2023 TWFest Poetry Finalists

Congratulations to our 2023 Poetry winner, runners-up, and finalists. Thank you to Louisiana Poet Laureate Mona Lisa Saloy for judging this year and to Dylan Church, our contest coordinator.

From the top left moving left to right, they are:

Brandon Blue is a black, queer, poet, educator, and MFA candidate at Arizona State University from the D(M)V. He is an assistant editor for Storm Cellar Magazine. His work has or will appear in OutWrite: Pandemic as Portal, Barzakh, [PANK], among others. His work was also featured in the Capital Pride Poem-a-Day event.

Emmory Bridges is a junior psychology major at Loyola University New Orleans who is frequently inspired by her family and home state of Louisiana. She is on staff at Loyola’s newspaper, The Maroon, and their literary magazine, Meraki. Emmory loves to write, paint, bake, walk around Audubon park, and read murder mystery novels (some would say to a concerning extent), but no passion surpasses her love of animals.

Clara Collins was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. She currently lives in Eugene, where she is finishing the final year of her MFA in poetry at The University of Oregon. Her work concerns experiences of girl- and womanhood, specifically those often viewed as private, unattractive, or shameful.

Natalie A. Fourmyle resides in western North Carolina, where she spends her time hiking with her fiancé to waterfalls and wondrous overlooks. When not hiking, you could find her in the kitchen creating a new recipe or on the couch, book in hand and a cat on her lap.

2023 Runner- Up: Dean Gessie is an author and poet of global renown. Among dozens of awards and prizes, Dean won the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award in England, the COP26 Poetry Competition in Scotland, the UN-aligned Poetry Competition in Finland, the Allingham Arts Festival Poetry Contest in Ireland, and a Creators of Justice Literary Award from the International Human Rights Art Festival in New York. Also, in England, Dean was one of twenty international poets included in the Poetry Archive NOW! WordView 2022 Video Anthology.

2023 WINNER: Nia Murat (she/her/hers) is a first-year MFA student in the Poetry cohort at the University of Oregon, where she has the honor of studying under esteemed faculty. For her undergraduate degree, Nia completed her BA in creative writing and literature with honors from Queens University of Charlotte. She is currently working on expanding her poetry portfolio with the intent to publish further works and is honored to have her first collection Diasphoric Hips, received at the Tennessee Williams Festival.

Em Palughi is a poet from Southern Alabama. She is a second year MFA student at Vanderbilt University. Her work can be found in Black Warrior Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology, and Oakland Arts Review. Her poetry reflects her fraught relationship with the Southern landscape, her queer identity, and her family. 

Emily Pease lives in Williamsburg, VA. Her short fiction has been published in Witness, The Georgia Review, The Missouri Review, Shenandoah, Narrative Online, Kenyon Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. Her collection of stories, Let Me Out Here, won the C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize at Hub City Press in 2018. Her poems appear in One, Litmosphere, Rattle (June 2021 Ekphrastic Challenge winner), and Juniper, and are forthcoming in the Florida Review. She received an MFA from the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers.

Mal Profeta is a disabled writer/editor who works in public health. They are the recipient of the Fugue Poetry Prize, a Fulbright, and a fellowship from New York University, where they completed an MFA and served as poetry editor of Washington Square Review.

2023 Runner-Up: Bronwyn Tuohy recently relocated to the Blue Mountains after living on one of the noisiest roads in Australia. It took the quiet ambiance of her new home and an enforced break from her day job—she broke three bones in her right ankle last year—for her to take up the pen and write solidly during her recovery. It was at this time she wrote Secrets in a Suitcase.