Awards & Prizes

Kathryn Smith Wins the Fourth Annual Jake Adam York Prize

Milkweed Staff — 02/28/2020

Milkweed Editions and Copper Nickel are thrilled to announce that judge francine j. harris has chosen Kathryn Smith’s book Self-Portrait with Cephalopod as the winner of the 2019–20 Jake Adam York Prize.

Self-Portrait with Cephalopod will be published by Milkweed Editions in February 2021, and Smith will receive $2,000.

Kathryn Smith is the author of the full-length collection Book of Exodus (Scablands Books, 2017) and the chapbook Chosen Companions of the Goblin, winner of the 2018 Open Country Press Chapbook Contest. Her poems have appeared in Bellingham Review, The Journal, Mid-American Review, Poetry Northwest, Redivider, and elsewhere, and she has received an Allied Arts Foundation award, a Spokane Arts Grant Award, and a Pushcart Special Mention. She received her MFA in creative writing from Eastern Washington University and lives in Spokane, Washington, where she also makes collage and mixed media art.

On choosing the book, francine j. harris says:

“Kathryn Smith’s Self-Portrait with Cephalopod is lush and obsessed and frantic and deathy. At times, there is a pre-apocalyptic reverence and reflection in this collection that feels almost monastic. Beautiful and timely work.”

There were 780 submitted manuscripts, which our screeners narrowed to 24 finalists and semifinalists. It’s our opinion that every one of these manuscripts is outstanding and imminently publishable.

The finalists were:

Megan Arlett, The Garden Party
Monique-Adelle Callahan, Rupture
Ina Cariño, Feast
Chelsea B. DesAutels, Metastasis
Bryce Emley, Martyrs
Nicholas Goodly, The Dowser
Darrel Alejandro Holnes, Stepmotherland
Amanda Galvan Huynh, Lotería
Mara Michael Jebsen, The White Year
Rachel Mennies, The Naomi Letters
Emily Pérez, Chambered
Brandon Rushton, The Air in the Air Behind It
Kirk Schlueter, First the Blade
Michael Schmeltzer, In the Great War I Become Cake
John Allen Taylor, To Let the Sun
Laura Villareal, Girl’s Guide to Leaving

And the semifinalists were:

Cassandra Bruner, The Book of Chimeras
Jeremy Clark, The Trouble with Light
Benjamin Dombroski, Murmur
Emily Hockaday, Ghost Signals
Bethany Schultz Hurst, Animal Skin
Stephanie Schlaifer, Well Waiting Room
Aimee Seu, Velvet Hounds

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:

Nicky Beer, author of The Octopus Game
David J. Daniels, author of Clean
Niki Herd, author of The Language of Shedding Skin
Su Hwang, author of Bodega
Douglas Manuel, author of Testify
Wayne Miller, author of Post-
Analicia Sotelo, author of Virgin
Claire Wahmanholm, author of Redmouth

Finally, 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, Copper Nickel was 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.



The Jake Adam York Prize for a first or second poetry collection is a collaboration between Copper Nickel and Milkweed Editions. Copper Nickel‘s goal in instituting the Jake Adam York Prize is to honor Jake‘s name and legacy with a top-tier, ethical book prize that will offer not just publication but also high-quality design, marketing, and strong national distribution­.

Submissions are open annually July 1-October 15