Backwaters Prize for 2018 has a winner

The Backwaters Press is excited to announce our 2018 winner of the Backwaters Prize. This year’s top prize is $2,500 and publication of the submitted manuscript. The press received over 200 manuscripts from around the world and our dedicated team of readers winnowed that number to the very best of the best, which were then submitted to our gracious judge, Kwame Dawes, for evaluation.


Allison Adair: Ghost Town
Melanie Almeder: The Museum of the Miraculous
Steve Bellin-Oka: Ash Sonata
Gina Franco: The Accidental
Quinn Gilman-Forlini: City of Imaginary Numbers
Carrie Green: Studies of Familiar Birds
William Greenway: Everything We Bring, All We Leave Behind
Michael Lavers: After Earth
Vikas Menon: Skin After Skin
J Stephen Rhodes: Things Not Seen
Carole Stedronsky: Dear Grace

The winning manuscript for the 2018 Backwaters is:
Skin Memory by John Sibley Williams

Our judge Kwame Dawes writes:

“There is a quiet assurance about this collection that speaks to confidence, a kind of intense reflectivity that arrives when a poet is no longer seeking approval or attempting with flash and frenetic earnestness to impress, to startle, to demand praise. Instead, there is a finely shaped vulnerability here, and the intent is to present the self, the imagination full of contradiction and discovery to the reader. These poems move with unhurried purposefulness so that you trust the seething urgency and deliberateness of lines like “memory is a language that’s survived its skin” or the painfully earned benediction and expression of resigned hope in “whatever finally breaks me, I cannot refuse it.” Splendid poetry, never seeking to be pandering in its accessibility, but always, nonetheless, as plainspoken as each complex idea will allow.”

We would like to thank all the poets who submitted their work and congratulate the finalists and Mr. John Sibley Williams for their extraordinary work.

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