Awards & Prizes

Brian Tierney Wins the Fifth Annual Jake Adam York Prize

Milkweed Staff — 02/18/2021


Copper Nickel and Milkweed Editions are thrilled to announce that judge Randall Mann has chosen Brian Tierney’s book Rise and Float as the winner of the 2020–21 Jake Adam York Prize. Rise and Float will be published by Milkweed Editions in February, 2022, and Tierney will receive $2,000.

Brian Tierney’s poetry appears in Agni, Boston Review, Kenyon Review, New England Review, Best New Poets, and elsewhere. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, and a graduate of the Bennington College MFA Writing Seminars, Tierney was named among Narrative Magazine’s 2013 “30 Below 30” emerging writers. He won the 2018 George Bogin Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America and currently lives in Oakland, California, where he teaches poetry at the Writing Salon.

In choosing Tierney’s book, Mann says: “In these poems of turnpikes, water, and migraine light, filled with grief and life, the poet tells us it’s all right that ‘we don’t love / living.’ Here, precision is a form of metaphor, language a facet of experience; the poet writes with a kind of allusive purity and vulnerability—‘each thought a texture’—that I find moving. Rise and Float is that rare thing, a book of one striking poem after another. If I could write something as tender and nearly perfect as ‘You’re the One I Wanna Watch the Last Ships Go Down With’—a lightning strike, Randall Jarrell would call it—then I might give up writing.”

There were 870 manuscripts submitted to the prize this year, which our screeners narrowed to 18 finalists and 9 semifinalists. It’s our opinion that every one of these manuscripts is outstanding and eminently publishable.

With that in mind, the finalists were:

Erin Adair-Hodges, Hysterical
Ina Cariño, Feast
Su Cho, The Symmetry of Fish
Teresa Dzieglewicz, Something Small of How to See a River
John Goodhue, Johnny
JP Grasser, Pathetic Fallacy
Jane Huffman, Dilemma
Esther Lin, Cold Thief Place
Celeste Lipkes, Radium Girl
Teo Mungaray, Three Bloods
Michael Rutherglen, Summer in Symmetry
Leslie Sainz, Have You Been Long Enough at Table
Kirk Schlueter, First the Blade
Samyak Shertok, No Rhododendron
Jasmine Elizabeth Smith, South Flight
Brian Chander Wiora, Night Maker
Corey Zeller, Vows

And the semifinalists were:

Benjamin Aleshire, Fake Noose
Michael Chang, 寂寞 • 先知 (Lonely Prophet)
Asa Drake, One Way to Listen
L. S. McKee, Tender Creatures
Cintia Santana, The Disordered Alphabet
Elizabeth Scanlon, Myths & Scientists
Katie Schmid, So Long a Thrall
Leigh Sugar, Freeland
H. R. Webster, What Follows

And since screeners do essential—if too often unsung—evaluative work narrowing the field of entrants, we think it’s important to note each year who our screeners are (both to say thank you and in the interest of transparency).

This year’s screeners were:

Ruth Awad, author of Set to Music a Wildfire
Brian Barker, author of Vanishing Acts
Nicky Beer, author of The Octopus Game
Justin Boening, author of Not on the Last Day, But on the Very Last
Dorothy Chan, author of Revenge of the Asian Woman
Rebecca Morgan Frank, author of Oh You Robot Saints!
Benjamin Garcia, author of Thrown in the Throat
John McCarthy, author of Scared Violent Like Horses
Juan Morales, author of The Handyman’s Guide to End Times

Finally, we want to mention something briefly about our process: Since a number of entrants had previously published in Copper Nickel, and since other entrants knew one or more of our screeners on a personal level, we were sure to pass the manuscripts among the screeners until no one was tasked with screening work by anyone she had published or with whom she had a personal relationship. We believe strongly in running an ethical contest, and we work hard to ensure that we continue to do so.