University of Akron Press to Publish Nonbinary Bird of Paradise, a New Poetry Collection by Emilia Phillips

The University of Akron Press is excited to announce that it will publish Nonbinary Bird of Paradise, a new poetry collection by Emilia Phillips. Phillips (they/them/theirs) is the author of four previous poetry collections from The University of Akron Press, including Embouchure (2021), and five chapbooks. Their poetry, creative nonfiction, and book reviews have appeared widely. They are an Associate Professor of Creative Writing in the Department of English; MFA in Writing Program; and the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program at UNC Greensboro.

Nonbinary Bird of Paradise shakes its tail feathers, reveling in a body that cannot be contained in gender binaries. Its opening sequence re-imagines the Judeo-Christian Eve as a queer person who, instead of eating of the proverbial forbidden fruit, conjures a femme lover: “God made man / in his own image, / so they say. / So I made a beloved / in mine,” she says. Eve’s power triggers a jealous God to manipulate Adam toward behaviors of toxic masculinity and to exile the two humans from the Garden of Eden. This retelling, accompanied by other retellings of classical and biblical narratives, indicts the ways in which religion and myth have created and buttressed compulsory heterosexuality. Elsewhere in the collection, Phillips delights in the autobiography of their imagination, the rendering of self after self after self. “Would you stay // & watch me,” Phillips asks in the titular poem, wondering if the beloved will deem them desirable, even though they are masculine without being a man, “even / though / I have no blue velvet / skirt or ruby-raw / throat?”



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 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

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


2021 Akron Poetry Prize Winner

2021 poetry prize winner

Erika Meitner, this year’s judge, has chosen If I Could Give You a Line by Carrie Oeding of Pawtucket, Rhode Island as the 2021 Akron Poetry Prize winner. The contest received a total of 690 entries in 2021.

About the winning manuscript, Meitner comments:

If I Could Give You a Line is not only a brilliant, associative meditation on every kind of conceptual and material line—it’s also a powerful ontological and epistemological treatise on what it means to be an artist and a mother in twenty-first century America. Via ekphrasis, ars poetica, and lyric essay, Carrie Oeding brings the world into these poems with grace and wit; Kim Kardashian and Kiefer Sutherland live alongside Susan Sontag and James Turrell, all coexisting with the detritus of motherhood: wet wipes, strollers, Band-aids, Purell—creating poems that are simultaneously heady and corporeal. With humor, doubt, intelligence, cynicism, and ultimately strength, Oeding fiercely asserts her presence in these poems, pushing against a society that sees mothers as erasures or containers when she writes, “I am painting myself in. I am so not pretend….” 

Carrie Oeding is the author of Our List of Solutions (42 Miles Press), which won the Lester M. Wolfson Prize. She was the recipient of the 2020 Rhode Island State Council on the Arts’ Fellowship in Poetry. Her work has appeared in such places as Bennington Review, Denver Quarterly, Colorado Review, Pleiades, Mid-American Review, and DIAGRAM. She grew up on a southern Minnesota farm and currently lives in Rhode Island.

The judge for the 2022 competition will be Adrian Matejka. Matejka is the author of six books, most recently a mixed media collection inspired by Funkadelic, Standing on the Verge & Maggot Brain (Third Man Books, 2021), and a collection of poems Somebody Else Sold the World (Penguin, 2021). His book The Big Smoke (Penguin, 2013), was awarded the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize in poetry. Among Matejka’s other honors are fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, and a Simon Fellowship from United States Artists. He is the Ruth Lilly Professor of Poetry at Indiana University Bloomington and was Poet Laureate of the state of Indiana in 2018-19.  

Full Akron Poetry Prize competition guidelines may be found here.

2021 Akron Poetry Prize finalists and semifinalists

Note: Numerous finalist and semifinalist manuscripts were withdrawn during the contest deliberations and are therefore not listed below. Congratulations to those authors who had collections accepted elsewhere, and much gratitude to all who sent work to this year’s contest.

2021 Finalists

The Birthday of the Dead, Rachel Abramowitz

Close Red Water, Emma Aylor

Muzzle, Brian Clifton

The Magician, Jose Hernandez Diaz

Sex Depression Animals, Mag Gabbert

Beehive State, Christian Gullette

The Worry Dimension, Brett Hanley

Softly Undercover, Hanae Jonas

earthwork, Jill Khoury

Carson, Molly Kugel

Reel, Colleen O’Brien

Fabulosa, Karen Rigby

Dear Outsiders, Jenny Sadre-Orafai

Dutch Landscapes of the American Great Lakes, Max Schleicher

A Real Man Would Have a Gun, Stacey Waite

the arms we grew up in, Sam Herschel Wein

2021 Semifinalists

Monster Movie, Laura Bandy

The People We Love Are Disappearing Around Us, Erica Bernheim

Worn Smooth Between Devourings, Lauren Camp

D F E A R John Ashbery, Dante Di Stefano

Crows & Swallows, Fay Dillof

Away Message, Lizzie Harris

Girls’ Book of Knots, K.D. Harryman

No Spare People, Erin Hoover

The Animal in the Room, Meghan Kemp-Gee

Under the Tented Skin, C. Kubasta

Wilderness, Quinn Lewis

The Always, Robin Reagler

Shed Boat Shed, Andrea Read

The Lexicographer’s Garden, Phoebe Reeves

Mimicries, R. Stempel

Winter Here, Jessica Tanck

In the Library At the End of the World, Julia Thacker