The inaugural Chicago Review of Books Awards (“Chirbys,” for short) will celebrate the best books published in 2016 by writers in the Chicago Metropolitan Area. The winners in each category will be announced live on December 8 from 7:30 to 9 p.m. at Volumes Bookcafe in Wicker Park, at a free public awards ceremony and book signing that will feature panel conversations between some of the authors in each category about their books, writing process, and Chicago inspirations.
Every day this week, we’re announcing finalists in four categories:
- Best Fiction (Tuesday)
- Best Creative Nonfiction (Wednesday)
- Best Poetry (Thursday)
- Best Debut (Friday)
The judges (see below for a full list) include representatives from Chicago’s independent bookstores along with editorial and contributing staff at the Chicago Review of Books and Arcturus magazine. In alphabetical order, here is the poetry shortlist.
Kevin Coval and Nate Marshall, 1989: The Number
Haymarket Books, April 2
Kevin Coval is the Artistic Director of Young Chicago Authors and teaches hip-hop aesthetics at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Nate Marshall is the National Program Director of Louder Than A Bomb Youth Poetry Festival and a Visiting Assistant Professor at Wabash College. Both men are editors of The Breakbeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop along with Quraysh Ali Lansana. Last year, Coval and Marshall spent 6 days writing 1989: The Number, an innovative collection of poetry that revisits the year 1989 in music, pop culture, and history.
Tony Fitzpatrick, The Secret Birds
Curbside Splendor, June 14
Tony Fitzpatrick was born in Chicago, and in 1992 opened a local printmaking studio, Big Cat Press, which is known today as an exhibition space for art called Firecat Projects. The Secret Birds is a stunning mix of poetry and art that could have only have come from the man Newcity called the “best iconic Chicago personality now that Studs (Terkel) is gone.” As with most of his work, The Secret Birds is filled with Fitzpatrick’s drawings, found images and objects, and poetry.
Phillip B. Williams, Thief in the Interior
Alice James Books, January 12
Phillip B. Williams is a Humboldt Park native and the poetry editor of the online journal Vinyl Poetry. He is a Cave Canem graduate and the author of two previous chapbooks. Thief in the Interior was inspired by the brutal murder of a young man in Brooklyn, and the resulting poems are heartbreaking. By addressing contemporary racism and hate crime head-on, Williams is an essential and unstoppable force in 21st century poetry.
Abigail Zimmer, child in a winter house brightening
Tree Light Books, July
Abigail Zimmer is the poetry editor at The Lettered Street Press and the author of two additional chapbooks. A reimagining of the Ugly Duckling fable, child in a winter house brightening is a hybird long poem that offers a glimpse—sometimes gentle, sometimes haunting—at the not-quite-natural world in a singular, ghostlike voice. Our sister publication, Arcturus magazine, published an excerpt from child in a winter house brightening last month.
Judges for the 2016 Chicago Review of Books Awards—who selected the finalists out of nearly 100 books—include many representatives from Chicago’s independent bookstores:
- Suzy Takacs, The Book Cellar
- Rebecca George, Volumes Bookcafe
- Thomas Flynn, Volumes Bookcafe
- Timothy Moore, Unabridged Bookstore
- Sara Hollenbeck, Women & Children First
- Jeff Deutsch, Seminary Co-op and 57th Street Books
- Linda Quinde, Seminary Co-op and 57th Street Books
- Wayne Giacalone, RoscoeBooks
As well as members of the Chicago Review of Books and Arcturus magazine editorial and contributing staff:
- Adam Morgan, CHIRB and Arcturus Editor-in-Chief
- Kristen Raddatz, CHIRB Executive Editor
- Lauren Stacks, CHIRB Fiction Editor
- Sara Cutaia, Managing Editor at Arcturus magazine
- Rachel León, Visual Arts Editor at Arcturus magazine
- Lori Rader-Day, Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning Novelist
- Christina Kloess, CHIRB contributing staff
- Tovah Burstein, CHIRB contributing staff
Stay tuned for the remaining shortlist announcements later this week!
Adam Morgan is the founding editor of the Chicago Review of Books and the Southern Review of Books. His essays and criticism have appeared in The Paris Review, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Chicago magazine, and elsewhere.