The 2020 Gulf Coast Prize in Translation

Congratulations to the winners and honorable mentions for the 2020 Gulf Coast Prize in Translation, judged by Urayoán Noel.

2020 Winners:
Kristen Renee Miller, translation of Marie-Andrée Gill
J. Bret Maney, translation of Fiston Mwanza Mujila

Honorable Mentions:
Derick Mattern, translation of Cenk Gündogdu
May Huang, translation of Chung Kwok-keung

Urayoán Noel, on the winners: 

Marie-Andrée Gill's spare, luminous micropoems are endlessly surprising, twisting out, into, and unto themselves like complicated lovers. Defiantly fragmentary, these are less petits poèmes en prose than stunning shards of tongues, embodied vernaculars slowly, steadily unsettling grammars. Kristen Renee Miller’s translations retain the elegance and shimmer of the originals while wondrously conveying their knottedness, their syntax of skin. When at last we reach Nitassinan, we are reminded of the worlds poetry documents, but also of the worlds it creates. This is poetry that claims the power to "gnaw the meat off / each day and spit out the pin bones" through a language as unresolved as our decolonial dreams and as necessary as our sovereign desires.

Fiston Mwanza Mujila's poems have the diasporic urgency of their syncopated geographies: from Kinshasa to Haiti, from lyric to performance score and back, and where global tongues meet, these poems invoke the possibilities, dangers, and ironies of cosmopolitanism along with the hortatory visions and anaphoric flows of Afro-surrealism and Négritude. With dark, picaresque humor and faith in the power of chant, this notebook of counter-songs confronts the death drive of capitalism and chances to chart a "cartography of violence" with a matter-of-factness that is the other side of love. The translator J. Bret Maney renders all this in a language as vital and musical as it is precise ("unsubdued by antediluvian downpours"), and with a performative élan that feels like something special: solidarity, perhaps. 

Kristen Renee Miller’s poems and translations have appeared in POETRY, The Kenyon Review, The Common, Guernica, and Best New Poets 2018. She is the translator of SPAWN (Book*hug, 2020), by Ilnu Nation poet Marie-Andrée Gill. A recipient of fellowships and awards from The American Literary Translators Association, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, she lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where she is the managing editor for Sarabande.


J. Bret Maney lives in New York City, where he is an assistant professor of English at Lehman College, CUNY. His translations of poetry by Fiston Mwanza Mujila have appeared in Exchanges, Poetry International, The Common, and Asymptote, where they were named Runner-Up in the 2019 Close Approximations Translation Contest. A past recipient of a PEN/Heim Translation Fund grant, and the translator and co-editor of a bilingual scholarly edition of Guillermo Cotto-Thorner’s foundational novel of Latinx New York, Manhattan Tropics (Arte Público, 2019; winner of an International Latino Book Award, 2020), Maney translates from the French and Spanish. A book of his translations of Mwanza Mujila’s poetry, The River in the Belly and Other Poems, will be published by Deep Vellum in late 2021.