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Steel Toe Books is excited to announce our Steel Toe Books Poetry Award Winner selected by judge Kelli Allen and our Steel Toe Books Prose Award Winner selected by judge Brian Leung. The titles will receive publication in Fall 2022. Congratulations to our shortlist and longlist authors, and thank you to all of the authors that submitted to the prize. The 2022 Steel Toe Books Poetry and Prose (fiction and nonfiction) Awards for full-length books will open January 1, 2022. 


Amy Roa                        Radioactive Wolves


Preeti Vangani               Home Science
Freesia McKee              This is Not a Recession
David Moolten              The Moirologist


Dion Oreilly                    Sadness of the Apex Predator
Alan Soldofsky               Charts (For the End of Days)
mark millicent                The Other side of Rabbit Island
Helene Eisman Fisher   STERILE FIELD
Laurie Uttich                  Stripped for Parts
Zein El-Amine                A Travel Guide For The Exiled
Rex Ybañez                    Antithesis
T.J. DiFrancesco            A Catfish that Eats Dogs
Jennifer Anne Moses    Domesticity
Lee Landau                    Drowning at the Source
William Notter               Buying the Farm
Carol Krause                  Tending the Wasteland


Jen Knox                        We Arrive Uninvited


Catherine Gammon      The Gunman and the Carnival

Scott Shibuya Brown     Story by Erasmus Yang

Maggie Smith (Nye?)    Bad Days

Nancy Ludmerer            A Simple Case, Stories


Joanna Acevedo          Smoke Signals

Garrett Ashley               My Grandterh Ran Off

Leslie Grover                 Jim Crows...

John Whalen                 Mighty Soldier of the Moon

Patricia Schultheis        Something Sensed; Someone Summoned

Joan Frank                    Juniper Street

LN Lewis                        DOUBT

Suzanne Manizza Roszak      Brutal Noises

Jacqueline Vogtman   Girl Country

Phillip Mandel              The Get and Other Stories

Jessica Barksdale         Accepted Forms of Ruin

Rob Magnuson             Future of British Seaweeds


Kelli Allen's Citation on Amy Roa's Radioactive Wolves


In “Axolotl,” the opening poem of Amy Roa’s Radioactive Wolves, we are told that the narrator “never got really good at building heavily armored beasts.” The joy in this line is in its un-truth. The poems in this collection are a magnificent assemblage of creatures, armored and tender, toothed and tender-gummed. Roa is a master at breathing new shapes from familiar biological casts so that the emerging menagerie is a bestiary bridging the possible with the fantastical. She blends the vertical and mythic with the literal and grotesque to place animals within and on the edges of environments we all too often take for granted. Roa is as much architect of biology as she is spell-caster. There is terror in these poems, and an extraordinary reverence for the natural world and our unnatural reactions to animals occupying spaces far more ancient than our own.

In the collection’s title poem, Roa asserts “All my dreams take place in a house I’ve never been to.” Roa’s imagery elides genus into the uncategorical, and the resulting structure for containment is beyond naming. As the poems progress Roa is essentially building a new alchemy—one for all living things that might nest on inside another. In these pages, the sources for sound and touch are slick and furred, mutated and morphed. What we may think is a mongoose, is Jupiter in disguise. The compass Roa offers her readers does not point in any directions we might recognize. Instead, she demands we give new names to the spaces we train our eyes and for the animals we find taking-up residence in our dining rooms and in our dreams. These are not poems and stories for the shy or timid—they are whole portraits to be studied close, without blinking, without minding what nips and nuzzles in the viewing.

Radioactive Wolves, is simply, a marvel. There is a new cosmology being inked into the ground with every animal, planet, mineral, and history laid bare in this collection. I will be returning to the wildness in these pages again and again, wishing for us all to “sit here quietly, watch something shiny take off in the distance after it leaves the contents of its voice at your feet.”



Citation on Jen Knox's We Arrive Uninvited

Citation forthcoming. 

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