Announcing the 2020 Anna Rabinowitz Prize winner, Lillian-Yvonne Bertram

May 18, 2020

Lillian-Yvonne Bertram is the 2020 recipient of the Anna Rabinowitz Prize for their collection, Travesty Generator (Noemi Press).

The Anna Rabinowitz Prize is awarded for interdisciplinary work made in the previous year and combining poetry and any other art or discipline.

The judge was Darcie Dennigan.

Logan Berry, for adapting and directing Olivia Cronk and Philip Sorenson's "There is No Edge to Imaginary Things"
Nora Claire Miller, Deep Fried Poems

The judge's citation:

​A box of books large enough to fit three pecks of apples was submitted for this prize, each book so stunning and smart it sent off sparks. I was prejudiced against the books. The Rabinowitz prize calls for "venturesome" work, and no matter the risk taken in the work itself, a book as end product still felt relatively safe, offered to its reader at a comfortable distance. The more embroiling and ephemeral works—especially the deeply layered poets theater of Logan Berry and the absurdist adventure of Nora Claire Miller's deep fried poems—drew me. But then there was Lillian-Yvonne Bertram's Travesty Generator: Oulipianesque poems constructed with Python and Javascript that proceduralize the final moments of Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, that algorithmize decolonization. What responsibility do I have to interrogate the software that runs my life? How do my clicks perpetuate bias? ​These poems are not essays and do not ask these questions. The poems are the questions. So, not a book passively imbibed. Not a poetry that lets doubt, ambivalence, or exhaustion excuse us. We've read Garner's last three words "I can't breathe." And now we read the poem "#/usr/bin/python/three_last_words" that is reading us reading it. Bertram is impossibly in two places at once—They are a writer and they are a reader of the same poem (possibly every poet's fantasy/nightmare?). They are interloper in a world of code written by mostly white men. Their book is a collaboration, and an intervention, and a virus. Travesty Generator cannot be stopped or closed. It infects the mind and opens itself every time you're online.

Lillian-Yvonne Bertram is the author of Travesty Generator, (Noemi Press, 2019), How Narrow My Escapes (Diagram/New Michigan Press, 2019), Personal Science (Tupelo Press, 2017), the artist book Grand Dessein (Container, 2017), a slice from the cake made of air (Red Hen Press, 2016), and But a Storm is Blowing from Paradise (Red Hen Press, 2012), chosen by Claudia Rankine as winner of the 2010 Benjamin Saltman Award. Recipient of an NEA Fellowship in Poetry, a Massachusetts Cultural Council Poetry Fellowship, and other awards, they are the current Director of the MFA in Creative Writing at UMass Boston and also direct The Chautauqua Writers' Festival. More of their digital work can be found at www.lillianyvonnebertram.com.