Announcing the winner & finalists for the Peseroff Poetry Prize!

Congratulations to the WINNER of the 2021 Peseroff Poetry Prize, Josh Cake! His poem, "i am tired of being pizza," was chosen by finalist judge Chen Chen. Josh Cake will receive a $1,000 prize as well as a featured publication in our issue.


The following is a statement from the finalist judge on why this piece stood out in the selection process:


"I love the way this poem explores mixed race identity through the extended metaphor of a pizza being sliced up into fractions—pointing out how race has been problematically constructed as something quantifiable, divisible, a math problem to be dissected rather than a complicated lived experience. There’s fantastic humor and playfulness in this poem and the way slashes are used works so effectively, too, in underscoring the subject of fractions."


Photo of Peseroff prize-winning poet Josh Cake.
photo credit: Kate Cameron

Josh Cake was born and raised in Melbourne, Australia, on the unceded land of the Kulin Nation, and has worked in poetry, comedy, and music in Australia, Italy, and France. Josh creates work for a variety of contextsfrom Canadian spoken word to Icelandic cabaret, from US video games to Chinese universities, from French theatres to Australian art galleries. His poetry has been published in Cordite, Poems by Young Australians, Pendemic, and Messages from the Embers.



We would also like to congratulate all our finalists, who will also be published in our next issue of Breakwater Review.


Runner-up:

Saleem Hue Penny, "the haints of the Jesús María visit their insurance agent at the hospital, before it became a penitentiary, before it became condos”

Saleem Hue Penny (he/him/friend) is a Black 'rural hip-hop blues' poet with a vestibular disorder and single-sided deafness. A Cave Canem Fellow, Saleem’s writing explores how young people of color traverse wild spaces and define freedom on their own terms. He often punctuates his poetry with a drum machine, gouache, and birch bark. Nourished by the Southside of Chicago, Saleem’s spirit stretches across Pisgah Forest, forever rooted in Monck’s Corner swamps.


Finalists (in alphabetical order):

S. Erin Batiste, "Notes from Workshop: An Abecedarian"

S. Erin Batiste is an interdisciplinary poet, storyteller, and author of the chapbook Glory to All Fleeting Things. In 2021 this year, she is the recipient of PERIPLUS, Jack Straw Writers, and the dots between fellowships, and is a Writer in Residence at The Studios at MASS MoCA, Prairie Ronde, and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation. Her other recent honors include fellowships and support from Cave Canem, Bread Loaf Writers' Conference-Rona Jaffe Foundation, Crosstown Arts, and Callaloo. Batiste is a reader for The Rumpus and her own Pushcart, Best New Poets, and Best of the Net nominated poems are anthologized and appear internationally in Michigan Quarterly Review, Puerto del Sol, and wildness, among other decorated journals.


Ashley Dailey, "Mismemory"

Originally from the tiny mill village of Sargent, Georgia, Ashley Dailey is a poet and multimedia artist whose work can be found in Plume Poetry, Aquifer: The Florida Review Online, Peatsmoke Journal, Okay Donkey Magazine, Oddville Press, and elsewhere. She is the winner of an Academy of American Poets Prize and received her MFA from the University of Tennessee, where she served as poetry editor for Grist Journal, taught creative writing, and hosted the virtual reading series Chiasmus. In fall 2021 she will begin pursuing her PhD in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Southern California.


Justin Davis, "Ghazal Dressed as a Mid-2000s Snap Rapper"

Justin Davis is a cultural worker and community organizer based in Memphis, Tennessee. His poems are published in places like Anomaly, wildness, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Apogee Journal, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and BOAAT. He's a past Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. He's an MFA student at the University of Memphis.


Jo Angela Edwins, "Ecdysis"

Jo Angela Edwins has published poems in various venues including descant, New South, Whitefish Review, and Red Rock Review. Her chapbook, Play, was published in 2016. She has received prizes from Winning Writers, Poetry Super Highway, and the SC Academy of Authors and is a Pushcart Prize, Forward Prize, and Bettering American Poetry nominee. She teaches at Francis Marion University in Florence, SC, where she serves as poet laureate of the Pee Dee region of South Carolina.


Stephanie Niu, "Garbage Boogie"

Stephanie Niu is a poet from Marietta, Georgia who earned her degrees in symbolic systems and computer science from Stanford University. Her poems have appeared in The Southeast Review, Poets Reading the News, Storm Cellar, and Portland Review. She works as a product manager in New York City.


Connor Simons, "a hospice erasure"

Connor L. Simons is a queer poet and translator based in the Twin Cities. He is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Minnesota, where he previously worked as Poetry Editor for the Great River Review. His work has most recently appeared in the Colorado Review, Poetry Northwest, the Bookends Review, and is forthcoming in the Brooklyn Review.


tae min suh, "Late August in Galveston, Texas"

tae min suh is on lenapehoking territory in nyc. they’re currently interested in the convergence of Western and non-Western practices of health/healing; anti-imperial explorations of memory & history; and the role of corean drumming and other music in dissent & movement.



You can read the winning poem, all the poetry finalists, and more in our forthcoming issue of Breakwater Review, which will be released on June 1, 2021.