The spencer poetry awards

  • erica reid
  • Awards 2023
  • Jason B

All contests for 2024 are closed
Donald Justice Winner to be announced by Feb. 29
Spencer Undergraduate Poetry Award Winners to be announced by March 29

Patricia Smith
Photo Credit: Beowulf Sheehan

Announcing the 2024 Donald Justice Poetry Prize Judge - Patricia Smith

Patricia Smith is the award-winning author of eight critically-acclaimed books of poetry, including Incendiary Art, winner of the 2018 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, the 2018 NAACP Image Award, and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was a  finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets; Blood Dazzler, a National Book Award finalist; and Gotta Go, Gotta Flow, a collaboration with award-winning Chicago photographer Michael Abramson. Her other books include the poetry volumes Teahouse of the Almighty, Close to Death, Big Towns Big Talk, Life According to Motown;  the children's book Janna and the Kings, and the history Africans in America, a companion book to the award-winning PBS series. Her work has appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The Baffler, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Tin House and in Best American Poetry, Best American Essays and Best American Mystery Stories. She co-edited The Golden Shovel Anthology—New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks, and edited the crime fiction anthology Staten Island Noir. Her newest book of poems is Unshuttered, released earlier this year.
Smith is a Guggenheim fellow, a Civitellian, a National Endowment for the Arts grant recipient, a finalist for the Neustadt Prize, a two-time winner of the Pushcart Prize, a former fellow at both Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony, and a four-time individual champion of the National Poetry Slam, the most successful poet in the competition’s history. Smith is a professor at the College of Staten Island and in the MFA program at Sierra Nevada College, as well as an instructor at the annual VONA residency and in the Vermont College of Fine Arts Post-Graduate Residency Program.
 

Ernie Hilbert

Ernest Hilbert to judge the Spencer Undergraduate Poetry Awards and the Wil Mills Chapbook Award

Ernest Hilbert is the author of the poetry collections Sixty Sonnets, All of You on the Good Earth, Caligulan—selected as winner of the 2017 Poets’ Prize—and Last One Out. His fifth book, Storm Swimmer, was selected by Rowan Ricardo Phillips as the winner of the 2022 Vassar Miller Prize and appeared in 2023. He lives in Philadelphia where he works as a rare book dealer and book critic for The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and Fine Books and Collections. His poem “Mars Ultor” was included in Best American Poetry 2018, and his poems appear in Yale Review, American Poetry Review, BOMB, Harvard Review, Parnassus, Sewanee Review, Hudson Review, Boston Review, The New Republic, American Scholar, and the London Review. In 2023 he was awarded the Meringoff Writing Award for Poetry from the Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers. Visit him at www.ernesthilbert.com

Erica Reid

2023 Donald Justice Judge Mark Jarman chooses Ghost Man on Second by Erica Reid

"Ghost Man on Second gives us grief and endurance, loss and joy, transmuted by the play of verse and imagination into poetry. Its thematic concerns deal with an absent father, suggested by the book’s title, the troubles and determination of a young mother alone, and how these conditions have affected their child.  Dilemmas, hurts, yearnings, and elusive retrievals are magically changed by the poet’s sophisticated technical skill into living poems, works of art that invite reading and rereading.   New forms, like the duplex, and old, like the sonnet sequence, offer us strong feeling and fresh wisdom and the remembered sense that these have always been what we expect from well-wrought poems.  As the poet implies in one of her best, what is behind and above the artificial ceiling are forgotten depths of space and light.  And the aim of our imaginary self wandering the world is eventually to make it home."  -Mark Jarman, Judge

POETRY AWARDS

Donald Justice Poetry Prize

The Donald Justice Poetry Prize is part of the Spencer Poetry Awards, which Kean W. Spencer created in honor of his mother, Iris N. Spencer. The prize recognizes the distinguished American poet, teacher, and Pulitzer Prize winner, Donald Justice. The WCU Poetry Center welcomes submissions of unpublished, original book-length manuscripts that pay attention to form for consideration in this competition. 
The winner of the competition will receive $1,500, and have their manuscript published by Autumn House Press.

We ask that applicants adhere to the following guidelines. Please read carefully and reach out to poetry@wcupa.edu with any questions.

  • The annual competition is open to all American poets regardless of whether they have previously published a book-length collection.
  • The suggested length of the manuscript is at least 50 pages but it should not exceed should 100 pages.
  • No more than one-third of the manuscript may consist of permission-secured or public domain translations.
  • Two copies of the manuscript need to be uploaded in the following format:
    • The complete original manuscript as one PDF (preferred) or Word file to contain the title page, author's name, address, e-mail address, and contact number. Dedications, references, and acknowledgements are permitted in this copy. The manuscript file format must be: Author last name_author first name_manuscript title
    • The second copy must be a "blind" manuscript with the title, content page, and poems only. All identifying information must be removed or redacted within the file. The file name for this copy must be the name of the manuscript only.
    • 2024 CONTEST IS CLOSED
  • All manuscripts and payments must be received by November 15, 2023.

Notification of contest results will be provided via email.

Autumn House Press

Autumn House

The winning manuscript will be published by Autumn House Press, a nonprofit publisher registered in the state of Pennsylvania whose mission is to publish and promote poetry and other fine literature.

Autumn House Press will offer all authors:

35 authors copies from the first print run, 15 author copies from any additional print runs;

8 percent royalties on print titles and 15 percent on digital (royalties are paid on sales that are 50% of list price or greater, excluding author purchases);

50 percent discount when purchasing additional copies of your title; 40 percent off any additional AHP titles;

Distribution through the University of Chicago Press;

30 print galleys sent to major reviewer outlets 5-6 months prior to publication;

At least 20 finished review copies sent to reviewers and review outlets 1-3 months prior to publication; this list will be compiled with input from the author;

A post-publication prize package;

Book advertisements in prestigious journals such as Prairie Schooner, Harper's, Women’s Review of Books, and more;

Support and guidance with the promotion of the title;

A pledge that your title will never go out of print;

Autumn House Press Mission Statement:

  • The press will concentrate on publishing the work of excellent contemporary writers who have a following among readers, but whose work has been overlooked by commercial publishers.
  • We see our relationships with our authors as partnerships; we will support them by ensuring their books are edited with care and are available in a variety of locations.
  • In the belief that a book is not only a readable text but also an object of art, the press is dedicated to producing beautifully designed, well-manufactured books on acid-free paper,
    as well as electronic texts of comparable quality. However, this dedication to quality will be balanced against considerations of cost in order to make the books affordable to all.
  • We believe art and literature are essential to the growth of a community and strive to enhance the neighborhoods around us.

Donald Justice Biography

Iris N. Spencer Poetry Award- $1500 and $500 Prize!


 The Spencer Poetry Awards were created at the West Chester University Poetry Center in 2005 by Kean W. Spencer to honor his mother, Iris N. Spencer. This award welcomes unpublished, original poems composed in the traditional modes of meter, rhyme and received forms and offers a first prize ($1,500), and a runner-up prize ($500). 

We ask that applicants adhere to the following guidelines.

  • The annual competition is open to Undergraduate student poets who are enrolled in a United States College or University.
  • There is No Fee to enter. Limit of Three poems per Category.
  • All poems entered remain confidential, anonymous, and internal during the judging process.
  • Contest Closed
    • Each poem must be entered as one PDF (preferred) or Word file to contain the title page, author's name, address, College/University currently attending, school and personal e-mail address, telephone number, and the name and email of referring professor. Dedications, references, and acknowledgements are permitted in this copy. The poem file format must be: Author last name_author first name_poem title. If no title please use the first line of the poem as the title.
    • The second copy must be a "blind" copy with the title and poem only. All identifying information must be removed or redacted within the file. The file name for this copy must be the title of the poem only.
  • Questions can be directed to poetry@wcupa.edu. Please mark subject line as, "WCU Poetry Awards"
 
Iris Spencer
Iris Spencer

Sonnet Award- $1000 Prize!

Within the umbrella of the Spencer Poetry Awards,  the Sonnet Award welcomes unpublished, original sonnets and offers a $1,000 prize for the winning entry.

We ask that applicants adhere to the following guidelines.

  • The annual competition is open to Undergraduate student poets who are enrolled in a United States College or University.
    There is No Fee to enter. Limit of Three poems per Category.
  • All poems entered remain confidential, anonymous, and internal during the judging process.
  • Contest Closed
    • Each poem must be entered as one PDF (preferred) or Word file to contain the title page, author's name, address, College/University currently attending, school and personal e-mail address, telephone number, and the name and email of referring professor. Dedications, references, and acknowledgements are permitted in this copy. The poem file format must be: Author last name_author first name_poem title. If no title please use the first line of the poem as the title.
    • The second copy must be a "blind" copy with the title and poem only. All identifying information must be removed or redacted within the file. The file name for this copy must be the title of the poem only.
  • Questions can be directed to poetry@wcupa.edu. Please mark subject line as, "WCU Poetry Awards"

Villanelle Award-$1000 Prize!

Within the umbrella of the Spencer Poetry Awards, the Villanelle Award welcomes unpublished, original villanelles and offers a $1,000 prize for the winning entry.

We ask that applicants adhere to the following guidelines.

  • The annual competition is open to Undergraduate student poets who are enrolled in a United States College or University.
    There is No Fee to enter. Limit of Three poems per Category.
  • All poems entered remain confidential, anonymous, and internal during the judging process.
  • Contest Closed
    • Each poem must be entered as one PDF (preferred) or Word file to contain the title page, author's name, address, College/University currently attending, school and personal e-mail address, telephone number, and the name and email of referring professor. Dedications, references, and acknowledgements are permitted in this copy. The poem file format must be: Author last name_author first name_poem title. If no title please use the first line of the poem as the title.
    • The second copy must be a "blind" copy with the title and poem only. All identifying information must be removed or redacted within the file. The file name for this copy must be the title of the poem only.
  • Questions can be directed to poetry@wcupa.edu. Please mark subject line as, "WCU Poetry Awards"

Myong Cha Son Haiku Award- $1500 and $500 Prize!

