Part of our mission at the Chicago Review of Books is to champion local poets and writers. So every fall, we partner with the Chicago Independent Bookstore Alliance to recognize the best books published by Chicago-based authors in the past 12 months: the annual Chicago Review of Books Awards.
Here are the six finalists for the 2017 award for poetry, along with this year’s judges. Kudos as well to Chicago-based publisher Haymarket Books, which boasts two books on this shortlist.
We’ll announce the nonfiction and fiction shortlists Wednesday and Thursday. The winners will be announced on Friday, December 1 during a free awards ceremony at Volumes Bookcafe. Save the date — an Eventbrite link for free reservations is coming soon.
A People’s History of Chicago
By Kevin Coval
Inspired by Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, Kevin Coval’s latest is a collection of 77 poems — one for each of Chicago’s neighborhoods — about the city’s unsung heroes, dreamers, and martyrs. From the Potawatomi at the dawn of Chicago history to the hip-hop activists of today, Coval’s bold, lyrical poems challenge the “single story” narrative of Chicago too often repeated on the national and international stage.
Kevin is the artistic director at Young Chicago Authors. We interviewed him about his book twice this year — once in print, and again on the second episode of our podcast, “Writers Answer Weird Questions.”
By Eve Ewing
In Electric Arches, lunar aliens invade Chicago and paint everything black, a time machine allows a fifth-grader to speak with her ancestors, and South Side children escape the police on flying bicycles. Eve Ewing’s debut collection of poetry, prose, and art is a moving, wildly imaginative take on everyday life for black Chicagoans on the South and West Sides.
Next fall, Eve will begin teaching at the University of Chicago. She will be featured in an upcoming episode of our podcast, “Writers Answer Weird Questions.”
Civilization Makes Me Lonely
By Jennifer Nelson
Ahsahta Press (Boise State University)
Jennifer Nelson’s second book of poetry is a fierce indictment of normalization, and a call to resist the forces of racism, sexism, and capitalism. She looks at our collective artistic past through the bifocal lens of a poet and a scholar, leading to surprising and sometimes tragic insights on every page.
Jennifer is an assistant professor of art history, theory and criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
The Price of Scarlet
By Brianna Noll
University Press of Kentucky
Brianna Noll is an alchemist of words and ideas. In her debut collection, she mixes elements of science, history, fantasy, and surrealism, with an emphasis on Japanese culture. In these unpredictable poems, she “gives voice to animate and inanimate figures such as woolly mammoths, star-nosed moles, cells, mylar balloons, and puzzle boxes.”
Brianna is currently a postdoctoral fellow of teaching and mentoring in the Honors College at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).
By Elise Paschen
Red Hen Press
The third collection from Elise Paschen, a member of the Osage nation, is a playful exploration of form. In pantoums, villanelles, tritinas, and free verse, The Nightlife captures the sometimes dreamlike, sometimes sobering qualities of nature, love, and pain, laced together via hints of an over-arching narrative.
Elise teaches at the MFA writing program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is the co-founder of Poetry in Motion.
By Christina Pugh
Four Way Books
In Perception, Christina Pugh turns her eye to everyday objects — like flowers, shop signs, and wallpaper — and unveils layer after layer of meaning and memory. It is a striking, poignant reminder of how rarely we see the depth of the world around us.
Christina a professor in the PhD program in creative writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and consulting editor for Poetry magazine.
Judges for the 2017 Chicago Review of Books Awards 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
- Kristen Raddatz, CHIRB Executive Editor
- Sara Cutaia, Editor-in-Chief at Arcturus magazine
- Rachel León, Editor at Arcturus magazine
- Aram Mrjoian, CHIRB contributing staff and TriQuarterly fiction editor
- Adam Morgan, CHIRB Editor-in-Chief
Save the date for Friday, December 1. We’re hosting a huge party at Volumes Bookcafe in Wicker Park to announce the winner of each category. Don’t worry, it’s 100% free, and there won’t be any panels this year, so you’ll get to spend 90% of the time drinking and socializing. An Eventbrite link to reserve your spot is coming soon (members will receive advance registration privileges).
Congrats again to last year’s winners and finalists!
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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.