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Winner of The 2022 Orison Poetry Prize

Hussain Ahmed

Orison Books is pleased to announce the results of The 2022 Orison Poetry Prize. Judge Rajiv Mohabir has selected "Blue Exodus" by Hussain Ahmed as the winner from a pool of anonymous finalist manuscripts. Ahmed will receive $1,500 and publication of his collection by Orison Books.

Mohabir also singled out "Another Sky" by Ryler Dustin as the runner-up.


Cory Hutchinson-Reuss, "The Way a Koan Is an Oak" Jeddie Sophronius, "Happy Poems & Other Lies" Marco Yan, "Whoever Told Me Not to Dive Headfirst Dove Headfirst & Knew the Taste"


About the winning manuscript, Rajiv Mohabir writes: "Prayer, refuge, inheritance, and loss, beat in the heart of these poems. Things are not what they seem to be: even in paradise 'a baobab died / with roots inside the ground.' Indeed, these lines ask the reader to interrogate all things in new vocabularies of anguish, born from the inheritor of a war—still being fought in the muscle memory of the people who lived through it. Tension coils in every stanza, relieved by the fulfilment of grammar, yet troubling in the refusal of simple answers. Reading this collection again and again, I come away with the specters of the living and passed, asking me what it means to live as a story lives, to write a life’s ghost into poem. Entreaties to the Divine remain unanswered and unfulfilled as people are sent off to wars or drown in seas trying to escape as the poet reminds us, 'What twirls / over your roof / is either a kite / or a missile.' In these war-haunted skies no simple answers plume into songbirds. Rather the speaker stares into the eyes of history, transforming the unavoidable into a bridge of woven images and into story. The speaker-as-witness-as-refugee claims a place to stand in their mourning and grief, where 'echoes are translated into qasida.' Like the speaker calls out to the blackbird, I find myself calling out to the poet, 'saa magni dear bird, / tell me a story.'"


Hussain Ahmed is Nigerian, poet, and environmentalist. He holds an MFA from the University of Mississippi and is currently a PhD student at the University of Cincinnati. His poems are featured or forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Poetry Magazine, The Kenyon Review, A Public Space, and elsewhere. He is the author of a chapbook, Harp in a Fireplace (Newfound, 2021) and poetry collection, Soliloquy with the Ghosts in Nile (Black Ocean Press, 2022).


The 2023 Orison Prizes in Poetry & Fiction will be open for submissions from December 1, 2022 - April 1, 2023. The judges will be Pádraig Ó Tuama (poetry) and David Heska Wanbli Weiden (fiction).


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