Created by Kyle R. Spencer, and named for his mother-in-law, the award welcomes unpublished, original haiku and offers a first prize ($1,500) and a runner-up prize ($500).

We ask that applicants adhere to the following guidelines.

  • The annual competition is open to Undergraduate student poets who are enrolled in a United States College or University.
    There is No Fee to enter. Limit of Three poems per Category.
  • All poems entered remain confidential, anonymous, and internal during the judging process.
  • Contest Closed
    • Each poem must be entered as one PDF (preferred) or Word file to contain the title page, author's name, address, College/University currently attending, school and personal e-mail address, telephone number, and the name and email of referring professor. Dedications, references, and acknowledgements are permitted in this copy. The poem file format must be: Author last name_author first name_poem title. If no title please use the first line of the poem as the title.
    • The second copy must be a "blind" copy with the title and poem only. All identifying information must be removed or redacted within the file. The file name for this copy must be the title of the poem only.
  • Questions can be directed to poetry@wcupa.edu. Please mark subject line as, "WCU Poetry Awards"
 
Myong Cha Son
Myong Cha Son

Rhina P. Espaillat Award- $1000 Prize!

Rhina P. Espaillat, born in the Dominican Republic, started writing poetry in Spanish and English after her family was exiled to the United States. She has published in both languages. This $1000 undergraduate prize celebrates original poems written in Spanish and translations of English poems to Spanish.

Applicants for this prize are asked to adhere to the following guidelines:

  • The annual competition is open to Undergraduate student poets who are enrolled in a United States College or University.
    There is No Fee to enter. Limit of Three poems per Category.
  • All poems entered remain confidential, anonymous, and internal during the judging process.
  • Contest Closed
    • Each poem must be entered as one PDF (preferred) or Word file to contain the title page, author's name, address, College/University currently attending, school and personal e-mail address, telephone number, and the name and email of referring professor. Dedications, references, and acknowledgements are permitted in this copy. The poem file format must be: Author last name_author first name_poem title. If no title please use the first line of the poem as the title.
    • The second copy must be a "blind" copy with the title and poem only. All identifying information must be removed or redacted within the file. The file name for this copy must be the title of the poem only.
  • Questions can be directed to poetry@wcupa.edu. Please mark subject line as, "WCU Poetry Awards"

Wil Mills Award

The Wil Mills Award is open to poets who may have published chapbooks but have no full-length collections. The 2024 recipient will receive $200.

Suggested Reading: A Gift for Adoration by Jeff Hardin

Please read carefully and reach out to poetry@wcupa.edu with any questions. Applicants for this prize are asked to adhere to the following guidelines:

  • No more than one-half of the chapbook may consist of permission-secured or public domain translations. Two copies of the chapbook must be submitted in the following format:
    • The 18-24 page chapbook as one PDF (preferred) or Word file to contain the title page, author's name, address, e-mail address, and contact number. Dedications, references, and acknowledgements are permitted in this copy. The manuscript file format must be: Author last name_author first name_chapbook title
    • The second copy must be a "blind" manuscript with the title, content page, and poems only. All identifying information must be removed or redacted within the file. The file name for this copy must be the name of the chapbook only.
  • All submissions must be submitted to: Wil Mills Chapbooks
  • There is a $20 entry fee for each book which must be submitted electronically.
  • 2024 CONTEST IS CLOSED

The 2023 Wil Mills Award was chosen by Annie Finch and presented to Jason Barry for his chapbook, Fossil & Wing, published by Dos Madres Press.

Dos Madres Press was founded in 2004 by Robert J. Murphy, and is dedicated to the belief that the small press is essential to the vitality of contemporary literature as a carrier of the dos madresnew voice and new works by established poets, as well as the older, sometimes forgotten voices of the past. And in an ever more virtual world, to the creation of fine books pleasing to the eye and hand. Dos Madres is named in honor of Vera Murphy and Libbie Hughes, the “Dos Madres” whose contributions have made this press possible.

Writing Contest Grades 3-12

This competition is open to students in Elementary (Grades 3-5), Middle (Grades 6-8), and High School (Grades 9-12).
3 Poems per category permitted.
Submit to fortnight@wcupa.edu by March 1, 2024.

Definitions of Categories:

·       Ballad up to 20 lines

·       Haiku 

·       Ekphrastic poem up to 20 lines. Can be free verse.

·       Sonnet  (14 lines). Rhyme scheme can be Shakespearean (ABAB CDCD EFEF GG) or Petrarchan (ABBA CDDC EFGEFG or ABBA CDDC EEFFGG). 

Each poem must be entered as one PDF (preferred) or Word file and contain a title page with author's name, address, e-mail address, contact number, school attending, grade, name and email of referring teacher.

Iris N. Spencer Winners

1st Place - To Be Dying by Emma Bailey, New York University

Emma Bailey Headshot

Emma Bailey is a writer, creative thinker, and poet. She graduated with honors from New Yor University in 2023 with a B.A. in Individualized Study, serving on the editorial board for the Gallatin Review and interning for New Directions Publishing. Emma is an avid traveler and seeks to enhance self-actualization across the world through artistic storytelling.

To Be Dying

I’ve never felt so alone
In a way, it’s comfortable and safe
There’s so much pain, but no hurt
I curl into a ball so small
I can forget that my insides are dying
I’ve never been this cold

There isn’t much room for thinking when you’re cold
It doesn’t help to fall asleep alone
A constant reminder that I’m dying
The only way I can really be safe
So long as I remain small
I cannot get hurt

There’s nothing more terrifying than hurt
So I keep my attitude cold
And my body small
So I can stay alone
It feels so sound and safe
To be dying

Well sure I wanted to be dying
But I didn’t want to die. Wouldn’t that hurt
My family to lock my ashes up in a safe
After burning my body, I’d no longer be cold
And I’d sure be alone
And immeasurably small

Is it worth it to die over something so small
Or do I just want to say I’m dying
So that I won’t feel so alone
So that I can express the paralyzing hurt
And excuse myself for acting cold
Playing with such forces is unsafe

Love can make us safe
No matter how small
Bring warmth to the cold
Hospice for the dying
Love kills hurt
But I’d rather be alone

My body is safe because my heart is dying
If I quake with cold, I cannot hurt
Is being small worth existing alone?

2nd Place - Why Not by Victoria Dell’Elmo, West Chester University

Victoria Dell’Elmo Headshot

Victoria Dell’Elmo is currently an undergraduate student at West Chester University studying Secondary Education with a focus in English as well as Creative Writing. She has always had a love for creative writing, especially poetry. And when she is not writing, she is probably shopping for crystals, playing tennis, or cooking a recipe from Pinterest. She dreams of one day being a published poet and wants to thank everyone who has ever encouraged her to never stop writing.

Why Not

It seems as though this choice is simple my dear, so why not?
In my mind, I know what is best my dear, so why not?

There are so many benefits to doing this, so why not?
Am I afraid to commit, is that why not?

We would have our home, our own corner of the world, so why not?
It would be just us, our story could finally unfold, why not.

I could finally focus on my writing, how could I not, why not?
You told me I could live my dream, your words are hard to resist, so why not.

I hear my mother’s words ring, telling me as to why not.
I feel as though I have to choose between him & them, she says why not.

But doesn’t true love count for something, because if so, then why not?
We are planning on marrying soon, so tell me why not?

Victoria, you are looking for reasons for why not.
No, but I love him, please just let me tie the knot, why not?

Villanelle

1st Place - Imitatio by Blake Traylor, Augustana College

Blake Traylor Headshot

Blake Traylor is a recent graduate from Augustana College, where he majored in English, Spanish, and Creative Writing and minored in Linguistics. For most of his time as a college student, he served as an editor for SAGA, Augie's Student-Run, Student-Submitted Art & Lit Magazine, and as a peer tutor at the on-campus Reading/Writing Center. His academic interests span the intersections of history, literature, gender, sexuality, mysticism, and food. Hence the villanelle below. He would like to thank all the usual people with the special addition of Julian of Norwich, who continues to remind us all that "All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well."

Imitatio

As you shape yourself for your first lover,
Immerse the flour in water, recite the maker’s oath,
and know you make yourself your mother.

Among the aprons of sisters and brothers,
knuckles and pins repeat themselves, knead the flesh slow
as you shape yourself for your first lover.

Strip the image from your palms and lay it down smothered
under a damp shroud; as the mound begins to grow,
know: you make yourself your mother.

Grip the razor and the cloth, uncover
and carve across the surface of the dough,
as you shape yourself for your first lover.

As the cavity heats, the ghosts of wheat hover
in the catseye scent rising off the warming stove;
know: you make yourself your mother.

Already, your floury hands yearn to make another
loaf while this one darkens in the oven’s dim glow;
as you shape yourself for your first lover,
you know, you’re making yourself your mother.

Sonnet

1st Place - "tidal volume. and healthcare" by Grace Yu, Northwestern University

Grace Yu Headshot

Grace Yu is a writer and poet based in New York City. Her poems explore the beauty of the natural world, overlapping identities and cultural experiences. She is passionate about health and educational disparities as well as music and is a recipient of the Northwestern First-Year Seminar Writing Award and the Sarah S. Weisberg Poetry Prize. In her free time, you can find her tutoring some of the best students in the world, messing around on the piano, writing poetry of varying quality, and eating lots and lots of apples.

tidal volume. and healthcare
(one in four americans refuse medical care because they can’t pay for an ambulance)

and uninsured // our twisted ribs // then this
and out // of cash // and almost // out of breath
and heaving // we are haggard // silhouettes
our midnight flesh // they scarred us // prejudice
won’t pause // and throw up // on the bathroom floor
we can’t afford // to call // an ambulance
and god don’t want // us sacred // pestilence
and we can’t see // our nighttime // anymore
all gone. and we keep coughing // up our stars,
necrotic quiet // cracked endothelium
and riots // for if they ever hear // us shout,
broken, gasping like hemorrhaged // nightjars,
our cries // our haunted mouth // our blackened lungs
always // our severed lips // refuse // fade out.

