Brionne Janae Wins 2020 Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize
Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon has selected Brionne Janae’s Blessed are the Peacemakers as the winner of the 2020 Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize. The biennial award is for a second book of poetry by a Black poet. Janae will receive $1,000, publication by Northwestern University Press in spring 2022, 15 copies of the book, and a feature reading in New York City.
Of Blessed are the Peacemakers, Van Clief-Stefanon says, “Drawing the monster of inheritance as it shapeshifts, these poems illustrate how our fathers’ sins can make fugitives of us. When an insistence on ‘holding up the blood-stained banner’ has led to autophobia, what then to make of our mother’s tear-stained face in the mirror, her ‘breathing like a gazelle run down?’ Saved in moments by something as simple as the sight of the lemons growing in grandmother’s yard, abandoned in others to ‘don’t touch me’ seeping through the wall, the speaker in this elegiac collection finds in the fact of flesh the hope of praise.”
Brionne Janae is a poet and educator living in Brooklyn. They are a recipient of the 2016 St. Botoloph Emerging Artist award, a Hedgebrook alum, and a proud Cave Canem fellow. Their poetry has been published in Ploughshares, The American Poetry Review, The Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, The Sun Magazine, jubilat, Plume, and Waxwing, among others. Brionne’s first collection of poetry, After Jubilee, was published by Boaat Press. Off the page, they go by Breezy.
The runner-up is Shayla Hawkins, for her manuscript Exquisite by September. Hawkins is a Detroit native, poet, and writer whose works have been in Calabash, tongues of the ocean, The Taj Mahal Review, and Poets & Writers, among other publications. Hawkins has been a featured reader at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival and the Library of Congress. She is a winner of The Caribbean Writer’s Canute A. Brodhurst Prize in Short Fiction and an Archie D. & Bertha H. Walker Scholarship to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Her first book, Carambola (David Robert Books, 2012), was cited by National Book Award-winning author Charles Johnson as “Deliciously sensuous, smart…vivid, and luminous with the life of the spirit.…” She lives in Michigan.
The Cave Canem Northwestern University Press Poetry Prize was launched in 2009 with Reginald Gibbons, John Keene, and Parneshia Jones’s selection of Indigo Moor’s Through the Stonecutter’s Window. The competition will open for manuscripts again in 2022.