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Winners of The 2023 Best Spiritual Literature Awards

Every year, Orison Books publishes Best Spiritual Literature, a collection of the finest spiritually engaged writing that appeared in periodicals the preceding year. The anthology also includes previously unpublished work by the winners of The Best Spiritual Literature Awards. (Subscribe here.)

We are pleased to announce the winners and finalists for The 2023 Best Spiritual Literature Awards in Fiction, Nonfiction, & Poetry! The winners will each receive $500 and publication in the 2024 volume of Best Spiritual Literature.


Winner: Sionnain Buckley, "Like a Prayer" Selected by Jacinda Townsend

Judge's Citation: "Even the villains of this story are painted tenderly, and as the narrator introduces us to Father Tony, we understand the layered trajectories of the narrator, his favorite priest, and the Catholic church itself. The prose of this piece dazzles. As the narrator writes about Father Tony's immersing him in faith, we find the lines 'He smiled, and took a breath to speak, and God if I could have turned away I would have, but there he was in me like a barb, too many layers deep to count.'"

Finalists: Anna Gotlieb, "The Find" & Brooke Turner, "Boom Box"

NONFICTION Winner: Kristin Kovacic, "Litany"

Selected by Kazim Ali

Judge's Citation: "What a beautiful and spare evocation of the vulnerabilities of a human life. The use of the lenses of Claire's Litany and the scars on the author's own body to tell her personal and spiritual history is radiant with the pleasures of hard-won, even painful, experience." Finalists: Mary Allen, "A Death Observed" & Jason Myers, "The Acres I Adore"

POETRY Winner: Merryn Rutledge, "Mary Magdalene on Sunday"

Selected by Diamond Forde

Judge's Citation: "I found myself thinking about this poem long after reading it—its quiet interiority, in particular, which reminded me of Marie Howe's Magdalene: Poems, but this poem is all awe, understated, pervasive—it haunted me, in a good way." Finalists: Laura Reece Hogan, "Utterance of Repair"; Jen Grace Stewart, "Annie's Moth"; Judith Montgomery, "Prayer for Blaze"; Sati Mookherjee, "Gayatri"; & Anne Yarbrough, "Smoke"

About the Winners

Left to right: Sionnain Buckley, Merryn Rutledge, Kristin Kovacic

Sionnain Buckley is a writer and visual artist based in Columbus. Her work has appeared in DIAGRAM, Wigleaf, Strange Horizons, Foglifter, Autostraddle, and others. She holds an MFA in fiction from Ohio State, and has received fellowship support for her work from the Adirondack Center for Writing, the Seventh Wave, and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts.

Kristin Kovacic has won a Pushcart Prize and other awards for her essays, which have been published in magazines such as Table, Brain Child, Full Grown People, and others, and collected in the book History of My Breath. She is also the author of the poetry chapbook House of Women and editor of the anthology Birth: A Literary Companion. She lives in the former St. Matthew Slovak Catholic Church on the South Side of Pittsburgh.

Merryn Rutledge’s poems have appeared widely throughout the world. A collection, Sweet Juice and Ruby-Bitter Seed, is available from Kelsay Books. Merryn’s sonnet for Julian of Norwich appears in the 2023 commemorative anthology All Shall Be Well (Amethyst Press). Rutledge teaches poetry craft, reviews poetry books by women, sings, dances, and works for social justice causes. Writing poems is a third calling, after teaching literature, film studies, and creative writing at Phillips Exeter Academy, and then, with a doctorate in leadership, running a US-based leadership development consulting firm. During that career phase, Rutledge's field research on leadership was published as books, chapters, and in peer-reviewed journals. She lives near Boston, MA.


The 2024 Best Spiritual Literature Awards will be open for submissions from May 1 – Aug. 1, 2024.


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