 

Myong Cha Son Haiku Winners

1st Place - The Last Drip by Madison Simone, University of Miami

Madison Simone Headshot

Madison Simone is going into her senior year at the University of Miami, studying Marketing and minoring in Creative Writing. Originally from New Jersey, Madison started writing as an outlet to better understand her emotions. What started as a tool, writing has become Madison’s deepest passion, and greatest skill. Madison is currently working on her first fiction novel, but poetry will always have a special place in her heart.

The Last Drip

You spoke and I bled,
a pool of red, and I stayed
until I drained out.

2nd Place - Before Elysium by Elise Forslund, Georgetown University

Elise Forslund is a non-binary poet currently living in Washington, D.C. They use poetry as a means of artistic expression and catharsis and take a lot of inspiration from the confessional poetry tradition. Elise recently graduated from Georgetown University where they studied environmental policy and minored in creative writing. Originally from Georgia, Elise writes a lot about growing up queer in the Deep South and their experiences with mental illness. Elise hopes to pursue an MFA after graduation and dedicate more time to writing. Elise draws a lot of inspiration from their favorite poets: Erica L. Sanchez and Hanif Abdurraqib and has also been published in Pen + Brush, Screen Door Review, Stone of Madness Press, and Enby Life. You can find Elise on twitter @elise_forslund. Fun fact: Elise was the winner last year of the Iris award and we congratulate Elise on winning again this year for the Haiku, Before Elysium.

Before Elysium

I confessed this flesh
was grass and still you gave me
salt and honeyed bread

Donald Justice Award

Ghost Man on Second by Erica Reid

Erica Reid Headshot

Erica Reid lives in Fort Collins, Colorado. She earned her MFA at Western Colorado University and serves as assistant editor at THINK Journal. Recently her poetry has been nominated for Best New Poets and a Pushcart Prize, won the Yellowwood Poetry Prize and the Helen Schaible Sonnet Contest (Modern Sonnets category), and was commissioned by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra. Erica’s poems appear or are forthcoming in Rattle, Birmingham Poetry Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, Broadsided Press, Foothill, Able Muse, The Lyric, Yalobusha Review, Tiny Seed, and more. ericareidpoet.com.

Ghost Man on Second

My dad had too few kids to field wiffle ball, so
he introduced us to the Ghost Man. Suppose
I found myself stuck at second base
when it came my turn to bat: the Ghost Man
could take my place, continuing my parade
around the bases.

                                                Of all the ghosts
my parents left to me, this Ghost Man
serves me best—see the hurled ball
pass right through him, watch him score
a shred of glory in my name. Long after dusk
has eaten the Midwestern backyard
barely large enough to hold this game,
years after the players have gathered
the Frisbee and pie plate bases and have gone
their separate ways, the Ghost Man runs—
is still running—through the diamond-
shaped cycle that I taught him: toward and away
from home, toward and away from home.

Wil Mills Poetry Award

Fossil & Wing by Jason Barry

Jason Barry Headshot

Jason Barry holds an MFA in Poetry from Boston University, where he was a Robert Pinsky Global Fellow. His work has appeared in 32 Poems, Barrow Street, The Adroit Journal, Poetry Ireland Review, Crab Creek Review, The Cortland Review, Thrush Poetry Journal, Bad Lilies, Cimarron Review, and elsewhere. His poems have been nominated for Best of the Net and other awards, and his work was recently selected by Ada Limón to feature on the podcast, The Slowdown. He has been offered fellowships and grants by Poetry by the Sea, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, and Boston University.

Fossil & Wing is published by Dos Madres Press

From Fossil & Wing
Slate

Perhaps this is the way it ought to be,
The coastal light is tame and beautiful.
A wave of silence spreads across the sea
Beneath the two-tone plumage of a gull.

If what we are is bone and memory,
And sensory is synonym for soul—
I wonder what will then become of me,
When slate-white feathers wash up in the lull.

When slate-white feathers wash up in the lull,
I wonder what will then become of me.
Is sensory a synonym for soul,
If what we are is bone and memory?

Beneath the two-tone plumage of a gull,
A wave of silence spreads across the sea.
The coastal light is tame and beautiful,
Perhaps this is the way it ought to be.

 

Iris N. Spencer Winners

1st Place - Spring by Elise Forslund, Georgetown University

Elise Forslund is a junior at Georgetown University studying environmental policy and minoring in creative writing. Originally from Georgia, Elise writes a lot about growing up queer in the Deep South and her experiences with mental illness. She hopes to pursue an MFA after graduation and dedicate more time to writing. She draws a lot of inspiration from her favorite poets: Erica L. Sanchez and Hanif Abdurraqib. She has also been published in Pen + Brush, Screen Door Review, Stone of Madness Press, and Enby Life. You can find Elise on twitter @elise_forslund.

Spring

Persephone won't come home though it is Spring
and Demeter believes her daughter taken, this Spring

I signed a pledge at Church and got a purity ring
that was my twelfth Spring

but on the train ride home, an older man still called me a pretty little thing
that was my thirteenth Spring

and when the boy one locker over pinched me on my ass, I pretended it was just a bee sting
that was my fourteenth spring

I thought perhaps the cute boy from math was different, he was my first fling
that was my fifteenth Spring

but, no, the cute boy from math also had a sharp swing
that was my sixteenth Spring

after I pierced my own nose, I realized I only ever wanted one ring
that was my seventeenth Spring

and when I was eighteen I thought about the bee sting
and my first fling who had a sharp swing

I thought about the man who said I was pretty little thing
I remembered how the Church always said I was doing the wrong thing

how I was always sinning
but I knew that there was nothing

I could do to stop these things
and it certainly wouldn't be solved by a gold purity ring

or even a nose ring but at least now I was doing my own piercing
in my eighteenth spring.

2nd Place - Ghazal for Your Fingers by Tesia Wieprecht, West Chester University

Tesia Wieprecht Headshot

Tesia Wieprecht has dreamt of becoming a published writer since she was in third grade, when her class's short stories were bound in a hardback book. She is currently a senior Women's and Gender Studies student with a Creative Writing minor. She writes in her spare time and can be often seen frantically typing ideas into the notes section of her phone. Her work has been described as whimsical, with a direct tone and voice. She has a particular soft spot for alliteration and repetition, which she includes in both her poetry and prose.

Ghazal for Your Fingers

Between me and you — us and space — your fingers
splaying mine. Long and thin and knuckles wide: your fingers.

Nights spent with our heads bent over a board,
rooks and knights bowing to the genius of your fingers.

I want to give you strawberries: summer-sweetened,
soft. I want to kiss their stains from your fingers.

I've waited years for a song perfect like this: music swelling,
layered harmonies. Mingles with physical bliss. Your fingers.

Shallower breaths. What in death really leaves?
How much of me can you feel through your fingers?

Please, speak of the stars, of science, of time gone amok.
I can see the blood beat slower, slower through your fingers.

Please. Do not say you are ashamed to be mine.
Temples. Minds. Filtered through glass: you, me, our fingers.

Villanelle

1st Place - Villanelle of Addiction by Cassidy Graham, West Chester University

Cassidy Graham Headshot

Cassidy Graham, is a third year student at West Chester University as an English Writing Major with a minor in Creative Writing. Cassidy has always been passionate about writing, but in the past couple of years, has realized it is what she wants to do for the rest of her life. Cassidy is involved in the Creative Writing Program at West Chester and will be traveling to Greece in the summer to attend a writing workshop in Crete. Cassidy had the honor of being the featured poet at West Chester University's 150th campaign celebration this past Fall. In her free time, she enjoys reading (although that may come as no shock), spending time outdoors, and eating good food. In the future, Cassidy would like to write a book, possibly a work of poetry, though she would write anything to become an author…well, maybe not anything.

Villanelle of Addiction

The disease you have will never go away.
I see it in the bloat of your belly and the twitch of your nose,
but I really need you, so please stay.

I think we both know when I realized you weren't okay.
Don't you remember the stash I found hidden in your clothes?
This disease you have will never go away.

"Please never be like me" you always say.
But part of me is worried I don't have a choice in the matter. I suppose
that's why I need you, so please stay.

I had to move out, I know you think about that day.
Screaming and crying through your denial shows
the disease you have will never go away.

For months we didn't talk, I wanted to make you pay
for your mistakes. But anger and then sadness arose
so I really need you, please stay.

Sometimes I wonder how much longer you will be here, when will the decay
become too much for you, because I know you chose
this disease you have that will never go away.
I really need you, I'm begging, please stay.

Sonnet

1st Place - The Dead Deer's Cry by Ainsley Berg, Flagler College

Ainsley Berg Headshot

Ainsley Berg is an undergraduate student studying English and political science at Flagler College in St. Augustine, Florida, where she also serves as a poetry editor for the college's literary journal, FLARE: The Flagler Review. Her work has previously been published in The Pointed Circle and Chasing Shadows Magazine. She can be found on Instagram at @ainsel.bee or outside, trying to befriend neighborhood cats.

The Dead Deer's Cry

When the doe steps out of the trees to graze by the road,
it is she and the moon for a soft moment, before headlights
cut through the satin darkness with beams made of fright,
illuminating her face with the otherworldly life it showed.
She wonders about the mechanical beasts that always strode
past her woods, shining through the shadows with their bright
glass eyes when she wandered beyond the trees at night,
and the instincts gifted to her by years of learning fear erode.

In the evening, the doe will meet her love beneath the moon,
though the thought of it makes her legs shake as she stumbles
out of the forest's safety and onto the land where no grass grows.
Eyes wide, she sees the lights and knows she will be with him soon.
One last persisting thought before her porcelain knees crumble,
and she cries out with the sharpness of finally getting to know.

 

Myong Cha Son Haiku Winners

1st Place - A Very Serious Haiku by Tesia Wieprecht, West Chester University

Tesia Wieprecht Headshot

Tesia Wieprecht has dreamt of becoming a published writer since she was in third grade, when her class's short stories were bound in a hardback book. She is currently a senior Women's and Gender Studies student with a Creative Writing minor. She writes in her spare time and can be often seen frantically typing ideas into the notes section of her phone. Her work has been described as whimsical, with a direct tone and voice. She has a particular soft spot for alliteration and repetition, which she includes in both her poetry and prose.

