2022 Akron Poetry Prize Winner

2022 Akron Poetry Prize Winner Lena Khalaf Tuffaha


Adrian Matejka, this year’s judge, has chosen Something About Living by Lena Khalaf Tuffaha of Redmond, Washington, as the 2022 Akron Poetry Prize winner. The contest received a total of 583 entries in 2022.

About the winning manuscript, Matejka comments:

It’s nearly impossible to write poetry that holds the human desire for joy and the insistent agitations of protest at the same time, but Lena Khalaf Tuffaha’s gorgeous and wide-ranging new collection Something About Living does just that. Her poems interweave Palestine’s historic suffering, the challenges of living in this world full of violence and ill will, and the gentle delights we embrace to survive that violence. Khalaf Tuffaha’s elegant poems sing the fractured songs of Diaspora while remaining clear-eyed to the cause of the fracturing: the multinational hubris of colonialism and greed. This collection is her witness to our collective unraveling, vowel by vowel, syllable by syllable. “Let the plural be a return of us” the speaker of “On the Thirtieth Friday We Consider Plurals” says and this plurality is our tenuous humanity and the deep need to hang on to kindness in our communities. In these poems Khalaf Tuffaha reminds us that love isn’t an idea; it a radical act. Especially for those who, like this poet, travel through the world vigilantly, but steadfastly remain heart first.

Lena Khalaf Tuffaha is a poet, essayist, and translator. She is the author of Water & Salt (Red Hen Press), which won the 2018 Washington State Book Award, and the forthcoming Kaan & Her Sisters (Trio House Press). She is also the author of two chapbooks, Arab in Newsland, winner of the 2016 Two Sylvias Prize, and Letters from the Interior (Diode Editions). Tuffaha served as the inaugural Poet-In-Residence at Open Books: A Poem Emporium, in Seattle in 2017–18. She is the recipient of a 2019 Artist Trust fellowship, and her writing has been published in journals including Los Angeles Review of Books, Michigan Quarterly Review, the Nation, and Poets.org and in anthologies including The Long Devotion, Alone Together, and Bettering American Poetry. She is the curator and translator of the Poems from Palestine series at The Baffler magazine. For more about her work, visit www.lenakhalaftuffaha.com.

The judge for the 2023 competition will be Sandra Beasley. Beasley is the author of four poetry collections—Made to Explode, Count the Waves, I Was the Jukebox, which won the 2009 Barnard Women Poets Prize, and Theories of Falling—as well as Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl: Tales from an Allergic Life, a disability memoir and cultural history of food allergies. She served as the editor for Vinegar and Char: Verse from the Southern Foodways Alliance. Honors for her work include the 2019 Munster Literature Centre’s John Montague International Poetry Fellowship, a 2015 NEA fellowship, and five DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities fellowships. She lives in Washington, DC.

Akron Poetry Prize competition guidelines may be found here.

2022 Akron Poetry Prize Finalists

Love Sick Century, Elly Bookman

Before We Had Our Faces, Chris Campanioni

Afterlife, Michael Dhyne

The Movement of Fields, Ryler Dustin

Glance, Chanda Feldman

Somewhere Horses, Jasmine Khaliq

Where Land Is Indistinguishable from Sea, Helena Mesa

A Natural History of Oblivion, Trey Moody

Seasons of Dust, Daniel Moysaenko

bury your horses, Brandon Rushton

Redress, Jess Smith

Winter Here, Jessica Tanck

Mountain Amnesia, Gale Thompson

The Color of Us, Spring Ulmer