"An Exodus of Sparks" wins 2024 Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize

February 1, 2024

Congratulations to Allisa Cherry, whose manuscript An Exodus of Sparks was selected by final judge Roque Raquel Salas Rivera as winner of the 2024 Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize. Cherry will receive a $1,000 cash prize and An Exodus of Sparks will be published by MSU Press in 2025.

Allisa Cherry was raised in a rural community in the irradiated high desert along the eastern border of Arizona. She has long since relocated to the Pacific Northwest where she completed her MFA in poetry at Pacific University. Allisa works in workforce development teaching classes designed for immigrants and refugees transitioning to a life in the United States and is an associate poetry editor for West Trade Review. Her writing has appeared in over 40 literary journals including TriQuarterly, Penn Review, The Journal, The Baltimore Review, Rust + Moth, High Desert Journal, EcoTheo, and The Account.  

“An Exodus of Sparks centers on a people, not as an abstract landmass, but as lives and the loss on which they have been built,” writes final judge Salas Rivera. “They pass through these poems, die, resurrect, share cruelty, and partition love. They inhabit a world where new growth is quickly crushed beneath a boot heel. The collection remains attentive to shimmer while delivering an unflinching indictment of an existence where ‘the praise of labor/ is always answered with more labor.’ It is an undeniable force, a book of disillusionment with inherited faith, and an homage to constitutive grief. While reading An Exodus of Sparks, I felt myself drawn into a wholly unfamiliar world, one I will never become part of, and yet I came to feel as if these were my brothers, mothers, and neighbors. It struck me that this was what the best poetry does. Rather than speak to strangers in their language, it guides us through its own. It does not cater to an imagined other, nor assume a common understanding. It creates a parallel space populated by ghosts and the lives they haunt, so they may converse or argue on equal footing.”

Finalists for the 2024 Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize are The Book of Knots by Pervin Saket, Caught in the Principal’s Lens by Roxanne Cardona, Dear Mrs. River-Dragon: Poems from Flint, Michigan by Vivian Kao, For as Long as We Can by K.T. Landon, This Carnivore God by Jennifer Bullis, Vigil by Mary Ardery, and Wonderwork by Sandra Fees.

The Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Series, established in 2016, is an imprint of the RCAH Center for Poetry at MSU, with publication and distribution by MSU Press. The Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize is awarded annually. Submission periods for first books of poetry and those by previously published poets alternate every year. Please see guidelines for details on the upcoming submission period.