A very serious haiku

flying down the street,
bare ass on the handlebars,
I'm not coming home.

 

 

 

2nd Place - Grief by Kate Mahoney, Boston University

Kate Mahoney is a student at Boston University with a passion for the discovery and creation of new ideas, whether through research in STEM or the exploration of the human experiences through language. She enjoys writing, baking, and making music and hopes that each of these will help her bring joy to those around her.

Grief

I want to forget
Without losing myself. But
I can't, so I heal.

Rhina P. Espaillat Award

1st Place - Mujer de la tierra / Earth Woman by Raimy Khalife-Hamdan, University of Oregon

Raimy Khalife-Hamdan Headshot

Raimy is a fourth-year Clark Honors College student majoring in Romance Languages and Global Studies with a focus on migration, refugees, and displacement. Raimy is passionate about using the languages they know (Arabic, French, and Spanish) to connect with and support people from around the world. Certainly, an avenue for this connection is their poetry and prose. Another is service.

Mujer de la tierra

Soy hija de las Estrellas, alimentada de mitos de otros mundos.
Las grietas que tallan las suelas de mis pies,
como las valles de la arena árabe que mis ancestros cruzaron,
susurran canciones de veranos caminando descalza.
Mis rizos de carbón se enredan con el aliento suave del viento,
creando nidos de hojas y ramitas y pelo salvaje;
he renunciado a domarlos.
Respiro los fuegos de la ira
que plaga este mundo, y lloro océanos para extinguirlos.

Soy estudiante de la Tierra: la observo, la toco, la pruebo…
Mi piel se seca después de horas besando al Sol.
Intento sumergir la Luna en las piscinas oscuras de mis ojos.
Por supuesto, no puedo seducirla.
Desafiándome de los consejos de mis abuelas, me pongo ropa corta,
¡nunca domesticaré este cuerpo!, les digo con palabras ingenuas,
escapando de sus manos arrugadas para coquetear con Tierra.

¿Qué hacer con esta mujer,
que está enamorada de ambos el Sol y la Luna?

English Translation:

Earth woman

I am daughter of Stars, fed on myths of other worlds.
Cracks carve the soles of my feet,
like the valleys of the Arabian sand my ancestors crossed,
whispering songs of summers walking barefoot.
The soft breath of wind tangles my charcoal curls,

braiding nests of leaves and twigs and wild hair;
I have given up on taming them.
I breathe in fires of anger
that plague this world, and I cry oceans to extinguish them.

I am student of Earth: I observe her, touch her, taste her…
My skin dries after hours kissing the Sun, and
I try to submerge the Moon in the dark pools of my eyes.
Of course, I can't seduce her.
Challenging my grandmothers' stories, I dress in short clothes,
I will never tame this body! I tell them with naive words,
escaping wrinkled hands to flirt with Earth.

What to do with a woman
who is in love with both the Sun and the Moon?

2nd Place - El laberinto del corazon en conflicto / The Labyrinth of the Conflicted Heart by Amanda Trout, Pittsburg State University

Amanda Trout Headshot

Amanda Trout is a senior at Pittsburg State University pursuing a double major in English (Creative Writing) and Spanish. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the Cow Creek Review and has been published in several literary magazines (The Lyric, Bacopa Literary Review, Stripes, etc.). She plans to pursue a Master's of Fine Arts in Creative Writing (Poetry) after graduation.

El laberinto del corazón en conflicto

—inspirado por Borges, maestro de laberintos

Corro por pasillo, por la esquina; pero
solamente camino con el llanto
de Asterión, la bestia descomunal.

El camino es largo y sinuoso;
solo empezó a girar ese día
la oportunidad de los dos, tú y yo,

sangró de la existencia y cubrió
el piso de adoquines, y todo
lo que pude hacer fue caminar en

rojo, manchar mis pies, y mantener
el ritmo del tiempo. Cada hora
la bestia se acerca y yo camino.

Una parte de mi quiere correr;
el otro quiere frenar y dejar
que la ira me lleve.

English Translation

The Labyrinth of the Conflicted Heart

—inspired by Borges, Master of Labyrinths

I run down the hall, around the corner; but
I only walk with the tears
of Asterion, the colossal beast.

The road is long and winding;
it only started spinning that day
when the opportunity of us, you and I

bled from existence and covered
the cobblestone floor,
and all I could do was walk

in red, stain my feet, keep
the rhythm of time. Each hour
the beast approaches, and I walk.

A part of me wants to run;
the other wants to stop
and let the anger take me.

Donald Justice Award

JD Debris – THE SCORPION'S QUESTION MARK

JD Debris Headshot

JD Debris writes poems, songs, and prose. He was a Goldwater Fellow at New York University, where he completed his MFA. His work has been chosen for Ploughshares' Emerging Writers Prize, and he has twice been named to Narrative's 30 Below 30 list. His releases include the chapbook SPARRING (Salem State University Press, 2018) and the music albums BLACK MARKET ORGANS (Simple Truth Records, 2017) and JD DEBRIS MURDER CLUB (2022).

From THE SCORPION'S QUESTION MARK

THE VOICE OF HERCULES

Remembering that heavyweight
we'd call Hercules,
a mellow steroid fiend
who never sparred, just raised

barbells ‘til he was swollen as that solemn
British killer from Ninja 2: Shadow
of a Tear. He'd flex, hit vacuum
poses in ringside mirrors, taking photo

after photo, & lounge in the locker room,
nothing but a sideways Sox hat on.
A garden-variety goon
with a garbled, guttural monotone

& shriveled steroid balls:
so Hercules seemed, on the surface.
But every word he spoke was praise—
"So sick, bro"—softly, near-inaudible.

One night, the gym screened a pay-
per-view—De la Hoya or Money May.
All us gym rats came back
in jewelry, jeans, & the reek

of cologne instead of sweat
to cozy up between dormant
heavy bags & watch the fights
projected on industrial concrete.

I brought my old acoustic
for between-fight amusement,
background-strumming a soundtrack
to our cacophony. Hercules sat

beside me, saying, "Bro,
can you play a corrido beat?"
I started to strum a stock waltz-meter,
& Hercules, in a bass bel canto
that could rumble the cheap seats
of an opera hall, began a Spanish ballad
about a lost bantamweight
named Amen, who had disappeared,

the lyrics went, to Mexico last spring,
whom no one had heard from since.
The gym was quiet one verse in.
Pay-per-view muted, everyone listening

to this supposed bonehead
channel beauty. To his ballad,
its fragility—Fly,
little dove, fly, he'd sigh

at verses' end. I'm amazed
that no one laughed at him—
insults, back then, our lingua
franca & form of praise—

in that moment so holy
& ridiculous, when his lips formed O's
on long, pure
tones, & every chord

perfectly—somehow—
harmonized.
I can't tell you which prize-
fighter won that bout,

or if we gorged on pizza & beer,
blowing off our weight-making regimens.
I can't tell you if it rained, I can't pretend
to know if sparks flew inside all those ears

bent in unison toward the amen
Hercules incanted. As for him,
his trainer, a hardass marine,
got sick of his preening

& told him go find another gym
where he could kiss his biceps
in the mirror, & drink his creatine
& beast his endless deadlift reps.

How many songs has he sung since,
in the shower of a distant gym
where he still takes his sweet time
soaping every ropelike vein?

What I know, I'll tell:
around the campfire of the muted fights
that night, he was our horn of Gabriel,
our nightingale mid-flight.

Sing it again, Hercules?

"Aight."

Wil Mills Poetry Award

Karen Petersen, Trembling

Karen Petersen Headshot

Karen Petersen has traveled the world extensively, originally as a combat photojournalist and later as a foreign correspondent. Now retired from international journalism, she has devoted herself to publishing short stories, flash, and poetry both nationally and internationally in a variety of publications which deal with her many experiences both here and abroad. In 2019, she was the first person in the history of the Pushcart Prize to receive five nominations in three categories: poetry, short story, and flash. In 2021, one of her poems was long-listed for the Bridport Prize. She has also been nominated for the Forward Prize and the Best of the Net. Her poems have been translated into Persian and Spanish. More information can be found at: https://karenpetersenwriter.com

From Trembling

The Return

This was the year I lost my voice.
Words, sentences, language
used to flow out of me like a magician
pulling from his mouth long strings of pearls.
Then the string broke.
Oh, I could talk all right,
but it was my inner voice
that had slipped away slowly
like a boat leaving its moorings
and gently drifting out to sea.

At the hospital
I thought I was the odd one out.
Something in me had collapsed
but I had two arms and two legs,
these other people were in wheelchairs.
And then there she was,
a young pretty girl, injured
but all smiles,
greeting a man also in a wheelchair,
seeing only him.

As she leaned forward,
the gown slipped off her thin shoulders.
Her skin was the palest pink
like a rare Gallician rose.
A deep line, angry red,
wound its snakelike way down her spine,
but she was oblivious to my stare.
Although one leg and half an arm
was all that remained on her torso
hers was the attitude of a toreador,
fierce and proud in her loving.

Suddenly I felt small, petty,
silly for having gawked.
I had to admire her defiance,
dwelling in that arcade of
needles, muscle, metal, pain.
Then she was swallowed by an elevator
and vanished,
smiling and talking
as if it were that easy.
I never saw her again.

As the nurse puts a hot towel on my neck
it's like a warm embrace,
the only warmth in my life now.
How pitiful I think, and then
my anger forces me to remember
remember the half-woman, all-woman,
and the love on her face,
the world she has made for herself.
Holding that inside me, I know I am not lost.

 

Iris N. Spencer Winners

1st Place - Returning by Alejandro Lucero, University of Colorado Denver

Alejandro Luceros Headshot
  • Alejandro Lucero,
    University of Colorado Denver

Alejandro Lucero is a writer from Sapello, New Mexico by way of Denver. He is a senior at the University of Colorado-Denver where he serves as an intern and assistant editor for Copper Nickel. Pushcart Prize nominee, his most recent poetry can be found, or is forthcoming, in The Susquehanna Review, Thin Air Magazine, Sink Hollow, among other journals.

