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Past Book Award Winners





“David Mills’ book, Boneyarn (The Ashland Poetry Press) is a compilation of masterful, well-researched poems that, in the author’s words, stand ‘in remembrance of the 15,000 unnamed enslaved and free blacks, indentured whites, and Native Americans interred in New York City’s Negro Burial Ground, America’s oldest and largest slave cemetery: 1712 – 1795.’ (Today, the cemetery is known as the African Burial Ground.) At times, in this collection, Mills enters a speaker’s body and soul by focusing on the intense pain endured. The highlighted figures range from an enslaved cook to an indentured teen, employed as a chimney sweep apprentice. The author’s command of the persona poem is exceptional. Like the work of such notable poets as Ai and Robert Browning, Mills’ monologues are ingenious and profound. (…) Collectively, the poems in Boneyarn enlighten the reader’s awareness of a soul-stirring historical time that should never be forgotten.” Dr. Carolyn Kreiter-Foronda, Final Judge, Virginia Poet Laureate, Emerita, 2006-2008

About the author:  David Mills holds a BA (cum laude) from Yale University, an MFA from Warren Wilson College, and an MA from New York University. He has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, The American Antiquarian Society, The Queens Council on the Arts, and many other organizations. He has recorded his poetry for ESPN and RCA Records, and he lived in the landmark Harlem home of Langston Hughes for three years. His work has been widely published in such journals as Ploughshares, Colorado Review, Crab Orchard Review, Main Street Rag and Jubilat, and his previous books are The Sudden Country, The Dream Detective, and After Mistic. He wrote the audio script for MacArthur-Genius-Award Winner Deborah Willis’ curated exhibition: Reflections in Black:100 Years of Black Photography, which showed at the Whitney and Getty West Museums.


First Finalist:

A Fine Yellow Dust

By Laura Apol (Michigan State University Press)


Second Finalist:

Anything Happens

By Cheryl Wilder (Press 53)


Semi-Finalists (in alphabetical order, by author)

Wasteland Honey by Robert Clinton (Circling Rivers Press, 2021)
At the Bottom of the Year by David Craig (Angelico Press, 2021)
Sweetgum & Lightning by Rodney Terich Leonard (Four Way Books, 2021)
Dolls by Claire Millikin (2Leaf Press, 2021)
Flying Yellow by Suzanne Rhodes (Paraclete Press, 2021)
Somewhere to Follow by Paul Willis (Slant Books, 2021)

Congratulations! And our gratitude to the authors of the many excellent books submitted to the competition, as well as their presses.

Winner of the 2021 Poetry Society of Virginia/

North American Book Award

Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry by John Murillo


“It’s become almost commonplace to hear poems praised for their courage, unflinchingness, or steady gaze— perhaps indicating that such works give words to what others are unwilling or unable to say, that somehow they have steeled themselves in order not to look away. But the poems in John Murillo’s Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry are some of the most powerful I’ve encountered, precisely because of how the poet offers his own vulnerabilities of seeing and feeling: “What/ I want, I’m not supposed to.” Into our urban landscapes afire with violence and lamentation, he presses steadily forward toward each flailing, and asks us: Stay with me now.”  Luisa A. Igloria, Final Judge, Virginia Poet Laureate, 2020-2022.


About the author:  John Murillo is the author of Up Jump the Boogie (Cypher 2010, Four Way 2020), finalist for both the Kate Tufts Discovery Award and the Pen Open Book Award, and Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry (Four Way Books 2020), winner of the 2021 Poetry Society of Virginia North American Book Award. His honors include a Pushcart Prize, the J Howard and Barbara MJ Wood Prize from the Poetry Foundation, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Cave Canem Foundation, and the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Prairie Schooner, and Best American Poetry 2017, 2019, and 2020.  He is an assistant professor of English at Wesleyan University and also teaches in the low residency MFA program at Sierra Nevada College.


Of the top three books, Igloria writes:  “I narrowed my final selections to these three titles— which to me were the most compelling, the most richly attentive and nuanced. Reading gave manifold pleasures: from intellectual, linguistic, and emotional resonance, to delight in these poems’ image- and music-making. These books stood out for their ability to speak directly to the reader (without ever abandoning the desiderata of poetry) about some of the most complex and important questions of our time—among them, how we address race, gender, justice, and power; the losses wrought by institutionalized violence; and our relationship to history and tradition.”


First Finalist: The Museum of Small Bones By Miho Nanaka (Ashland Poetry Press)


Second Finalist: And So Wax Was Made & Also Honey By Amy Beeder (Tupelo Press)


The Poetry Society of Virginia is honored to announce the winner, finalists, and semi-finalists of the 2021 PSV North American Poetry Book Award. We received numerous outstanding books from across the continent. All entries were carefully read by a panel of ten judges, and the final decision was made by Luisa A. Igloria, Virginia Poet Laureate, 2020-2022.

First Place Winner: Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry by John Murillo (Four Way Books)

John Murillo

Four Way Books » Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry

In Silence and In the Streets: A Conversation with John Murillo – The Adroit Journal

First Finalist: The Museum of Small Bones by Miho Nonaka (Ashland Poetry Press)

Museum of Small Bones – Ashland Poetry Press.

Miho Nonaka’s “The Museum of Small Bones” reviewed by Chelsea Wagenaar – Plume (

Second Finalist: And So Wax Was Made and Also Honey by Amy Beeder (Tupelo Press)

Amy Beeder 

The following (in alphabetical order) were selected as semi-finalists: 

Arrows by Dan Beachy-Quick (Tupelo Press)

Dan Beachy-Quick Archives – Tupelo Press

Americana Motel by Stephen Benz (Main Street Rag)

Home | stephen-connely-benz

Americana Motel / Stephen Benz | Main Street Rag (

Took House by Lauren Camp (Tupelo Press);

Drowning in the Floating World by Meg Eden (Press 53)

Dense Poems & Socratic Light by John Martin Finlay (Wiseblood Press)

The Poetry & Prose of John Martin Finlay (

John Martin Finlay – Wikipedia

Devil’s Lake by Sarah M. Sala (Tolsun Books);

Arena by Lauren Shapiro (Cleveland State University Poetry Center)

ARENA — Lauren Shapiro (

Arena — Cleveland State University Poetry Center (

Our congratulations to these outstanding poets and to their publishers.

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