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.