 

Returning

 

Talk about the dying alfalfa

fields. How what’s left of the golden straws scratch your grandmother’s

legs when she returns from the river. The fleas

who jump to her swollen ankles. How her hair

came back white and wiry. Talk about her path

to recovery. How it could be

 

like her walk home from the river. Say it could be

like walking home from the river in the dark. How she grew alfalfa

for survival. For the hay. The seeds dangling from the purple flowers were a path

to better seeds. Talk about your grandmother,

who lined the bodies of gophers in the crosshairs

of a rifle when they ruined a bush. Their bodies became grenades. Talk about the fleas

 

on the back of a barn cat. Talk about how the fleas

picked your grandmother’s blood over that cat’s. Be

sure to mention how they crawled through her hair

like the ladybugs that pocked the alfalfa

field like red zits. How, after cancer, your grandmother

hacked away at the dead alfalfa blocking her path

 

home from the river. Say how she cleared that path

with an idiot stick, and how the fleas

clung to her new hair and old ankles. How your grandmother

swung that blade, bisecting the body of a honey bee

trying to pollinate the last bulb of the dried-out alfalfa

flower. Talk about how, when you were younger, her hair

 

was long and dark like a cape. How the thick braid of her hair

shaped your path

back to the alfalfa

and the biting fleas

and the cancer be-

ginning to stain the inside of your grandmother

again. How your grandmother’s

hair

be-

came a path

to flee

the dying alfalfa.

Talk about your grandmother and the path back

from the river. How her hair pulled the fleas off a cat.

How returning home would be easier if the alfalfa were still green.

2nd Place - Claws by Carmen Perez, Whittier College

Carmen Perez Headshot
  • Carmen Perez,
    Whittier College

  •  

Carmen Perez is a fourth-year student attending Whittier College and majoring in English. She has found that writing poetry helps her find peace in times of stress. She lives in California with a hyper Chihuahua and enjoys hiking, baking, and sewing.

 

Claws

The rats nature sends

Are my only friends.

When the

Soft light of my lamp is turned off.

 

They scratch through the walls

With welcoming calls.

The loud,

Convivial squeaks comfort me.

 

They used to disgust

Me; had to adjust

To the

Sensation of small cutting claws.

Villanelle

Recurring Price I Pay to Sleep Inside This Room by Kelly Morgan, Vanderbilt University

Kelly Morgan is a junior at Vanderbilt University, where she is majoring in creative writing and minoring in mathematics. Originally from the mountains ofKelly Morgan Western North Carolina, she now lives in Nashville, Tennessee. She has worked as a bookseller and a journalism intern, and she hopes to continue her career in the literary world. She is currently the poetry editor of both The Vanderbilt Review and the SciLit Journal, and next year will begin work as editor-in-chief of The Vanderbilt Review. Her writing has appeared in Vanderbilt Lives, The Vanderbilt Review, and Scaffold: A Showcase of Vanderbilt First-Year Writing. In her free time, she enjoys drawing, ballroom dancing, and studying astronomy.

Recurring Price I Pay to Sleep Inside This Room

There is a man in my bed—

He is fucking me.

My body turns to lead.

 

The first visit, he leaned in and said,

“I’m not the sort who’ll let you stay rent-free.”

There is a man in my bed,

 

and now it is his bed instead,

and I am learning how to pay my fee

even as my body turns to lead.

 

The starting cost, the unsurprising overhead,

is that there is no privacy—

there is a man in my bed.

 

The monthly charge is “spread

yourself; I get your body.”

These times, my body turns to lead.

 

The bills collect. They pile up like dread

as I grow cold, and the unceasing memory grows heavy:

there is always a man in my bed—

and my body beneath him, turned to lead.

Sonnet

Winner: January Spring by Monica Colon, Wheaton College

January SpringMonica Colon

 

Mesquites send yellow tendrils out unfurling

in roadside ditches, and peach blossoms break

like amethysts from geodes. It is early

for daffodils, for mourning doves to make

their slipshod nests in shrubs. Everyone knows

about encroaching seas and plastic islands,

depleted fisheries, softening floes.

I keep my distance and uneasy silence.

Today, the high is eighty. I wear shorts

and follow the meanders up the creek

to sift through cobbles, pocket cherts and quartz

and fossils. I admit it: I am weak,

and glad, and sorry. This won't last.

Not every ammonite will leave a cast.

 

 

Myong Cha Son Haiku Winners

1st Place - Precious Metals by Tylyn K. Johnson, University of Indianapolis

Tylyn Johnson Headshot
  • Tylyn K. Johnson,
    University of Indianapolis

Tylyn K. Johnson is a third-year honors social work student at the University of Indianapolis. He is also pursuing a minor in Applied Spanish. A part-time writer with a love for community, Tylyn nurtures his passion for writing through the occasional spoken word. In his artistry, he focuses on building communion and empowerment with other marginalized folx. His work has appeared in Etchings literary magazine, Parody Poetry Journal, Indiana Voice Journal, and Rigorous, among other spaces. If he's not writing or dialoguing, Tylyn is learning how to better support the work happening in his community. @TyKyWrites on Instagram, Twitter, and Medium.

Precious Metals

 

Melanin mama,

she steels her kind, weary soul

to sharpen gold child.

2nd Place - Unstitched/Wounds by Daniel Garcia, University of North Texas

Daniel Garcia Headshot
  • Daniel Garcia,
    University of North Texas

Daniel Garcia's essays appear or are forthcoming in SLICE, Denver Quarterly, The Offing, Ninth Letter, Guernica, Hayden's Ferry Review and elsewhere. Poems appear or are forthcoming in The Puritan, Harbor Review, The Arkansas International, Ploughshares, Zone 3 and others. A recipient of a Short Prose Prize from Bat City Review and a Poetry Prize from So to Speak, Daniel has received awards and scholarships from Tin House and the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, and currently serves as a reader and editorial assistant for Split Lip Magazine. Daniel's essays also appear as Notables in The Best American Essays.

 

Unstitched/Wounds

You can’t unstitch the

story from a wound. All you

can do is dress it.

Rhina P. Espaillat Award

1st Place - For the Seekers /Para los buscadores by Kensington Mikhaila Eiler, University of Indianapolis

Kensington Eller Headshot
  • Kensington Mikhaila Eiler,
    University of Indianapolis

Kensington Eiler is from Lafayette, Indiana and is a senior at the University of Indianapolis studying Human Biology and Spanish. She spends her free time reading with her cat, writing her own stories, and singing in her university’s choir program.

Para los buscadores

Me escondo en mis poemas

En mis escrituras

En mi trabajo

 

Me escondo mis palabras

En la lenguas

Solo yo digo

 

Me escondo mis pensamientos

En los libros en mis estantes

Que mi familia no lee

 

Me escondo de todos

Nadie me ve

Soy invisible

 

Me esconderé para siempre

Es mi libertad

Es mi soledad

 

English Translation:

 

For the seekers

 

I hide in my poems

In my writings

In my work

 

I hide my words

In languages

Only I speak

 

I hide my thoughts

In the books on my shelf

That my family doesn’t read

 

I hide from everyone

No one sees me

I am invisible

 

I will hide forever

It’s my freedom

It’s my solitude

 

Donald Justice Award

Alexis Sears is the 2021 Donald Justice Poetry Prize Winner


Alexis Sears, Out of Order

Alexis SearsAlexis Sears is a graduate of the MFA program in poetry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and she earned her Bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Writing Seminars. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Cortland Review, Hopkins Review, Cimarron Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, and elsewhere. She was a 2019 Sewanee Writers’ Conference MFA scholar, and she was a finalist for the Vassar Miller and New Criterion poetry prizes. Currently, she lives in northern California, where she teaches sixth grade English. Out of Order is her first book and was chosen by this year's judge, Quincy Lehr.

From Out of Order

Hair Sestina

I’m 24 and yes, by now I know
I have a problem. “Oh, but don’t we all?”
everyone jokes as if it’s really brilliant.
But not like this. A slippery chunk of life
has slid on by, and still I am without
an inkling of real knowledge about black

hairstyles. Some bus driver says, “You’re ‘black’
in name, but you will never really know
their struggles.” Their. It sticks. I’m left without
a comeback (since I know it’s true). She’s all
proud now and continues on, “Your life
seems easier than most.” Gee, that is brilliant.

I’m not sure if I’m hurt or not. A brilliant
professor told me once (her hair dyed black
as licorice bites), “Sometimes, you know, in life,
you’ll want to cry but can’t. Just so you know,
the answer is to bite your thumb. That’s all.”
My cluelessness, though? Soon, I’ll be without

a thumb, a life, a man to dine with. (Out
of time.) I only care about hair now. Brilliant
black scholar’s what I aim for. I spend all
my leisure time these days researching black
hair looks. I nod, I practice, hope I’ll know
a twist-out when I see it. I watch Life

(the one with Eddie Murphy), plan a life
where someday I’ll have cornrows, braids, without
the insecurity. Should I—oh no,
no flashcards. What’s the point of being brilliant
if you wear white girl hair to Sam’s Club, lack
inheritance and understanding? All

I know is this: it wouldn’t be right to call
what happened to me abandonment. See, life
can be too hard for us, including my black
father, once-Marine, 6’2, without
someone to speak to, even me. Not brilliant,
but he could have helped me come to know

my hair, my blackness, self. Oh, well. Without
some emptiness, what’s life? 24. “Brilliant.
Accomplished.” All I know is what I don’t.

 

 

 

 

Wil Mills Poetry Award

Mark Stevick, Local Habitations

Mark StevickMark Wacome Stevick directs the Princemere Poetry Prize, and the Five Ponds Writers Festival at Gordon College. Besides poetry, he writes fiction, essays, and plays, which include The Fish Mysteries, a version of The Second Shepherds Play, and Cry Innocent, which runs seasonally in Salem, Mass.. Mark leads writing workshop on ekphrasis in Orvieto, Italy, summer theatre seminars in the UK, and student storytelling sojourns to The Moth, Boston. (He’s a StorySlam winner). He earned his master’s degree in creative writing from Boston University, where he studied with poets Derek Walcott and Robert Pinsky

 

Iris N. Spencer Winners

1st Place - Bodega Rosé - Julián David Bañuelos - Texas Tech University

Julian David Banuelos Headshot
  • Julián David Bañuelos
  • Texas Tech University

Julián David Bañuelos is in his final semester for his bachelor's in creative writing at Texas Tech University. He will be pursuing his MFA in poetry at the Iowa Writers' Workshop in the Fall. He has been a finalist for Texas Tech's Stephan Ross Huffman Poetry Award and his poems can be seen in a forthcoming undergraduate journal. He currently resides in Lubbock, Texas, a city cultivating talented writers and poets.

