"Late Self-Portraits" Wins Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize

February 26, 2021

Congratulations to Mary Morris, whose manuscript Late Self-Portraits was selected by judge Leila Chatti as winner of the 2020 Wheelbarrow Books (Established) Poetry Prize. Morris will receive a $1,000 prize, and Late Self-Portraits will be published by MSU Press in 2022.

"Late Self-Portraits is a riveting look into the lives—and bodies—of those suffering from illness," writes judge Leila Chatti. "The speaker shapeshifts, taking on the persona of various women throughout history—Joan of Arc, Frida Kahlo, Marie Curie—as well as famous men (Francis Bacon, Dylan Thomas, Jorge Luis Borges). These poems voyage to vibrant, distant places in time and geography, melding past and present. A son wanders the historic streets of Paris at night, and by day enters a cathedral’s contemporary glass confessional. A dying mother is a Madonna lighting a cigarette and checking Facebook. A man with HIV bench presses in a 'modern Colosseum' among men whose bodies are chiseled like stone. I am moved by the clarity of vision and the tenderness of touch in these poems. This is a speaker who looks closely and renders the seen and unseen masterfully, her gaze lingering on an image just long enough for us to see it, too. When the speaker turns her attention inward, what is revealed is a devastating portrait of illness, a body wracked by seizures. Sanctuary or battle, this body insists on being attended to—raucous with ghosts, horses, pain. These poems sizzle with energy and urgency. I could not look away."

Finalists for this ninth round are We Can't Tell if the Constellations Love Us by Jennifer Boyden, The Ice Hours by Marion Boyer, Fire Season by Jeff Knorr, and Kaan and her Sisters by Lena Tuffaha.

Late Self-Portraits will be the ninth title published under the Wheelbarrow Books imprint.

Established in 2016, Wheelbarrow Books is an imprint of the RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU, with publication and distribution by the MSU Press. The Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize is awarded to one emerging and one established poet annually.

Full announcement here.