Prairie Schooner announces book prize winners

Prairie Schooner Book Prize winners for 2012 are (left) Xhenet Aliu and Ricardo Menes.
Prairie Schooner Book Prize winners for 2012 are (left) Xhenet Aliu and Ricardo Menes.

Prairie Schooner, the national quarterly literary magazine at UNL, has announced the 2012 winners for its annual awards for books of short fiction and poetry. The competition, in its 10th year, selected winners from more than 1,100 submissions from around the world.

The Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction goes to Xhenet Aliu of Athens, Ga., for her manuscript, "Domesticated Wild Things." She will receive a $3,000 prize and publication by the University of Nebraska Press. This year's winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry is Orlando Ricardo Menes of South Bend, Ind., for his manuscript, "Fetish." He also will receive a $3,000 prize and publication by the University of Nebraska Press.

"There is a sophisticated brand of humor in Aliu's fiction -- her stories in 'Domesticated Wild Things' will make you laugh out loud but will not burden you with any sense of guilt that might come from laughing at people," said Kwame Dawes, UNL professor of English and Glenna Luschei editor of the Prairie Schooner. "Her affection for her beautifully rendered characters is contagious, making the humor affirming and humanizing. These are entertaining and insightful stories full of surprises and revelations. We are thrilled to publish what will be her debut collection."

Aliu's fiction has appeared in journals such as Glimmer Train, Hobart and The Barcelona Review, and she has received multiple scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation. A former secretary, waitress, entertainment journalist and private investigator, she earned her bachelor's degree from Southern Connecticut State University and master of fine arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

"I remember when I was about 20 years old, before I'd ever submitted a story or even heard the term 'literary magazine,' picking up a copy of Prairie Schooner at my local Barnes & Noble and feeling awed that a forum of amazing contemporary writing like this existed," Aliu said. "I'm even more awed now that my own collection will get to wear Prairie Schooner and the University of Nebraska Press on its cover. I couldn't imagine a better outfit for my book."

"Menes is an accomplished poet who has managed to evolve a language that seems determined to encapsulate the broadest and most compelling notion of America that embraces both the northern and southern continents," Dawes said. "His poems reveal a formal dexterity that is awe inspiring, and his poems are rich with delight and full fascination with the human experience. His is a bold and inventive imagination. Our readers, we believe, will share our enthusiasm for 'Fetish.'"

Menes was born in Lima, Peru, to Cuban parents but has lived most of his life in the United States. Since 2000 he has taught at the University of Notre Dame where he now directs the creative writing program. He is also the author of "Furia (Milkweed)" and "Rumba atop the Stones" (Peepal Tree). His poems have appeared in several literary magazines, including The Hudson Review, Callaloo, The Antioch Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Alaska Quarterly Review, Indiana Review, Image and Shenandoah. Menes is editor of "Renaming Ecstasy: Latino Writings on the Sacred" (Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe) and "The Open Light: Poets from Notre Dame, 1991-2008" (University of Notre Dame Press). Besides his own poems, Menes has published translations of Spanish poetry, including "My Heart Flooded with Water: Selected Poems by Alfonsina Storni" (Latin American Literary Review Press). He is the recipient of a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Judges for poetry were Hilda Raz, Peggy Shumaker and David St. John. The judges for fiction were Sherman Alexie and Colin Channer.

The competition runs annually Jan. 15 to March 15. Submission details and a list of past winners are available at

Founded in 1927, Prairie Schooner is published with the support of the Department of English at UNL. It publishes fiction, poetry, essays and reviews by beginning, mid-career and established writers. For more information, visit

— James Redd, Prairie Schooner