Bodega Rosé

  • Damn it all! Everything we had built rose
  • Like day & night– like the moon you felt close.
  • My hands were shown the cracks time filled with dust.
  • My greatest adventure: peeling your hide
  • To find faults, neither mine nor yours. Time saw
  • Everything. Patience. Growth. Decay– We sink
  • Because we bit. Our glasses in the sink,
  • empty & stained with bodega rosé.
  • No man is an island. Your favorite saw
  • To cut deep. Kept cutting. Digging too close
  • To worlds within. Buried under my hide,
  • There were your words, clogging my veins like dust.
  • I built an altar of cedar, saw dust
  • Danced around us. We craved something to sink
  • Our teeth into like animals. Our hide
  • Heated in seconds, burned away, then rose
  • From ashes. No one has ever been this close.
  • My past: wilderness, a constant seesaw,
  • Up & down, pushed & pulled just like the saw
  • Used to build this body. You shook the dust,
  • Brought the stars before my eyes, held me close
  • Enough to taste the clouds. At times I sink
  • Into myself & unfurl like the rose
  • Bush outside my mother's home. Run and hide.
  • The definition of a man: tough hide.
  • That's what I was told & taught, but I saw
  • My own skin as delicate as the rose
  • Without thorns. I redefined man. Bit dust
  • & poured most of myself straight down the sink.
  • Ready to be filled once again & close
  • Ranks. Love like a bulldog, but when up close
  • The wrinkles are something not meant to hide.
  • They represent the feeling when you sink
  • Your teeth into guilty pleasures. We saw
  • Rough times but we were able to shake the dust;
  • People watched as a weed turned to a rose.
  • I played a game of hide and seek & saw
  • My reflection close in the sink. Dust
  • Of my bones fell to my feet, and I rose.

2nd Place - Platform - Latif Askia Ba - Edinboro University

Latif Askia Ba Headshot
  • Latif Askia Ba
    Edinboro University

Latif Askia Ba is an emerging writer from Brooklyn & Staten Island, NY. He studies at Edinboro University, majoring in Computer Science with a minor in Mathematics and Creative Writing. It wasn't until he went away to school that he discovered his passion for literature and language. His first chapbook, "Wet Monasteries," was published by the Erie-based magazine Alien Buddha Press. He hopes to continue this fulfilling work.

Platform

  • One day I'll fall into the train tracks.
  • Driving along the edge of the platform,
  • On the rutted yellow part, at the lowest speed,
  • I steady my hand on the joystick,
  • But the powerchair tumbles in my mind,
  • Crushing my chest into the third rail.
  • Or maybe some crazed man will throw me to the rail
  • With a confident push. My lips will kiss the tracks.
  • Hunched and broken, I cower from the whip of my mind,
  • And search like a fiend for platform's narrow elevator.
  • I think my bastion's around the next pillar, but I'm in error,
  • My thoughts kicking like ground-beating horses.
  • The train will come and exhale in style--
  • A great sigh after miles of wheels grinding rail.
  • The conductor will squawk in an analog voice with no passion nor error.
  • Looking down his tunnel, his eyes will dull from the tracks.
  • He'll stick his head out of his window and stare down the platform
  • Like a fenced-in cow, his uniform worn out.
  • He'll see me driving and twitching like a man on speed,
  • Looking around the pillars of the empty platform.
  • He'll gawk for a while as he sits on the rail,
  • Wondering if I'll fall onto the tracks
  • after he takes off—
  • A minor error, that finds its catastrophe.
  • Nothing like a wheelchair in the middle of the tracks
  • To make New Yorkers pause for a moment
  • To stare at brown flesh mangled in rail.
  • Death will dangle her hairless legs off the platform.
  • Strangers will flood the empty platform
  • To look at the marvelous error,
  • The new décor of the rail,
  • The oncoming train losing all speed,
  • Another delay on the piss-soaked tracks.

Myong Cha Son Haiku Winners

1st Place - Constriction, Chidinma Opaigbeogu, University of Maryland, College Park

Chidinma Opaigbeogu Headshot
  • Chidinma Opaigbeogu
  • University of Maryland, College Park

Chidinma Opaigbeogu is an English major with a focus in Creative Writing at the University of Maryland. Her love of writing was ignited in the seventh grade when she wrote her first poem about the fear of grease splashes when frying bacon. Many of her poems focus on the cultural dissonance she has experienced as a Nigerian-American. She hopes to inspire other people from multi-cultural backgrounds to feel secure in their identity.

Aside from reading and writing, Chidinma loves watching dramas with her family and cackling with her little sister over memes. Her work has appeared in Rattle Magazine and The Lyric. She is the 2020 first place recipient of the Jimenez Porter Literary Prize for prose and second place for poetry.

Constriction

  • Before class, I bound
  • the girl inside of me tight
  • enough to choke her.

2nd Place - Repentance, Emma Grunhaus, Florida Atlantic University

Emma Grunhaus Headshot
  • Emma Grunhaus
  • Florida Atlantic University

Emma Grunhaus is 19-years-old and is graduating this May from Florida Atlantic University with a 4.0 GPA. She is receiving her bachelor's degree in English with a concentration in Writing and Rhetoric and a minor in Criminal Justice. She has received multiple awards in poetry from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, including a National Gold Medal, and was a semi-finalist for the National Student Poets Program in 2017. In her free time, she enjoys writing, reading, working out, walking her dog, and bingeing Netflix shows.

repentance

  • you leave left-handed
  • love letters on my doorstep
  • …I leave them there too

Rhina P. Espaillat Award

1st Place, Entre láminas de vidrio, Kara Barlow, Wheaton College

Kara Barlow Headshot
  • Kara Joy Barlow
  • Wheaton College

Kara grew up in Windsor, Connecticut as the youngest of four in a homeschooling family. After graduating high school, she spent a year living in a village in rural Spain as an au pair and teacher's assistant at an elementary school. Kara loves the opportunities that have come with bilingualism, from teaching high school Spanish classes online, to travelling, to writing poetry. She spent a semester studying literature at the University of Salamanca and is currently pursuing an English Writing degree at Wheaton College. Kara is working on a book of poetry, If Pebbles Were Songs, which she hopes to publish at some point in the future. Besides writing, her other passions include art, music, crafting, cross-cultural engagement, and making flower crowns.

Entre láminas de vidrio

  • Cuatro cristales de ventana
  • pulverizados en nube evaporada
  • y un arbusto de alambre de púas
  • gotean lavanda y rosa
  • diáfanos como las alas
  • de una mariposa.
  • El ala de mariposa en la mesa,
  • prensada entre dos láminas
  • de vidrio con un cerco de oro
  • y colgada de una cadena,
  • está rota.
  • Unas manos pequeñas, girando
  • y punteando el vidrio para admirar
  • la belleza del ala, al final
  • la desgarraron. La mariposa, desvanecida
  • con el tiempo – un regalo para mi abuela
  • en sus días de volar (porque todos
  • volamos una vez en esta vida) –
  • balancea con alas de siena,
  • amapola y crema como si fuera
  • a volar, pero un ala – un ala
  • está rota.
  • Lo hicieron las manos.
  • Yo también he visto mis manos
  • manosear cosas hermosas y frágiles
  • y destruirlas: como la mañana
  • batiendo sus alas al otro lado
  • del cristal:
  • la manoseo, y ella se disuelve.
  • Pero yo también me he disuelto.
  • Quizá la mariposa
  • piensa que soy yo
  • la tullida –
  • Quizá ella está libre
  • sin pájaros y serpientes y arañas,
  • contenta con su ramita
  • de flores secas, sorbiendo para siempre
  • el néctar de sus días de volar al alba.
  • A veces me pregunto,
  • bebiendo el cielo
  • al amanecer, quién
  • realmente reposa
  • en el interior – yo
  • o la mañana.

Between Sheets of Glass

  • Four windowpanes
  • powdered in evaporated cloud
  • and a barbed-wire bush
  • drip lavender and rose
  • diaphanous like the wings
  • of a butterfly.
  • The butterfly wing on the table,
  • pressed between two panes
  • of glass with a gold ring
  • and hung from a chain,
  • is broken.
  • Small hands, turning
  • and tapping the glass to admire
  • the wing's beauty, finally
  • tore it. The butterfly, faded
  • with time – a gift for my grandmother
  • in her flying days (each of us
  • flies once in this life) –
  • balances with wings of sienna,
  • poppy and cream as if it were going
  • to fly, but one wing – one wing
  • is broken.
  • The hands did it.
  • I also have seen my hands
  • finger beautiful and fragile things
  • and destroy them: like the morning
  • beating its wings on the other side
  • of the glass:
  • I handle her, and she dissolves.
  • But I too have dissolved.
  • Perhaps the butterfly
  • thinks that I am
  • the cripple –
  • Perhaps she is free
  • without birds and serpents and spiders,
  • content with her little branch
  • of dried flowers, forever sipping
  • the nectar from her dawn days of flying.
  • Sometimes I wonder,
  • drinking the sky
  • at sunrise, who
  • really rests
  • in the interior – me
  • or the morning.

