A Brief History of Fruit by Kimberly Quiogue Andrews wins 2018 Akron Poetry Prize

Diane Seuss, this year’s judge, has chosen A Brief History of Fruit by Kimberly Quiogue Andrews of Chestertown, Maryland as the 2018 Akron Poetry Prize winner. The contest received a total of 687 entries in 2018.

In A Brief History of Fruit, Kimberly Quiogue Andrews’s full-length debut, we are shuttled between the United States and the Philippines in the search for a sense of geographical and racial belonging. Driven by a restless need to interrogate the familial, environmental, and political forces that shape the self, these poems are both sensual and cerebral: full of “the beautiful science,” as she puts it, of “naming: trees of one thing, then another, then yet another.” Colonization, class dynamics, an abiding loneliness, and a place’s titular fruit—tiny Filipino limes, the frozen berries of rural America—all serve as focal markers in a book that insists that we hold life’s whole fragrant pollination in our hands and look directly at it, bruises and all.

About the winning manuscript, Seuss comments:

This superb collection offers up history—personal, familial, post-colonial, geo-political, ecological—and indeed the history of fruit, fruit as sustenance, pleasure, exploitable product, as image, parent, love, and wound, “this singular / ripening sweetness, the pleasure and // the horror of it / like a tree so globe-laden // its branches snap / under the weight of it.” There is no eating fruit without decimating its wholeness, and it is this split, especially in regard to the speaker’s bifurcated racial and cultural identity, that generates the book’s intricate architecture and vitality: “I live in a time of competing utopias / There is one wherein the seas stay put    and one / wherein everyone looks like me.” “What does it mean, anyway, to live in a country? I wouldn't know…” The sweep of the language is Pangeaic. It is lush and theoretical, intimate and epic, at times elevated, and then tender, and then conversational. “Is it all right if I just go ahead and say / that the moral of this story / will have something to do / with the scourge of capitalism? Will you keep reading? / Good     okay     then—” The formal variety is remarkable without calling too much attention to itself. There is a sestina, a ghazal, an erasure, and rhyming couplets, poems riven and seamed, and lines with white space gaps as visual caesura, even a form that emulates “a videocamera that fell out of a plane and landed in a pig trough,” but the experiments arise organically from each poem’s purpose and particular emotional hue.

Despite the love that the speaker expresses, her realm is existential loneliness, and she owns it. “It turns out that any constellation    can lead you astray,” she writes, “that any sky   can ask you I’m sorry   do I know you.” Still, her poems do not spin in a cosmic fog. They are solidly placed. In Manila, where the rains are so persistent that “roofs become radios, the gray noise sweeping every   room with a broom made of profound differences.” On American rivers, “their greenish syntax letting all the silk / slip to the floor.” In her grandmother’s kitchen, “the aproned comma of my lola cleaning squid…the smell of the sea—the presence of death, / the preservative of salt—laying its net upon my face.” In an American hunting camp, “(w)hich is a man’s / place, a white man’s place. Which inheritance, / which ‘tradition,’ which deed marked 1804 stashed / in the floorboards. Which America.” These are hard-won poems, fought for, lived through They do not resolve; to resolve would equal self-abandonment. Nor do they locate or repair the single center that will not hold. Instead they inventory a parallel history—“Raspberry, cherry, coconut, santol, passionfruit (dislike), apricot, lychee, mango, blueberry. So many different centers.” The history of fruit.

Kimberly Quiogue Andrews is a poet, literary critic, and the author of BETWEEN, winner of the 2017 New Women’s Voices Prize from Finishing Line Press. A two-time Academy of American Poets prize winner and a Pushcart nominee, her poems have appeared widely, including in Poetry Northwest, Grist, West Branch, Nat. Brut, The Shallow Ends, Tinderbox Poetry Journal and elsewhere, and have been selected for inclusion in Bettering American Poetry. Her essays and criticism have appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, ASAP/J, and elsewhere. She lives in Maryland and teaches at Washington College, and you can find her on Twitter at @kqandrews.

The judge for the 2019 Akron Poetry Prize competition will be Victoria Chang. Victoria Chang’s fourth book of poems, Barbie Chang, was published by Copper Canyon Press in 2017. The Boss (McSweeney's) won a PEN Center USA Literary Award and a California Book Award. Other books are Salvinia Molesta and Circle. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Sustainable Arts Foundation Fellowship in 2017. In 2018, she was awarded the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay Di Castagnola Award for her manuscript-in-progress, OBIT. She lives in Los Angeles and teaches within Antioch’s MFA Program. You can find her at www.victoriachangpoet.com.

Full guidelines may be found here.

2018 FINALISTS
Witch Doctrine—Annah Browning
Beast-Headed—Brian Clifton
Sensorium—Emily Corwin
Through a Small Ghost—Chelsea Dingman
Lush Country—Stevie Edwards
Don’t Let the War Kill Me Twice—Naoko Fujimoto
Blow—Mag Gabbert
Crybaby Bridge—Kathy Goodkin
Moony Days of Being—Nathan Hoks
Screen Tests for [ ] Girls—Rochelle Hurt
Biography of My Automaton—Ginger Ko
Mother/land—Ananda Lima
What Breaks Becomes the Binding Agent—Heather Madden
Wendy Wendy Wendy—Emma Sovich
A Boy’s Guide to Danger & Housework—Noah Stetzer
[Interior] Bustaan—Lena Khalaf Tuffaha
What Follows—H.R. Webster 

2018 SEMIFINALISTS
Origin, Poison, Honey—Stacey Balkun
Rosetta—Karina Borowicz
Portrait with Elegy and Iodine—Andrew Collard
Trap Street—William Cordeiro
Shade of Blue Trees—Kelly Cressio-Moeller
Index of Haunted Houses—Adam Davis
Elegy with an Excess of Splendor—Alyssa Jewell
The Auspices—Elisa Karbin
Occasional Chainsaws in the Valley of Eternal Sorry—Gina Keicher
Uses For Music—Annie Kim
Prepared Ground—Erika Luckert
The Falls—Emily Mohn-Slate
In the Beginning Was A Search Engine—Elizabeth O’Brien
Exceeds Us—Leah Poole Osowski
The Negative—Niina Pollari
The Way Back—Ethel Rackin
When We Break for the Spires and Tall Grass Together—Beth Roberts
Animalignancy—Brandon Rushton
Red Lemons—Sean Shearer
And the Few Things in It—Todd Smith
Can’t You Tell You’re Gold—Natalie Solmer
Guilt Ledger—Ross White
Body of Render—Felicia Zamora