The Great Lakes Colleges Association is pleased to announce the winners of the 2024 GLCA New Writers Award for Poetry, Fiction, and Creative Non-fiction. Since 1970, the New Writers Award confers recognition on promising writers who have published a first volume in one of the three genres. Judges of the New Writers Award are faculty members of creative writing and literature at GLCA’s member colleges. Winning writers receive invitations to visit GLCA member colleges, where they give readings, meet with students and faculty members, and discuss technique and creativity in the writing process.
The 2024 winner for Poetry is Jesse Nathan, Eggtooth, published by Unbound Edition Press. Our GLCA judges note:
With lush sounds and an opulence of rhymes and off-rhymes, Jesse Nathan’s language evokes the intensity and insistence of memory. The poems are born of an attention to the poet’s native Kansan landscape; they bristle with flora and fieldwork. We learned new words (“sneezeweeds,” what fun!) and new dangers (fire in the farmhouse crawlspace). Language is itself an occasion for many of the poems in Eggtooth and the work almost resists the reader’s ability to keep up, since his poems induce a strong temptation to stop, re-read, wonder over the latticework of each stanza, each carefully lathed line, each rhyme, and even each word: “caruncle,” “catenary,” “hackberry.” His bold yet disciplined experiment with form in this book is deeply motivated, giving these exquisitely made poems a compelling urgency and depth. As the poems’ speaker emerges into adulthood, changed by experience, the language and lines shape-shift, yet never forget where they began. We found joy in these poems.
Judges of the Poetry Award were:
Christopher Bakken, Allegheny College
Derek Mong, Wabash College
Lynn Powell, Oberlin College
The 2024 winner for Fiction is D.K. Nnuro’s What Napoleon Could Not Do, published by Riverhead Books. Our GLCA judges note:
This work had us immersed from start to finish, truly a delight to read. Bold in its scope, Nnuro’s debut novel wrestles with the complexity of the American Dream and the fleeting nature of what it means to succeed. This epic takes readers across oceans and decades in its quest for a sense of home and belonging as it weaves contrasting experiences of America. A tale about the personal, socio-economic and identity struggles of two Ghanian siblings — one brother, who has no luck, can’t get out of Ghana, and this comes to represent his failures. The sister, imbued with luck, gets to America, but is unable to get a Green Card. It is a searing and honest indictment of the American Dream. Here we see Nnuro wield various point-of-view characters as he brings a rich assortment of subjects to the table — from early friendships and coming-of-age cares to PTSD as regarding a minority American veteran, to the age-old multifaceted frictions to be found in relationships between Africans and African Americans. Unlike most traditional novels about emigration, this becomes a novel of return and paints a vivid picture of what it means to leave one’s country and what it could mean to return, especially when the American Dream is given up.
Judges of the Fiction Award were:
Michael Brooks, Hope College
Onyinye Ihezukwu, Earlham College
Ivelisse Rodriguez, DePauw University
The 2024 winner for Creative Non-Fiction is Roger Reeves, Dark Days: Fugitive Essays, published by Graywolf Press. Our GLCA judges note:
Dark Days, poet Roger Reeves’ first collection of nonfiction, is a lyrical, erudite, and impassioned collection of essays that probe the intersection of aesthetics and ongoing racist history. Reeves looks to poetry, music, film, and digital media for both precedents of, and resistances to, the inescapable violence of our pandemic era. He dares us to imagine modes of Black sociality beyond suffering. If we think differently, he suggests, if we are attentive and make space for silence and unknowing, perhaps we could discover new forms of Black ecstasy and self-knowledge, even when everything about our current moment mitigates against it. His urgent and supple essays challenge and provoke. In asking, “What is the necessity of singing during catastrophe?” he brings together T. S. Eliot and Pharoah Sanders, Zora Neale Hurston and OutKast, Michael Williams and the Pentecostal church of his own upbringing, Toni Morrison and the 1619 Project, and his experiences as a poet and teacher. Indeed, one of this inventive collection’s hallmarks is its rigor, its constantly asking us to read more flexibly and fugitively, to embrace joy and beauty and love, to understand that “[t]o survive requires a lyric, ironic, improvisational sensibility” and to recognize that sensibility’s manifold presences in Black life and culture and its necessity for any kind of livable American future. These essays offer a meditation on race through a juxtaposition of powerful literary, political, artistic, linguistic images that speaks to the cacophony of this cultural moment. Driven by a desire for freedom, community, and ecstasy, it brilliantly theorizes through the personal as well as the historical and cultural, showing how inextricable they are, and comes out the other side with the deep wisdom earned through listening and silence.
Judges of the Creative Non-Fiction Award were:
Sarah Heidt, Kenyon College
Marin Heinritz, Kalamazoo College
Michael Weinstein, Earlham College