Donald Justice Award

John Foy

JohnFoyJOHN FOY’s third book, No One Leaves the World Unhurt, won the 2020 Donald Justice Poetry Prize. It was selected by J. Allyn Rosser and will be out early next year from Autumn House Press. His second book, Night Vision, won the New Criterion Poetry Prize and was published by St. Augustine’s Press in 2016. It was also a finalist for the 2018 Poets’ Prize. His first book is Techne’s Clearinghouse. His work has been included in the Swallow Anthology of New American Poets, The Best of the Raintown Review, and Rabbit Ears: TV Poems. He has published widely in journals, including The New Yorker, Poetry, The Hudson Review, The New Criterion, The Village Voice, Parnassus, American Arts Quarterly, Alabama Literary Review, The Dark Horse (in Scotland), The Yale Review, Barrow Street, and The Hopkins Review. His poems have appeared online in Literary Matters, Poetry Daily, Ducts, Kin, The Nervous Breakdown, Big City Lit, and Angle, an online literary journal in the UK. His essays and reviews have run in Parnassus, The New Criterion, Contemporary Poetry Review, The Dark Horse, and other publications, and he has been a guest blogger for Best American Poetry. He lives and works in New York.

It Is What It Is

It is what it is.
It’s not what it might have been.
It’s not what it had been.
It isn’t what it could be
It’s not what it ought to be.
It won’t be what it might have been.
It was what it ought not to have been.
It will be what it ought not to be.
It ought not to be what it is.
It’s surely not what it was.
It can’t ever be what it had been.
It’ll never be what it could have been.
It ought never to have been what it had been.
It was what it was.
It’s not what it was.
It is what it is.

Kathrine Barrett Swett (Donald Justice Poetry Prize)

Kathrine Barrett Swett

Kathrine Barrett Swett's collection, Voice Message, was selected by Erica Dawson for the 2019 Donald Justice Poetry Prize. It is forthcoming from Autumn House Press in 2020. A high school English teacher, Swett lives in New York City. She received a PhD in American Literature from Columbia University. Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in various journals including,The Lyric, Rattle, Mezzo Cammin, The Raintown Review and The Orchards. Sonnets by her were finalists for the Nemerov Contest in 2016 and 2017. Her chapbook, Twenty-one was published by Finishing Line Press in 2016.

Below is a poem from the upcoming book, Voice Message.

SUMMER SONNET

A bullfrog calls across the pond at dusk
while children capture fireflies in jars.
As I rip off a dozen stiff corn husks,
a neighbor revs the engine of his car.
The bats keep swooping out in silent flight
and distant firecrackers cut the air.
We sit outside at dinner; it is light
till nine or ten, and we just linger there
because it seems like it will stay this way
always. We'll never change, never leave
this table here; these kids will awlays play
out there. Not one of us will grieve
a worse annoyance than the whine and bite
of bugs attacking on a summer night.

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Alecc Costanzi (1st Place - Iris N. Spencer Poetry Award)

Alecc C. Costanzi, from West Chester University, won first place for his poem “Arcom.” Alecc is an upcoming writer, graduate of West Chester University of Pennsylvania, and veteran of the United States Army. With his Bachelor's degree in Creative Writing and Digital Humanities, his writing concentrates on life experiences; especially in regards to his time in Iraq and the military. He strives to the tell the real story, not of larger than life heroes and battles, but of "the Everyman in the trenches." ARCOM, the Iris N. Spencer award winning poem, is one such narrative. Costanzi currently resides in South Eastern, Pennsylvania, and is working on publishing his memoir Iraqi Soup.

Arcom

He stands before me, a child

No more than ten meters away.

Meters, not yards.

(The Army does not use yards.)

He is the enemy. My enemy.

He stares right at me.

The boy wears a small orange jersey

And yellow mesh shorts with a blue lining.

I wear ACU’s with tan combat boots.

The black M4 Carbine in my calloused hands

Is loaded with 5.56mm ballpoint,

Full metal jacket.

He clutches a (stuffed) dog,

A mutt, maybe some golden lab in him.

Maybe a bomb.

The dog, not the child.

The boy is clean.

(His parents must love him.)

He begins to cry.

But I shoot him anyway.

He dies. Not slowly, but not quickly, either.

Blood pools in a puddle under him.

I stand there.

Later, I receive an award.

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Eliza Browning (2nd Place - Iris N. Spencer Poetry Award)

Eliza Browning is a rising sophomore at Wheaton College MA. She is the winner of the Fitzgerald Museum Literary Contest and the Poetry Society of Virginia Undergraduate Poetry Award. Additionally, her writing has been recognized by the YoungArts Foundation, the Lex Allen Literary Festival, and the Connecticut Poetry Society, among others.

The Things We Cannot Touch

Sometimes when I woke at night I thought

I could hear the sea in my ears, a distant

current like the faint static of a telephone wire.

Maybe I’d lived too long near the coast because

the shadows of the pines outside were no more real

to me than window views from some earlier home,

a time before loss was permanent, when all missing

things would resurrect themselves in the sand.

It’s winters like those, after the sandpipers were gone,

when I felt most alone, wandering the halls of the old

motel until dusk. During one migration I rose at dawn,

expecting to find in the next bed not the husk of your body,

but the hollow where you once were, transient and fleeting

as the impression of a cloud as it abandons the sky,

or the arc of a footprint once the tide leaves the shore.

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Ariel Horton (1st Place - Myong Cha Son Haiku Award)

Ariel Horton is a second-year student at Whittier College studying Creative Writing and Theatre Performance. She has been fortunate enough to win a handful of awards for poetry, including a National Gold Medal in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, the Clark County Poet Laureate's Award, and 1st and 2nd place prizes in the Whittier College Prose and Poetry competitions. Among others, her work has been published in ANGLES Literary Magazine, The Greenleaf Review, and Clark: Poetry from Clark County, Nevada. Beyond the pen, she is an actor, a feminist, a doting dog-mom, and a lover of all things Art.

Here is her award winning Haiku:

kissing you is like

pressing my mouth to the eye

of a hurricane.

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MaKenzee Gossett (Runner-Up - Myong Cha Son Haiku Award)

Makenzee Gossett from Lee University for the poem “Icarus Complex.” MaKenzee Gosset is a 23 year old 2019 graduate from Lee University, located in Cleveland, TN. While at Lee, he studied English Literature, Deaf Studies, Linguistics, and TESOL. Having finished his undergraduate degree, and receiving acceptance to the University of Tennessee’s Masters program, he plans to attend UTK in pursuit of a Masters in Teacher Education, emphasis in Deaf Education. With a desire to continue learning, MaKenzee hopes to pursue a Doctorate in Deaf Studies, once he finishes his Masters.

Icarus Complex:
Trusting your prideful feathers
Humbled by the sun

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Zach Pellis (Runner-Up - Myong Cha Son Haiku Award)

Zach Pellis is graduating senior at Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, PA. He is runner-up for the Haiku, “Down on the Beach.” He is majoring in Biochemistry on the Pre-Health track and plans to attend medical school in the fall. This is his first time to submit his writing to a competition, but his goal is to continue writing and publish his work.

Here is "Down on the Beach"

A foot leave its mark.
Like a thief, a creeping wave
steals it from the sand.

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Eliza Browning (Honorable Mention)

Eliza Browning also won an honorable mention for her Haiku.

Scent of citrus and
the mirror of ocean, blue as
an eye, unblinking.

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Janie McNeil (1st and 2nd Place - Rhina P. Espaillat Award)

Janie McNeil from West Chester University won first place for her poem “El Nacimiento” or “The Birth” and she won second place for her poem “Compariendo la Culpa” or “Sharing the Blame.” The skillful organizing of words is her life’s purpose. Janie wrote her first short stories when she was six years old and has always considered herself a writer. She says, "I could no more stop myself from writing, than I could stop myself from breathing." She is an Army Veteran, and recently retired from the Department of Corrections. She worked with mentally disabled people for five years, and as a bartender for six years. She has had the opportunity to cast a wide net over the bounty of human experiences. "The things that I drawn in are the things that nourish my writing, and help me to create a strong foundation for my conveyance of the written word. I transpose the melody from physical poetry into verse. From diamonds into lumps of coal..." (McNeil)
Below are both poems in English followed by the Spanish translation.

"The Birth"

I didn’t ask to be born

I grabbed firmly the fallopian tube

And struggled against the force

Trying to eradicate me from my throne

The harsh light pierces my tightly closed lenses

As my resistance falls short

The pain outweighs the joy

And I cry out

I shall never forget the oppression of their will…

"El Nacimiento"

Yo no pedí nacer

Agarré firmemente la trompa de Falopio.

Y luche’ contra la fuerza.

Tratando de erradicarme de mi trono

La luz dura atraviesa mis lentes bien cerrados

Como mi resistencia se queda corta

El dolor supera la alegría.

Y yo grito

Nunca olvidaré la opresión de su voluntad …

"Sharing the Blame"

Let’s share…

Not the profits

Those we’ll keep for our self

Not the businesses

That’s how we maintain our wealth

Not our positions

That makes us leaders of tomorrow

We’re speaking of the blame

A constant source of sorrow

“Compartiendo la Culpa"

Compartamos…

No las ganancias

Aquellos que guardaremos para nosotros mismos.

No los negocios

Así es como mantenemos nuestra riqueza.

No nuestras posiciones

Eso nos hace líderes del mañana.

Estamos hablando de la culpa

Una fuente constante de dolor.

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Chad Abushanab (Donald Justice Poetry Award)

Chad Abushanab

Chad Abushanab is the winner of the 2018 Donald Justice Poetry Prize. His first poetry collection, The Last Visit, published by Autumn House Press, is now available for purchase.

His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Best New Poets 2017, Birmingham Poetry Review, Ecotone, Southern Poetry Review, Measure: A Journal of Formal Poetry, Shenandoah, The Hopkins Review, Unsplendid, and 32 Poems, among others. He currently lives in Lubbock, Texas where he is a doctoral candidate in literature and creative writing at Texas Tech University, as well as an associate editor at Iron Horse Literary Review.

Here is one of Chad's poems, "Love Poem with Five Lines Stolen from VHS Boxes."

