Contests and Awards

  • Awards
  • Alecc
  • JD Awards
  • Ladies
  • hold
  • 2018Conf
  • Spencer Awards
  • WCU Auditorium

For contest and award details please see the respective sections below.


Donald Justice Poetry Prize

The distinguished American poet Donald Justice is recognized as one of the finest poets of the late twentieth century. The recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, Bollingen Prize, and numerous honors for his verse, Justice was a masterful and exacting craftsman, traits that define the prize named in his honor. The prize is made possible through the generosity of the Iris N. Spencer Poetry Award. The Justice Award welcomes unpublished, original book-length collections of poems that pay attention to form for consideration in the competition. The winner of the competition will receive $1,500, and have their manuscript published.

We ask that applicants adhere to the following guidelines.

  • The annual competition is open to all American poets regardless of whether they have previously published a book-length collection.
  • The manuscript should be between 50-100 typed pages in unbound, bound, or clipped form.
  • No more than one-third of the manuscript may consist of permission-secured or public domain translations.
  • The manuscript should contain two title pages: one with the collection's title, author's name, address, e-mail address, and telephone number; and the other with only the title.
  • There is a $25 entry fee for each manuscript submitted. Make payment to: Donald Justice Poetry Award-West Chester University.
  • 2021 Competition: All submissions for the 2021 competition must be postmarked no later than November 15, 2020.

Manuscripts should be mailed to:

    • WCU Poetry Awards
      720 S. High Street
      Main Hall
      West Chester University
      West Chester, PA 19383
    • Also send an electronic copy to:

Submitted manuscripts will not be returned. For notification of contest results, please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

The winner will receive their prize and give a public reading at the annual West Chester University Poetry Conference in April 2021.

Donald Justice Biography

2020 Judge: J. Allyn Rosser

J. Allyn Rosser was born in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. She attended Middlebury College in Vermont, and earned a PhD in English Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. Her works include Bright Moves (1990), winner of the Morse Poetry Prize; Misery Prefigured (2001), winner of the Crab Orchard Award; Foiled Again (2007), winner of The New Criterion Poetry Prize; and Mimi's Trapeze (2014). Her poetry has also been published in such periodicals as The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, and Ninth Letter. Rosser is a member of the faculty at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, and her work has appeared in 5 editions of Best American Poetry.  She's received fellowships from the Guggenheim and Lannan Foundations.

2019 Judge: Erica Dawson

Erica is the author of two collections of poetry: The Small Blades Hurt (Measure Press, 2014), winner of the 2016 Poets' Prize, and Big-Eyed Afraid (Waywiser Press, 2007), winner of the 2006 Anthony Hecht Prize. Her poems have appeared in Barrow Street, Birmingham Poetry Review, Blackbird, Literary Imagination, Unsplendid, Virginia Quarterly Review, and other journals. Her poems have been featured in several anthologies, including Best American Poetry 2008, 2012, and 2015, American Society: What Poets See; Living in Storms: Contemporary Poetry and the Moods of Manic-Depression; and The Swallow Anthology of New American Poets.

Erica's third book, When Rap Spoke Straight to God, will be published by Tin House Books in Fall 2018.

Born and raised in Maryland, Erica holds a BA from Johns Hopkins University, an MFA from Ohio State University, and a PhD from University of Cincinnati. She’s taught workshops and seminars at the Florida Arts Coalition's Other Words Conference, St. Leo University's Sandhill Writers Retreat, and the DISQUIET International Literary Program in Lisbon. Erica is the Director of The University of Tampa's Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing, and, at UT, an associate professor of English and Writing.

She lives in Tampa with her Shih-Tzu, Stella, whom she named after Sir Philip Sidney's Astrophil and Stella, not Tennessee Williams' Stella or Stella Artois, though Erica really likes Tennessee Williams and Stella Artois.

Iris N. Spencer Poetry Award

Created by Kean W. Spencer in honor of his mother, a reader and community servant, the 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 poets who are enrolled in a United States college or university.
  • There is no fee to enter. Submissions may be a combination of poems submitted to the Iris N. Spencer Award, the Myong Cha Son Haiku Award, or the Rhina P. Espaillat Poetry Award. Limit of three poems per contest.
  • All poems entered remain confidential, anonymous and internal. 
  • Deadline for submission: February 1, 2021. Submissions must be sent as an e-mail attachment to:
  • The author's name, address, College/University and personal e-mail address, telephone number, and name of college or university currently attending should be submitted as a separate PDF/Doc. Please mark subject line as, "WCU Poetry Awards"
Iris Spencer
Iris Spencer

Myong Cha Son Haiku Award

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 poets who are enrolled in a United States college or university.
  • There is no fee to enter. Submissions may be a combination of poems submitted to the Iris N. Spencer Award, the Myong Cha Son Haiku Award, or the Rhina P. Espaillat Poetry Award. Limit of three poems per contest.
  • All poems entered remain confidential, anonymous and internal.
  • Deadline for submission: February 1, 2021. Submissions must be sent as an e-mail attachment to:
  • The author's name, address, College/University and personal e-mail address, telephone number, and name of college or university currently attending should be submitted as a separate PDF/Doc. Please mark subject line as, "WCU Poetry Awards"
Myong Cha Son
Myong Cha Son

Rhina P. Espaillat Award

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 $500 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 poets who are enrolled in a United States college or university.
  • Include both the English and Spanish versions of the submitted poem.
  • There is no fee to enter. Submissions may be a combination of poems submitted to the Iris N. Spencer Award, the Myong Cha Son Haiku Award, or the Rhina P. Espaillat Poetry Award. Limit of three poems per contest.
  • All poems entered remain confidential, anonymous and internal.
  • Deadline for submission: February 1, 2021. Submissions must be sent as an e-mail attachment to: 
  • The author's name, address, College/University and personal e-mail address, telephone number, and name of college or university currently attending should be submitted as a separate PDF/Doc. Please mark subject line as, "WCU Poetry Awards"

Wil Mills Award

The Wil Mills Award is open to poets who have published chap books but have no full-linked collections.

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

  • The author's name, address, e-mail address, telephone number, and name of college or university attended should be submitted as a separate PDF/Doc.
  • Please include chap book (18-24 pages).
  • All submissions must be postmarked or e-mailed no later than February 1, 2021.
  • Manuscripts need not be completely grounded in formal poetry, however, winning manuscripts tend to reflect a sophisticated engagement with form.
  • There is no entry fee for this contest.
  • Submissions may also be mailed to:
    • WCU Poetry Awards
      720 S. High Street
      Main Hall, Rm 151
      West Chester University
      West Chester, PA 19383
  • Electronic submissions must also be sent as an e-mail attachment to: (put Wil Mills Award in the subject line).

Submitted poems will not be returned.

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.


  • 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.


  • 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.


  • 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

JOHN FOY’s third book, It Is What It Is, 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.

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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.


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.


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"


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.


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.


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. 


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.


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.”


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. 


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


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. 


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.


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 


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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