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Erika Meitner, this year’s judge, has chosen If I Could Give You a Line by Carrie Oeding of Pawtucket, Rhode Island as the 2021 Akron Poetry Prize winner. The contest received a total of 690 entries in 2021.

About the winning manuscript, Meitner comments:

If I Could Give You a Line is not only a brilliant, associative meditation on every kind of conceptual and material line—it’s also a powerful ontological and epistemological treatise on what it means to be an artist and a mother in twenty-first century America. Via ekphrasis, ars poetica, and lyric essay, Carrie Oeding brings the world into these poems with grace and wit; Kim Kardashian and Kiefer Sutherland live alongside Susan Sontag and James Turrell, all coexisting with the detritus of motherhood: wet wipes, strollers, Band-aids, Purell—creating poems that are simultaneously heady and corporeal. With humor, doubt, intelligence, cynicism, and ultimately strength, Oeding fiercely asserts her presence in these poems, pushing against a society that sees mothers as erasures or containers when she writes, “I am painting myself in. I am so not pretend….” 

Carrie Oeding is the author of Our List of Solutions (42 Miles Press), which won the Lester M. Wolfson Prize. She was the recipient of the 2020 Rhode Island State Council on the Arts’ Fellowship in Poetry. Her work has appeared in such places as Bennington Review, Denver Quarterly, Colorado Review, Pleiades, Mid-American Review, and DIAGRAM. She grew up on a southern Minnesota farm and currently lives in Rhode Island.

The judge for the 2022 competition will be Adrian Matejka. Matejka is the author of six books, most recently a mixed media collection inspired by Funkadelic, Standing on the Verge & Maggot Brain (Third Man Books, 2021), and a collection of poems Somebody Else Sold the World (Penguin, 2021). His book The Big Smoke (Penguin, 2013), was awarded the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Among Matejka’s other honors are fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and a Simon Fellowship from United States Artists. He is the Ruth Lilly Professor of Poetry at Indiana University Bloomington and was Poet Laureate of the state of Indiana in 2018-19.  

Full Akron Poetry Prize competition guidelines may be found here.

2021 Akron Poetry Prize finalists and semifinalists

Note: Numerous finalist and semifinalist manuscripts were withdrawn during the contest deliberations and are therefore not listed below. Congratulations to those authors who had collections accepted elsewhere, and much gratitude to all who sent work to this year’s contest.

2021 Finalists

The Birthday of the Dead, Rachel Abramowitz

Close Red Water, Emma Aylor

Muzzle, Brian Clifton

The Magician, Jose Hernandez Diaz

Sex Depression Animals, Mag Gabbert

Beehive State, Christian Gullette

The Worry Dimension, Brett Hanley

Softly Undercover, Hanae Jonas

earthwork, Jill Khoury

Carson, Molly Kugel

Reel, Colleen O’Brien

Fabulosa, Karen Rigby

Dear Outsiders, Jenny Sadre-Orafai

Dutch Landscapes of the American Great Lakes, Max Schleicher

A Real Man Would Have a Gun, Stacey Waite

the arms we grew up in, Sam Herschel Wein

2021 Semifinalists

Monster Movie, Laura Bandy

The People We Love Are Disappearing Around Us, Erica Bernheim

Worn Smooth Between Devourings, Lauren Camp

D F E A R John Ashbery, Dante Di Stefano

Crows & Swallows, Fay Dillof

Away Message, Lizzie Harris

Girls’ Book of Knots, K.D. Harryman

No Spare People, Erin Hoover

The Animal in the Room, Meghan Kemp-Gee

Under the Tented Skin, C. Kubasta

Wilderness, Quinn Lewis

The Always, Robin Reagler

Shed Boat Shed, Andrea Read

The Lexicographer’s Garden, Phoebe Reeves

Mimicries, R. Stempel

Winter Here, Jessica Tanck

In the Library At the End of the World, Julia Thacker