UCR alumna wins 2020 Colorado Prize for Poetry

Author: Michaela Miller
May 7, 2021

Kate Bolton Bonnici, MFA ’15, won the 2020 Colorado Prize for Poetry for her poetry collection “Night Burial.” Bonnici was announced as the winner in April 2020 and her book was published by the Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University in November 2020. 

Kate Bonnici

“‘Night Burial’ is centrally a book of elegies for my mother who died of ovarian cancer,” Bonnici said. “Through these poems I grieve for her and miss her and love her and celebrate her. I write as a daughter who has lost her mother and also as a mother of daughters. ‘Night Burial’’s publication has been an incredible honor, a gift, a way for my prayers and offerings to take tangible form.”

Bonnici’s poems navigate the journey of living and dying, and the mourning process that follows, by drawing from Alabama landscapes, classical and Renaissance literature, fairy tales, and religion. She writes from the perspectives of losing her own mother and being a mother herself. 

“This book actually began in poems to my daughters, poems that I scribbled while they were sleeping or that I composed and tried to keep in my head driving to daycare,” Bonnici said in an interview with the Center for Literary Publishing. “It grew into a book to and for my mother and her death from ovarian cancer, which means death from corruption of the cell type that enabled my being and enabled my daughters’ beings. Mothering is Janus-faced in its simultaneous looking to ancestors and to descendants.”

The Colorado Prize for Poetry was established in 1995 by the Center for Literary Publishing. The competition accepts poetry book manuscript submissions, and the winner of the prize is awarded a $2000 honorarium and publication of their book by the Center for Literary Publishing.

Bonnici received her master’s degree in creative writing from UCR in 2015. Her work has been featured in Arts & Letters, the Southern Humanities Review, Image, and Tupelo Quarterly. She has been a finalist for The Georgia Poetry Prize as well as The Fairy Tale Review’s Poetry Prize. Bonnici lives in Los Angeles and teaches early modern English literature and creative writing at UCLA.