We are so pleased to announce the winners of our sixth annual ProForma Contest, judged this year by Joy Priest!
First Place: Christian J. Collier’s “Selah, Lamentation, and America: A Biggie Smalls Cento”
Co-Runners-Up: O-Jeremiah Agbaakin “landscape with a necromancer” and other poems and Joshua Burton’s “Grace & Separation”
See below for more about our winners and for what judge Joy Priest had to say about our first place winner:
First Place and winner of $1200: Christian J. Collier’s “Selah” and other poems:
Christian J. Collier is a 2015 Loft Spoken Word Immersion Fellow. He is an accomplished artist, public speaker, and educator who has shared the stage with members of HBO’s Def Poetry cast, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame members The Impressions, and Grammy-nominee Minton Sparks. Some of his works have been featured on The Guardian, and published in such publications as Quiddity, Apogee Journal, The American Journal of Poetry, TAYO Literary Magazine, and The Seven Hills Review, to name a few.
Judge Joy Priest said this about Christian J. Collier’s work: “This is a poet familiar with received form and the disruption of form; tradition and the rupture of tradition. This poet pulls a canon from the margins into the playground’s center. ‘America: A Biggie Smalls Cento’ capture our country’s mythos as I read it on the evening of July 4th, where fireworks and gunshots pop off together—twinned symbols of this nation’s hybrid history. This poem assumes many forms: the polyvocal Cento is an archive, where samples become a whole mixtape, quoted lyrics a contrapuntal, and the remix an Ode to 90s hip hop. But the poet doesn’t just illuminate the moment we are in, the poet illuminates the continuum in which we have always been. What Biggie was rapping about ominously in the 90s, the speaker feels now, except this time we’re surer that ‘criminals’ is a descriptor for cops. The poet’s artful hybridization of America’s forms and Biggie’s voice geniuses anger, choruses it, canonizes it, honors it, holds—in the same space—words that ‘taste like death / full of grace.’”
Runner-Up: O-Jeremiah Agbaakin’s “landscape with a necromancer” and other poems
O-Jeremiah Agbaakin holds an LL. B degree from the University of Ibadan. His poems are recently published or forthcoming in Palette, Poet Lore, Guernica, Pleiades, North Dakota Quarterly, RATTLE, South Dakota Review, The South Carolina Review, West Branch, Poetry Northwest, Notre Dame Review, among others. He has been nominated for Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net and his manuscript placed finalist for the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poets. He has served as editor/reader for Africa in Dialogue, PANK and Jalada Africa.
Runner-Up: Joshua Burton’s “Grace & Separation”
Joshua Burton is a poet and educator from Houston, TX. He received his MFA in poetry at Syracuse University. His work seeks to navigate the way historical, generational, and familial trauma crosses wires with mental and metaphysical illness. He is a 2019 Tin House Winter Workshop Scholar, 2019 Juniper Summer Writing Institute scholarship winner, 2019 Center for African American Poetry and Poetics fellowship finalist, received the Honorable Mention for the 2018 Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady Chapbook Prize and was a 2020 Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing finalist. His work can be found in Figure1, BODY Literature, Mississippi Review, Gulf Coast, and la Tundra.
Congratulations also to this year’s finalists and semi-finalists! We are so grateful for your work and your continued support of Grist.
The three winners will be published in Grist’s Fourteenth Issue in Spring 2021. To pre-order Issue Fourteen, head over to our Submittable Page.