2020 JANET B. MCCABE POETRY PRIZE WINNERS: Laura Budofsky Wisniewski and Yvette Siegert

2020 JANET B. MCCABE POETRY PRIZE WINNERS: Laura Budofsky Wisniewski and Yvette Siegert

July 22, 2020

Ruminate Magazine is excited to share with you the winners of the 2020 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize. The winning poems were selected by our final judge Katie Peterson.

FIRST PLACE : “The Difference Between a Year and a Lifetime” by Laura Budofsky Wisniewski

Laura Budofsky Wisniewski is the author of the  chapbook, How to Prepare Bear (2019 Redbird Chapbooks). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Image, Hunger Mountain Review, Mizmor Anthology, American Journal of Poetry, Saranac Review, Confrontation and other journals. She is winner of the 2019 Poetry International Prize, a Tiferet 2019 Writing Contest finalist, a 2018 Pushcart nominee and winner of the 2014 Passager Poetry Prize. Laura lives and writes in a small town in Vermont.

Katie Peterson writes: This poem’s voice has the tender intensity of a person making music of their thoughts, singing to themselves – as much as the poem signals a kind of distress, it enjoys its ability to compare, to argue, to self-soothe. Even though “The Difference Between a Year and a Lifetime” has longing within it, its keynote is actually a kind of bravado that’s centered in being present with less than perfect circumstances: “You can do it for a year.” I love the combination of introspection and witty dialogue: in isolation, we have had to charm ourselves, haven’t we? 

SECOND PLACE: Papier-mâché by Yvette Siegert

Yvette Siegert is a CantoMundo Poetry Fellow and currently a PhD candidate in Medieval and Modern Languages at Merton College, University of Oxford. Her work appears in The White Review, Boston Review, Magma, Stonecutter, The Scores, Gulf Coast, North American Review, Oxford Review of Books, and the forthcoming Broken Sleep Anthology of Immigrant Writing. She received the 2019 Lord Alfred Douglas Poetry Prize, and her translation of Alejandra Pizarnik’s late poetry, Extracting the Stone of Madness: Poems 1962–1972 (New Directions), won the Best Translated Book Award for Poetry.

Katie Peterson writes: Among other things, this poem is a family portrait. A portrait uses a moment to make a family cohere – which doesn’t mean the picture makes sense. Here, the writer makes a fragile, surreal, dream-like unity, since we’re at some kind of end of the world. The scene reminds me of Aeneas’ departure from Troy: as he loses the people and the city he loves, he loses a language for talking about both. Here, the voice of the poem spins around the same problem, making the subject of the portrait not just the family but the words they have left. A strangely buoyant form of sorrow here, like paper going up in flames. 


Honorable Mentions 

“In Another Dream Where My Father Apologizes” by Hajjar Baban

Hajjar Baban is the author of the chapbook Relative to Blood (Penmanship Books, 2018) and What I Know of the Mountains (Anhinga Press, 2019). A Pakistan-born Afghan Kurdish poet, she is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a current MFA in Poetry candidate at the University of Virginia. Hajjar has work appearing in The Adroit Journal, Wildness, and Asian American Writers’ Workshop, among others. She spends most of her time avoiding running from herself. You can find her work here: hajjarbaban.com

Katie Peterson writes: Many of the poems I read shared an intuition that we are always translating, we are always working between languages. Is this intuition particular to American English, a language that’s absorbed so many words from other cultures, or is it always true, because individuals have languages of their own? Perhaps English gives a poet a particularly rich opportunity to earn the wisdom of this predicament. This poem’s two columns are translations of each other. They also enact a conversation with the self that mirrors a conversation between a child and a distant father. I love the sense of human presence, and the gentleness. 

“The Sparrow in the Banquet Hall” by Betsy Sholl

Betsy Sholl’s ninth collection of poetry, House Sparrows: New and Selected Poems, will be out next winter (2019). Her eighth collection Otherwise Unseeable (University of Wisconsin Press, 2014), winner of the Four Lakes Prize and the 2015 Maine Book Award for Poetry. Her previous volumes include Rough Cradle (Alice James Books, 2009) and Late Psalm (University of Wisconsin, 2004). Don't Explain won the 1997 Felix Pollak Prize from the University of Wisconsin, and The Red Line won the 1991 AWP Prize for Poetry. She is a founding member of Alice James Books and published three earlier collections with them.  Among her awards are a fellowship from  the National Endowment of the Arts, and two Maine Writer's Fellowships. She teaches in the MFA in Writing Program of Vermont College of Fine Arts and served as Poet Laureate of Maine from 2006 to 2011.


Katie Peterson Writes: This poem was written by a storyteller who likely feels less at home in the 21st century than in some Robert Duncan like imagination of the 13th. But the poem’s stately couplets can’t manage to hide the tremendously sweet, almost naïve, child-like openness to the unknown. Even though that openness is feared, it’s also relished. “Oh angel-dressed-in-your-sparrow-clothes:” what delight and hope in that!  



Brian Sneeden, "Darkness Passional"

Catherine Hodges, "All Day the Stars"

Charley Gibney, "Kingdom"

Chaun Ballard, "Today"

David Wright, "Proposed Amendments to the Definition of Mend"

Haolun Xu, "The Heart as Parabola"

Jennifer Barber, "Frequency and Pitch"

Megan Merchant, "Mammography"

Samuel Piccone, "Postpartum"

Samuel Ugbechie, "Reversal"

Suzanne Lummis, "For the Millions"

Thank you to all of you who entered the poetry prize!  

Ruminate Magazine hosts an annual contest for short fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, and visual art. You can read more about our writing contests and art contest here.

Want to read the winning poems? Subscribe and you'll receive the poetry prize issue this coming winter! 

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