Summerlee Book Prize

Settling St. Malo won the 2024 Summerlee Book Prize–Creative. The award recognizes book-length publications that best enrich our knowledge of the past, present, and future of Southeast Texas and the greater Gulf Coast.

Thanks to The Center for History and Culture of Southeast Texas and the Upper Gulf Coast at Lamar University and the judges on the Creative panel for recognizing Settling St. Malo. The Center’s focus on history and culture makes this award important to me. I wasn’t sure whether poetry would be the best way to share the history of Filipino Louisiana. I took a risk, hoping the book was valued for its history and poetry. The judges’ comments were a delight to read.

Settling St. Malo is one of the most unique and compelling poetry collections I’ve read in a long time. Part history, part narrative poetry, the book tells the story of the Filipino population in Louisiana and how this group of people shaped the state’s rich legacy. Stroll down memory lane with the speaker’s grandmother as she recollects “Filipino Mardi Gras” where “Uncle Sam the white bearded symbol / of imperialism” occupies their float. Discover “Manila Village” in Barataria Bay where Filipinos settled and dried shrimp. Taste the melding of cultures, languages, and flavors in the numerous “recipes” that unfold in verse. Settling St. Malo is a deep look into the past of a region and celebrates the diversity of the Gulf Coast.”

Katherine Hoerth—Winner of the 2023 Summerlee Book Prize for Flare Stacks in Full Bloom (2022).

Settling St. Malo is a beautifully rendered story of a Filipino American community in coastal Louisiana spanning several generations. Randy Gonzales’s poems capture the challenges, both natural and societal, posed to his ancestors and the steadfast faith and determination with which they were faced and overcome. The poems are stark, powerful and at times breathlessly beautiful, making for a compelling read.”

Ron Rozelle—Winner of the 2022 Summerlee Book Prize for Leaving the Country of Sin (2021).

“Through poetic images and historical details, Randy Gonzales weaves the beauty of the Louisiana gulf region with the stories of past generations who made this place their home. The focus on his Filipino heritage brings the poems to life through stories that are both personal and universal.”

Gretchen Johnson—Winner of the 2018 Summerlee Book Prize for Single in Southeast Texas (2017).