. Someone Else’s Hunger.
Jenny Drai of Brookfield, Illinois. Bewildered Physical Spaces: Assays.
Jean Gallagher of New York, New York. Rivermouth Shouting.
Korey Hurni of Forest City, Iowa. Another Landscape with the Fall of Icarus.
Luisa Igloria of Norfolk, Virginia. The Wound Makes Bearable What Comes After.
Hilary King of Los Altos, California. Edgestitch.
Sharon Mesmer of Brooklyn, New York. Even Living Makes Me Die.
Abigail Minor of Aaronsburg, Pennsylvania. Rhythm Make a Riot.
Jennifer Peterson of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Planned Obsolescence.
Gretchen Steele Pratt of Matthews, North Carolina. Anchor to a Floating City.
Martha Ronk of Los Angeles, California. The Nearshore.
Lisa Rosenberg of Menlo Park, California. Weeds and Stars.
Edward Wilson of Augusta, Georgia. Search and Rescue.
Congratulations again to our winner, finalists, and semifinalists. Special thanks to Tupelo Press Board Member Sally Whitehill, whose incredible generosity made this award possible. Enormous thanks as well to our terrific readers and our judge, Jane Wong.
Jane Wong is the author of the memoir Meet Me Tonight in Atlantic City (Tin House, 2023). She also wrote two poetry collections: How to Not Be Afraid of Everything (Alice James, 2021) and Overpour (Action Books, 2016). A Kundiman fellow, she is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and fellowships and residencies from the U.S. Fulbright Program, Harvard’s Woodberry Poetry Room, Artist Trust, Hedgebrook, Ucross, Loghaven, and others. She grew up in a take-out restaurant on the Jersey shore and is an Associate Professor at Western Washington University.
Our heart-felt gratitude goes out to all who sent us your manuscripts and who, by your writing, link arms in the tireless, solitary, and so-important work of making poetry. So many more manuscripts than we can mention here gave us countless hours of reading pleasure.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we hope you will consider letting us see your manuscript again, as our Dorset Prize deadline has been extended through the end of January, our annual Snowbound Chapbook Prize is open through February 28th, and our Berkshire Prize for a First or Second Book closes to submissions on April 31st. Thank you and we look forward to reading your work!