The Fresno State Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing announced Texas author E.C. Belli has won the 2020 Philip Levine Prize for Poetry book contest, which includes a $2,000 award and publication of her second book, “A Sleep That Is Not Our Sleep.”

The Creative Writing Program sponsors the national prize, which honors Levine, the late poet and Fresno State professor emeritus, a 1995 Pulitzer Prize winner in poetry and the 2011 poet laureate of the United States. The prize is awarded in partnership with Florida-based Anhinga Press, which has published poetry books since 1974.

Levine Prize final judge Cathy Park Hong, an award-winning poet, memoirist and professor at Rutgers University-Newark, chose Belli’s manuscript as the winner. There were 940 submissions. Hong wrote of the winning entry:

“E.C. Belli’s poems are magical. Her poems are intense lyrical distillates, capturing sorrow, or melancholy, or dreamy reverie through the alchemy of music that pulls at my heartstrings. Her poems are lullabies, lamentations, love songs, apostrophes to alter egos that praise the inclement weather of our interior moods. Whimsical, sultry and weighted with grief, ‘A Sleep That Is Not Our Sleep’ is a collection of poems existing on a plane that is between waking and sleeping; it is a portrait of a beautiful and exquisitely perceptive subconscious.”

Hong also noted three manuscripts as contest finalists:

  • “Play|House” by Jorrell Watkins of Iowa City, Iowa.
  • “Things We Lost in the Swamp” by Grant Chemidlin of Los Angeles.
  • “Objects from April and May” by Zena Agha of Brooklyn, New York.

Based in Round Rock, Texas, Belli is the author of the poetry collection “Objects of Hunger,” published in 2019 by Southern Illinois University Press. The book won the Crab Orchard Poetry Series First Book Award.

A bilingual poet and translator, her work has appeared in international literary magazines and journals such as PO&SIE, AGNI, VERSE Daily and others. Belli is the recipient of a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans.

She is the translator of the short novel “I, Little Asylum” by Emmanuelle Guattari, published in 2014 by Semiotext(e), and the poetry collection “The Nothing Bird: Selected Poems” by Pierre Peuchmaurd, published in 2013 by Oberlin College Press. Belli won the Editor’s Choice Award for the Accents Publishing 2010 poetry chapbook contest for her debut chapbook, “Plein Jeu.”

The Philip Levine Prize for Poetry is an annual national book contest open to all poets, except current or former students or faculty of Fresno State. It is coordinated by assistant professor Mai Der Vang as part of the University’s English 242 graduate course,

“Literary Editing and Publishing” that provides students with professional experience in the publishing field. The contest offers a $2,000 prize plus publication and distribution by Anhinga Press, which has co-sponsored the contest since the prize’s inception in 2001.

(Photo by Matt Valentine)