It’s time again to honor the best work published in the pages of VQR during the previous year. It’s always a pleasure to review each volume as it closes and select the best that our pages had to offer. The year 2010, the eighty-sixth volume of VQR, produced an especially strong quartet of issues. Thanks to all of our authors for their fine work and unwavering commitment to the magazine.
The Emily Clark Balch Prize for Fiction
The Balch Prizes were established by Emily Clark Balch, the founding editor of The Reviewer, a publication that was key to the literary awakening of the American South. When Balch died, she left the bulk of her estate to the University of Virginia, for “the encouragement and production of American Literature.” (The money was divided to endow prizes in fiction and poetry and to create a writer-in-residence position—first occupied by William Faulkner.)
Past recipients of the fiction prize include Robert Olen Butler and Joyce Carol Oates, as well as, in more recent years, Dan Chaon and Helon Habila. This year, the award is given to Chris Ware for “Jordan W. Lint.” Subscribers may now read the entire story, published in VQR in serialized form from 2008 to 2010. The draftsman-like precision of Ware’s art has too often overshadowed his heartbreaking stories, his spare and astute dialogue, and his narrative daring and innovation. The concluding installment of “Jordan W. Lint” firmly establishes Ware not only as a great graphic novelist but a great novelist—period.
The Emily Clark Balch Prize for Poetry
Past recipients of the poetry prize include Wendell Berry, John Berryman, Hayden Carruth, James Dickey, Carolyn Forché, Albert Goldbarth, Donald Hall, Lisel Mueller, May Sarton, Charles Simic, Natasha Trethewey, and Ellen Bryant Voigt. This year, the award is given to Patrick Phillips for “Mercy” (Spring 2010), and “The Man” and “Work-Clothes Quilt” (Fall 2010). Phillips’s heartfelt but restrained poems explore the line between childhood and adulthood, between lifelong love and terrible loss.
The Staige D. Blackford Prize for Nonfiction
The Blackford Prize was established in honor of longtime VQR editor Staige D. Blackford to acknowledge his commitment to truth-telling and the publication of top-quality narrative nonfiction. Though the Blackford is a young prize, the distinguished list of recipients already includes Philip Caputo, Pauline W. Chen, J. Malcolm Garcia, Ashley Gilbertson, Dimiter Kenarov, David J. Morris, Lygia Navarro, Martin Preib, and Roger Wilkins. This year, the award is given to Elliott D. Woods for “The Path to Yaghestan” (Spring 2010) and “Digging Out” (Fall 2010). Woods’s reports from Afghanistan—one embedded with American troops, one unembedded—are examples of the highest quality on-the-ground reporting in long form. His essays increase our understanding and deepen our caring.
The VQR Prize for Photography
The photography prize is a new award, created to honor the best images published in VQR each year, on the occasion of the publication of the Winter 2011 issue of VQR, a special issue dedicated to emerging photographers. The inaugural award is given to Louie Palu for “Total War” (Spring 2010) and “The Underground Giant” (Fall 2010). Palu’s remarkable black-and-white frames—whether shot in Kandahar or Canada—walk a fine line between art and news. With a documentarian’s depth and a journalist’s urgency, Palu gives us new ways to see the world that feel already imbued with wisdom.
Each prize includes a monetary award of $1,000.