KPI 2020 Poetry Prize Winners

Erica Hunt selects Gash Atlas by Jessica Lawson as the winner of KPI’s 2020 Poetry Prize!

First and second place winning manuscripts for the Kore Press Institute Poetry Prize will be published in Fall 2021, and both receive a cash award of $1500 and $250 respectively. Deep congratulations to all three writers, to all the amazing writers who submitted their work, and to the inestimable poet and judge, Erica Hunt!

Gash Atlas is a nightmarish cartography of life in the Trump era, told (in part) through the experience of a multiracial family whose own internal asymmetries of power and privilege intensify in this landscape. Comprised of poetic and visual ‘maps,’ this darkly comic collection blends literary experiment and political urgency. Already a finalist at Nightboat, this book speaks directly to the cultural present while folding back nested histories of personal and cultural violence this moment contains.

Jessica Lawson (she/her/hers) is a Denver-based poet, scholar, teacher, and activist. Raised in the Midwest, she holds a B.A. from Smith College, where she was the first English student to write a creative thesis. At the University of Iowa, her Ph.D. research examined feminism and the body politics of metaphor in 20th and 21st century literature. Turning back to creative writing following her doctorate, she earned an M.F.A. from the University of Colorado-Boulder, where she served as an editor for Timber Journal. Her poetry and essays have appeared in The Rumpus; Dreginald; Entropy; The Fanzine; Yes, Poetry; Cosmonauts Avenue; The Wanderer; FLAG + VOID; and elsewhere, and her work in Dream Pop was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is a queer, single mother of two children.

Reaction to the news:
I was moving house when I got the call from Lisa that Gash Atlas was selected for the Kore Press Institute’s Poetry Prize, and in my shock and joy found myself in my empty living room, badly needing to sit down, without a single piece of furniture in sight! I am a long-time admirer of Kore’s commitment to intersectional feminism in and through the urgent and experimental projects they support, and to have my own book among that company is incredible. Gash Atlas is as much a political as a poetic work, setting intimate family struggles with race and gender in the wider context of violence in and beyond the Trump era. I can’t imagine a better home for this project than Kore Press and am deeply humbled to have been selected. I still can’t feel my feet.

Second place: My Sisters’ Country by Alexis V. Jackson

Alexis V. Jackson earned her MFA from Columbia University’s School of the Arts in 2018, and her Bachelor of Arts degree in English with a concentration in writing from Messiah College in 2013. While at Messiah College, Jackson studied post-colonial literature/poetry and Shakespeare in Oxford University. Jackson’s interests are in exploring the connectedness of “holy text” and the words of Black women. In Jackson’s work, June Jordan is placed in conversation with Missy Elliott, Hortense Spillers, and the women in Jackson’s own matrilineal lineage. Influenced by M. NourbeSe Philip’s Zong! and Robin Coste Lewis’ Voyage of the Sable Venus, Jackson’s work makes use of found text, explores the concept of planar time/ Black woman omnipresence, and is heavily influenced by her identities as a 90s-raised, darker-skinned, Black woman, Philadelphia native. She has served as a reader for several publications, including Callaloo & Bomb Magazine, and her interests include the tradition of black woman poets, womanist theology, poetic form, and womanism.

Finalist: Chamber After Chamber by Saara Myrene Raappana

Saara Myrene Raappana is a writer, teacher, editor, and communities member living in SW Minnesota. She was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Respected third parties have published two chapbooks (Milk Tooth, Levee, Fever and A Story of America Goes Walking) and many poems-worth of my work in journals (cream city review, Gettysburg Review, Harvard Review, etc.) and anthologies (The Way North, And Here, etc.). She recently has felt a stitch in my heart to write fiction, and the good taxpayers of MN have seen fit to fund this notion. You can find more information at