WINNER »

2020

Elisa Gonzalez

poetry

Elisa Gonzalez’s work ranges widely, investigating childhood and family history, social inequalities, estrangement, God and language. Her first collection of poetry, currently in progress, includes wild elegies to lost selves, sharp-edged essays in lyric, and poems of eerie delicacy and strangeness. A queer, half-Puerto Rican writer who was raised in the Midwest, she says, “What binds the poems is travel in diverse forms: I’ve crossed geographies, languages, beliefs, class lines. It’s a story of departure and pursuit. It’s a story of the island my father left; of the island of the family; of Cyprus, the island that enthralled me in part because of my separation from Puerto Rico. And of the island of the self, uneasy and alone wherever she is.” 


Gonzalez received her B.A. from Yale University and her M.F.A from New York University. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Literary Review, Hyperallergic, and other publications. A Fulbright scholar in Poland from 2016-2018, Gonzalez has also held scholarships from Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. Her nominator writes: “Elisa is truly a thinking poet who values both clarity and doubt in her lines…. You feel the work constantly driving at something beyond the safe or easy thing to say, while also avoiding what is emotionally manipulative or overwrought. The poems are never glib or easy. They are brave, wild, precise, and honest.” 


Gonzalez’s Writer’s Award will allow her to reduce her work as a freelance editor while she finishes the collection, as well as a novel. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Excerpt from “Failed Essay on Privilege,” The New Yorker, November 4, 2019.


“I came from something popularly known as “nothing”
and in the coming I got a lot.


My parents didn’t speak money, didn’t speak college.
Still—I went to Yale.


For a while I tried to condemn.
I wrote Let me introduce you to evil.


Still, I was a guest there, I made myself at home.”

Other poems by Elisa Gonzalez:

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