The 2021 Gulf Coast Prizes

Fiction Winner:
“But Mostly Weeding” by Leila Renee

Honorable Mentions:
“Loose Elephants” by Cristian Hernandez
"Beginning of What" by Sam Schieren

Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, on the winner:
Great writing makes you feel. In Leila Renee’s incredible piece, "But Mostly Weeding," I was forced to feel a complex array of longing, anger, weariness, and hope. The prose crackled with wit and attentive sharpness and I felt myself genuinely caring about these characters and their outcomes. A beautifully told story.

Leila Renee is from Milwaukee, WI and is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame, where she received a Fulbright award to teach in South Africa. Her writing has appeared or will appear in Prairie Schooner, Harvard University’s Transition Magazine, Columbia Journal, Electric Literature, The Offing, Fjords Review, BLF Press, and other places. She is a current MFA in Creative Writing student at Syracuse University, where she is working on a novel and a story collection.



Poetry Winner:
"Anxiety" by Lisa Fay Coutley

Honorable Mentions:
“Love in a Time of Revolution” by Samyak Shertok
“Nazca Lines” by Elizabeth Robinson

Natalie Diaz, on the winner:
There is a compelling momentum occurring in the poem, a reciprocal slowing and quickening that offers neither rest or unrest, rather it creates a periphery or surround that is also a sensuality. These sensualities destabilize the body-body and the image-body, and require the non-human body in order to fully exist within the electric anxiety or worry. While it’s easy to pin anxiety to its negative associations, I found a lot of wonder in this poem, a reorganization of what it means to also eat while we evade, or imagine evading, what is hunting us. 

Lisa Fay Coutley is the author of tether (Black Lawrence Press, 2020), finalist for the Foreword Book of the Year Award, Errata (Southern Illinois University Press, 2015), winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition Award, and In the Carnival of Breathing (Black Lawrence Press, 2011), winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition. Her poems have been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Sewanee Writers' Conference, a Rona Jaffe scholarship to the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and an Academy of American Poets Levis Prize, selected by Dana Levin. Recent poetry and prose appears in Black Warrior Review, Brevity, Copper Nickel, Missouri Review, NELLEPoetry Daily, Verse Daily, and Waxwing. She is an Associate Professor of Poetry & Creative Nonfiction in the Writer's Workshop at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.



Non-Fiction Winner:
“Dispatch from the Racial Mountain” by Alison Rollins

Honorable Mentions:
"Buried, Alive" by Katerina Ivanov Prado
“To Malik, with sanctified regret” by Caleb Gayle

Kiese Laymon, on the winner:
"Dispatch from the Racial Mountain" is the winner in the most incredible contest I've ever read for. We saw, and I’m still unsure how, a new reading of Morrison and Hughes, and this remix of the traditional notion of a peak at the top of a generational climb. This would be enough, but the language is as agile and dexterous as I've read in a long time. And it lands brilliantly with a boom, a thump and a hiss I hear weeks after I finished the work. Flat out future classic.

Alison C. Rollins, born and raised in St. Louis city, is a 2019 National Endowment for the Arts Literature fellow. Her work has appeared in American Poetry Review, the New England ReviewThe New York Times Magazine, and elsewhere. A Cave Canem and Callaloo fellow, she is a 2016 recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship. In 2018, she was the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writers' Award; and in 2020, the winner of a Pushcart Prize. She has held faculty as well as librarian appointments at various institutions including the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Colorado College, and Pacific Northwest College of Art. Her debut poetry collection, Library of Small Catastrophes (Copper Canyon Press) was a 2020 Hurston/Wright Foundation Legacy Award nominee. She is currently pursuing a Literary Arts MFA at Brown University.