Alumna Felicia Zamora wins 2016 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize

The Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize is an initiative which supports the publication of a first book by a Latino/a poet residing in the United States. The winner of the seventh edition of the prize is English department alumna Felicia Zamora, (MFA Creative Writing: Poetry, 2012).

Zamora’s winning manuscript, Of Form & Gather, will be published in 2017 by University of Notre Dame Press. In the official announcement on the Letras Latinas blog, Zamora said of the prize, “This prize is a huge honor for me. The work of Letras Latinas and the Institute of Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame impacts Latino/a poetry around the country, and for an emerging poet like myself, helps bring dreams into fruition.”

Noted poet Edwin Torres was the judge for the prize, and had this to say in the award citation,

In its constant unhurried evolution, Zamora has crafted a work that celebrates the impact of form as human revolution — the poem’s breath, the poet’s body — passing over time in a landscape thirsty for passage. The lungs between the lines, one continuous vertibration, page to page, word to other. Zamora’s reminder, is to affect each part of the poem by the organized assemblage of its gathering. Implementing a profoundly gentle humanity that connects to the shifting external across borders, continuously returning to invention — with a charge to the ‘think’, a dare to the heart, that brings the reader to the reader’s own voice. With a language that lives to be lived, she brings about ‘other’ as ‘in’ — to affect change by knowing that change needs to happen underneath our organized paradigms, beneath layers of cognition. This is quietly revolutionary work that throws a gauntlet to the social diaspora. A living palimpsest to newly awaken our social engagement by breathing in a simultaneity of opposing forces — as tectonic plates of hearing that create new fissures inside the unfolding kinetic. (

Felicia Zamora
Felicia Zamora

We recently asked Zamora about Of Form & Gather  – its origins, her process, and being selected for this prize.

Where did this book “come from”? (What are its origins, what compelled you to write it, what was the process for you as the writer).

The art of writing, for me, is this delicate balance between love, obsession, and need. Where did this book emerge? Well, from a place of basic necessity. This is the fourth manuscript I’ve written since graduating from the MFA program at Colorado State University in May 2012. I started the book in January 2015 and finished it, cover to cover, in October 2015. This book poured out of me. It all began with the long poem “& wings made of match sticks.” This 15-page poem of 12 stanzas each sparked the whole manuscript. This poem contemplates the ideas of origins, natural connections, a questioning of our social constructs, self as story, and the effects of what it means to take flight or the lack there of. I was elated when this long poem was part of a chapbook length manuscript that won the 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize from Verse.

To circle back around to your question, I think these poems are intricately personal for me, but in questioning myself, I realized that the act of the question became a shared experience, one all humans go through. Most of the poems in this manuscript are in the second person, necessarily so. The pages are conversations of the self; when the reader’s mind says you, there is an implication that cannot be ignored. A journey, I hope, that spans beyond writer to reader.

What do you want readers to know about this book? How would you describe it to them?

The poems in this book deeply explore what it means to be human, from the inside out. The title of the book, Of Form & Gather, represents both the echoed form used in the physicality of the poems themselves, but also the forms of our body and mind as we navigate the word as both humans and things. Our forms, in all their many designs, dictate how we experience the world. As we voyage this world, we gather: we are always a person and a person becoming simultaneously. Our minds gather information, thoughts, interactions, conversations…all without our permission to create this meta-chatter in constant orbit inside every one of us. These poems pause, take listen to the droning inner voice, and put all the world into question.

I was once told that you shouldn’t use semicolons in poetry. So, of course, most of the poems connect lines and voice/s with semicolons. Not only was this in defiance of being told what not to do (as my partner always tells me that my mantra is, don’t tell me what to do), but formally, the need for the semicolon as a continued, connected thought emerged. Moral of the story: if you don’t like semicolons, you probably don’t want to pick up this book in 2017. Just saying. 

Can you say something about being selected for the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize?

I would love to say I was speechless…but when Edwin Torres said, “You’ve won, Felicia,” I screamed into the phone and jumped around the parking lot I was crossing. Torres spoke to me about why he chose my manuscript with immense generosity and thoughtfulness. To have a renowned poet like Edwin Torres dialogue about my poetry meant the world to me. I am elated and proud to be the newest recipient of the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize. I am honored to receive the recognition of the prize, to have my first poetry book published by the University of Notre Dame press, and to be seen on a national level as a Latina poet. The work of the Institute of Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame impacts Latino/a poetry around the country and for an emerging poet like myself, brings my dream into fruition. I am very fortunate to have my partner, family, friends, and mentors who support me in my pursuit of the poetic-life. None of this would happen without them.

Moby-Dick Made Me Do It, Zamora's first chapbook
Moby-Dick Made Me Do It, Zamora’s first chapbook

Felicia Zamora is the winner of the 2015 Tomaž Šalamun Prize from Verse, and author of the chapbooks Imbibe {et alia} here (Dancing Girl Press, 2016) and Moby-Dick Made Me Do It (Flat Cap Publishing, 2010). Her published works may be found or forthcoming in numerous journals. She is an associate poetry editor for the Colorado Review and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Colorado State University.

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