Winner of the 2012 Book Prize in Poetry

The winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry for 2012 is Orlando Ricardo Menes for his manuscript, Fetish. He will receive a $3,000 prize and publication by the University of Nebraska Press.

“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,” says Dawes. “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, Perú, 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. In addition to Fetish, he is also the author of Furia (Milkweed) and Rumba atop the Stones (Peepal Tree). His poems have appeared in numerous 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.

About the Book

From sensual pleasures and perils, moments and memories of darkness and light, the poems in Orlando Ricardo Menes’s collection sew together stories of dislocation and loss, of survival and hope, and of a world patched together by a family over five generations of diaspora. This is Menes’s tapestry of the Americas. From Miami to Cuba, Panama to Bolivia and Peru, through the textures, sounds, colors, shapes, and scents of exile and emigration, we find refuge at last in a sense of wholeness and belonging residing in this intensely felt, finely crafted poetry.


“Well versed in the uprooted life of an immigrant, Menes’s profound references not only convey local color but also bring the essence of his family history eye level with the reader in these striking verses.”—World Literature Today

“The poems in the collection are powerful, yet engaging narratives crafted by a gifted poet and story-teller.”—Mary Alexander, Caribbean Writer

“With flowing language, vivid imagery, and brilliant word choices, Menes can tell a heart-wrenching story in four stanzas.”—Mary Christy, Big Muddy

“Drenched with the flavor and savor of the Caribbean, Orlando Ricardo Menes’s Fetish is a treat for the mouth and the ear, as well as for the mind. Striking characters abound: Zvi Mendel, ‘retired tobacconist to Havana’s Ashkenazim’; an unnamed female survivor of a prison called ‘Den of the Lioness.’ Anger at injustice often surfaces. The beauty of the region springs up everywhere. But it is sound that powers these poems, a piquant blend of English spiced with Español. . . . These delectable poems beg to be tasted. To be spoken. To be sung.”—Charles Harper Webb, author of Shadow Ball

of Eleggua, though I should warn you. In the Cuban Santería religion, this deity has 101 manifestations, or roads, he may take you down. In this way, he is not unlike Menes’s poems, which may lead us, in a matter of pages, from suburban Indiana to Miami to Panamá to Kichwa-speaking villages in the Andes. Although the destinies of these roads offer vastly different insights, if we survive them, there is a sensibility that unifies the whole: Menes does not easily identify with grand ideologies and personal arrogance. Rather, he keeps his eye on those who go largely unrecorded by history: a poor great-uncle alienated from his own family by politics, a daughter with severe ADHD, a papá assiduously mending used furniture, a political prisoner who survives cruelty by caring for the earth’s smallest creatures—lame rat, pregnant mouse, chirping cricket.”—Maurice Kilwein Guevara, author of Poema and Postmortem

“Orlando Ricardo Menes’s Fetish is a rare work of the American Creole Sublime, conjuring visions of his Cuban homeland as a sacred geography of vanquished mestizo dreams, his Florida boyhood a world of transmuting tropical wonder. At once mythic, syncretic, and autobiographical, transported on strains of epiphanic geomancy, Menes’s work subtly presents a new vision of América that Martí, Stevens and Walcott would all embrace. You want to whisper in a fever, ‘Adelante!’”—John Phillip Santos, University Distinguished Scholar in Mestizo Cultural Studies, University of Texas at San Antonio

About the Author

Orlando Ricardo Menes is an associate professor of English and Faculty Fellow of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame. His poetry collections include, among others, Furia: Poems and Rumba atop the Stones.