Love Poem with Five Lines Stolen from VHS Boxes

I woke up wild, soaked in nervous sweat.
I stepped outside and thought that I might howl
but found the clouds too dark to see the moon.
Inside, I felt the nubs of fangs put pressure
on my tender gums, and searched the fridge
for anything that bleeds, anything raw.
My clothes became too tight, and crescent claws
broke through my fingertips. "It's beautiful,"
you said, while floating down the spiral stairs.
I wallowed in disgusting joy and tore
your powder evening gown to ribbons. You fit
me with a studded leash, a mongrel beast
who writhed beside your feet and lapped the pools
of moonlight from the street. I loved the way
you made me less than man. I loved the way
you fed me from your hand, and told me good
when I was being bad. I drank the blood
of alley cats I snared between my teeth,
and dug the graves for each beneath the porch.
From what I can recall, the lust for meat
was terrible and sweet. We made dark love,
you sent me out for more. When neighbor kids
began to disappear, you stroked my head.
You watched old horror tapes for strategies
to keep me wild, hidden, yours. For weeks,
I stayed inside. I fed on bones and rot.
You sat in the window, wished away the sun,
and waited for the day they all forgot.
You asked of me just who is more depraved,
the monster or the one who made him so?
Your love's like blood. It coats my hungry tongue.
For reasons such as this, I still don't know.

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Morgan Ome (1st Place - Iris N. Spencer Poetry Award)

Morgan Ome, Johns Hopkins University

Morgan Ome is a rising senior double majoring in Writing Seminars and Italian at the Johns Hopkins University. Her poetry has been published in Rookie Magazine, and in addition to writing poems, she enjoys reporting as a student journalist. This year, Morgan was a News & Features Editor for The Johns Hopkins News-Letter, the independent, student newspaper of the University, and will serve as Editor-in-Chief in the fall.

Phosphenes

The place where you once stood is filled with light
that’s soft like sunrise, pearly grey and blue.
It will not disappear or fade from sight.

Fine particles of dust pulsate, like white
noise, off your spectral silhouette. It’s true
the place where you once stood is filled, with light

and quivering shapes, reminders that you might
return one day. You left a single shoe.
It will not disappear or fade from sight.

You left more things like leather journals, bright
striped t-shirts, vintage whiskey: gateways to
the place where you once stood. Is filled with light

the same as filled with love? Stop by the site
where we exploded, see the mess that grew.
It will not disappear or fade from sight.

The heartache on my face this sleepless night
(post-you, post-me), carves lines. I ache for you.
The place where you once stood is filled with light.
It will not disappear or fade from sight.

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Emily Stepp (2nd Place - Iris N. Spencer Poetry Award)

Emily Stepp, UNC

Emily is a rising Junior and an English major, with a concentration in creative writing, at the University of North Carolina at Asheville. She self-published her first fantasy novel during her senior year in high school. When not reading science fiction or fantasy, she is usually working on one of her many story ideas.

In New York, Before We Met

You’re not smiling in this one either
but I imagine that
under those sunglasses
your eyes smile for you.

Your headphones
make me wonder
if I’d like that song too.

You don’t seem to notice the buildings
staring down at you;
you’re too focused
on staring at the camera.

You don’t smile in photos
not even selfies.
And I wonder if

Your smile
would make me feel better
than when you say

I love you.

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Daniel Garcia (1st Place Myong Cha Son Haiku Award)

Daniel Garcia, University of North Texas

Daniel Garcia is a Pushcart nominated, queer writer of color based out in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Daniel’s work has appeared in Write About Now Poetry, Button Poetry, Hawaii Pacific Review, Crab Fat Magazine, Rathalla Review, and more. When Daniel isn’t writing, Daniel can be found giving as many hugs as possible, living by the words, “You are all that you have,” and falling off the edge of the Earth. As of 2017, Daniel is the current College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) national haiku champion, and the recipient of the 2018 Myong Cha Son Haiku Award.

Me, Too

“Is it my fault,” the
skirt asked. / “No,” said the veil. “It
happened to me, too.”

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Haley Beasley (Runner Up - Myong Cha Son Haiku Award)


Haley Beasley, West Texas

Haley Beasley, 22 years old is from Muleshoe, TX. She is currently a senior at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, TX and will graduate in May 2019. She enjoys writing and reading in her spare time and plans on going into publishing after graduation while continuing to write her own work. She also enjoys spending time with her two dogs, Belle and Morgana.

The Nightly Routine

You, me, and three dogs
Sleeping on a twin-sized bed
Is pain in Heaven.

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Jemma Fisher (Runner Up - Myong Cha Son Haiku Award)

Jemma Fisher, Sarah Lawrence College

Snow swallows our tracks
White hushed horizon and a
Solitary finch

Yvette Ndlovu (Runner Up - Myong Cha Son Haiku Award)

Yvette Ndlovu, Cornell

Yvette Lisa Ndlovu is a Zimbabwean writer studying English at Cornell University. She has worked at Durland Alternatives Library’s Prisoner Express Program as a Poetry Editor and received the 2017 George Harmon Coxe Award for Poetry. Her work has appeared in the Huffington Post and the Cornell Daily Sun.

Soul Mate

roots snaking through dirt
nourished by a frothing spring
few will ever find

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Alejandro Lemus Gomez (Rhina P. Espaillat Award)

Alejandro Lemus Gomez, Young Harris College

Alejandro Lemus-Gomez was born in Miami, the son of Cuban exiles, and now lives in the rural Appalachian Mountains. He is the 2018 winner of the Agnes Scott Writers’ Festival Contest in poetry. He studies English and philosophy at Young Harris College in North Georgia. His poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in storySouth, Indiana Review Online, Reunion: The Dallas Review, and other journals.

Bautizo de Agua Salada

Déjame mojar mi cabeza en el agua salada
que yo nací muy cerca y quiero hundirme lentamente
en el mar solo para emerger de nuevo.

Deja que mi piel de oliva se convierta en polvo,
déjame vadear el fondo del Atlántico como
cuando apisono su arena—sus partículas blancas

que se despiertan alarmadas solo para caer
suavemente, como mi madre cuando se duerme.
Deja que mi sangre tiña el agua, como manchas

de luz—cubriendo las caras de mis ancestros
y bisabuelos a quienes solo conozco por cuentos.
Déjame ser un grano de sal en el mar, una gota

de sudor que caiga en el agua, o una lágrima
de niño, para cuando Miami vuelva a crecer
poder romper en la orilla como una ola.

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Mayra Arrevalo (Rhina P. Espaillat Award)

Mayra Arrevalo, Augustana College

My name is Mayra Arevalo. I consider myself a chicana. I take great pride in the neighborhood in which I was brought up. I was forced out in order to pursue an education. From Chicago to Rock Island I am working to obtain a sociology major at Augustana College. I focus my poetry on daily struggles faced by Latinos. I focus my time working at the Boys and Girls Club of the Mississippi Valley and running our on-campus group Latinx Unidos. I feel very passionate about both due to being able to inspire and empower youth and other college students.

Pertenecer

Vivo en dos mundos
Uno en cual los libros abundan
Y otro en cual la canción de cada noche es el ruido de una sirena
Un mundo en cual no pertenezco
Y otro en cual todos ven muy bajo
Aprovecha me dicen a cada rato
Que no vez que tienes la oportunidad de volar lejos de aquí
La realidad no la ven pues de lejos y sobre la superficie todo es hermoso
Pero no ven que mantenerse aquí se vuelve complicado
Empiezas a sentir coraje pues pones todo de ti y nunca es suficiente
Y ahí es cuando te sientes sola pues los del otro mundo no entienden eso
Y llegas a un punto que ningún mundo es tuyo
Ni el nuevo ni el viejo ni los dos juntos

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Ryan Wilson (Donald Justice Poetry Award)

Prize awarded for The Stranger World.

Ryan Wilson was born in Griffin, Georgia, and raised in nearby Macon. His poems, translations, and criticism appear widely, in journals such as 32 Poems, Able Muse, Dappled Things, First Things, the Hopkins Review, Iron Horse Literary Review, Measure, Sewanee Theological Review, and Unsplendid. Recently he has been a finalist for the Vassar Miller Book Prize, the Morton Marr Poetry Prize, and the Frost Farm Poetry Prize, and he has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and awarded the Eleanor Clark Prize from the Robert Penn Warren Circle and the Walter Sullivan Prize for Promise in Criticism from the Sewanee Review. He holds graduate degrees from the Johns Hopkins University and Boston University, and he is currently a doctoral candidate at the Catholic University of America.

 
Ryan Wilson

Brittney McDonald (Iris N. Spencer Poetry Award)

Brittney McDonald is a Cache Valley, Utah, native and is currently studying Creative Writing at Utah State University. She is President of her campus' creative writing club and has had poetry published in Vanilla Sex Magazine, Helicon West: An Anthology, and on broadsides and collections. Upon graduation in May of 2017 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, Brittney plans to work in Spain for a year in the school system as a Language Assistant.

 
Brittney McDonald

Morgan Bilicki (Iris N. Spencer Poetry Award)

Morgan Bilicki is a Georgia native, and currently lives in a small town tucked between the mountains. She is studying Creative Writing at Young Harris College, and while her focus is in poetry, she enjoys reading and writing in every genre, with her work often exploring Southern family dynamics, ties to old objects, and feminist themes. When not writing, she can be found catering to her miniature schnauzer’s persistent demands.

 
Morgan Bilicki

Jacqueline Keshner (Myong Cha Son Haiku Award)

Jacqueline Keshner is a rising junior and an English Literature and Economics double major at the College of William & Mary. Her work has been honored by the Illinois Upstate Eight Conference, the Illinois Association of Teachers of English, and the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.

 
Jacqueline Keshner

MeiMei Liu (Myong Cha Son Haiku Award)

MeiMei Liu is a 22 year-old first-year student at Whittier College, who has autism and is non-verbal. MeiMei is majoring in English with an emphasis in creative writing and is a student of Tony Barnstone. She was recently awarded first place in the Whittier College annual scholarly writing contest for her paper on Homer’s Odyssey.

 
MeiMei Liu

Alejandro Lemus-Gomez (Rhina P. Espaillat Award)

Alejandro Lemus-Gomez is a junior English major and Philosophy minor at Young Harris College. Originally from Miami, FL, he moved to the North Georgia mountains to attain his bachelor's degree. His poetry reflects his experiences growing up as a Cuban-American and his transition from urban to rural life. When he is not writing or reading, he can found gardening, playing music, or crafting jewelry.

 
Alejandro Lemus Gomez
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