The editors of the Beloit Poetry Journal are delighted to announce that final judge Marie Howe has chosen janan alexandra’s “on form & matter” as the winner of the 2023 Adrienne Rich Award for Poetry.
janan alexandra is the daughter of a Lebanese mother and a Beirut-born American father. Her life has been nothing if not peripatetic, with roots scattered in Cyprus, Pakistan, Lebanon, and many corners of the US. Since 2015 she has taught creative writing in community-based literacy centers and schools across the US, working with young folks in Los Angeles, rural Maine, Washington DC, and Southern Indiana. A 2021-2022 Creative Research Fulbright Scholar, janan has also received support from the Martha's Vineyard Institute for Creative Writing, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets. You can read some of her work in Ploughshares, Gulf Coast, The Adroit Journal, The Rumpus, Mizna, and elsewhere. Most recently, janan has landed in New England where she teaches creative writing to young folks, organizes poetry events, and plays fiddle in a folk duo called Sweet May Dews.
Of alexandra's poem, Marie Howe writes, "I kept coming back to this poem—which looks deceptively simple: folding sheets at the communal laundry line. But what it holds is so much: one and many, what is and what might be, you and me, head and heart, garden and the appearance of garden, the present and the future—all bundled into the now of folding, matching one frowning corner of a sheet to another. Form and Matter indeed. And I felt addressed as a reader, folded in, included in this poet's philosophical reverie, and I felt joy."
Along with naming the winner, Howe selected two finalists, Rowyda Amin for "Strange and Ridiculous Life of the Father" and Simone Zapata for "Deep Breath."
The editors also selected as semi-finalists Alexis Jackson’s "Pound Cake," Sophia Chong’s "Taking the L at the Empress Diner,” Stacey Forbes’ "All we have left,” Caroline New’s "The Elephant Mother," Yi Wei’s "Rituals," Maya Salameh’s "The First Mermaid Ever Climbs Out of the Lake & Tells You She Won't Take You Back,” Jessica Cuello’s "Communion," Carling McManus’ "Returning From Provincetown, You Tell Me," and Kimberly Ann Priest’s "Rage Aria.”
The winning poem will appear in an upcoming issue of the BPJ.
We’re grateful to the Adrienne Rich Literary Trust and to all who submitted poems for this year’s contest.