The English Studies Department announced the winners of the 2019 Peter Sears Poetry Prize. The first prize went to Nicole Caldwell, second prize to Tricia Manzano and third prize to Laura Wildfang. The three winning poems are below.
The competition received over 60 poems from students. An English Studies committee selected 10 poems that were forwarded to the final judge, Jennifer Richter, poet and professor at Oregon State University.
Of Nicole Caldwell’s first-place poem, Professor Richter wrote:
“’Coming Home’ is stunning—a powerful reminder that not everyone is lucky enough to hear any ease or relief in that title. The poem’s single-sentence momentum propels us through each stanza—mirroring beautifully the fluidity with which the speaker moves between familiar and foreign lands, peace and wartime, what’s hidden and exposed, seen and imagined—till we’re delivered to the devastating last line that resonates far beyond the page.”
First Prize: “Coming Home” by Nicole Caldwell
They shipped us home,
never telling us enemies would follow,
crouching in fever dream jungles, watching
our gun boat slide by,
or that there’s no waking from scanned riverbanks,
shifting eyes and hidden barrels, that in all the waters
of the world, we’ll see heads of unlucky brothers,
in the ripples we cast, graying skin stretched tight
across skulls like membranes across the rice drums
we sometimes heard through rattling palms,
that even eyes clenched shut,
won’t convince us they’re only rocks.
Second Prize: “This Too Will Take Some Time” by Tricia Manzano
I don’t know
what I’m supposed to do
when you tell me lately
I remind you of the moon
A gravitational pull
You say you miss
the comforting sound of waves
lulling you to sleep
and the moonlit rays
that softly blanket over you
now, I’m ever shifting
weightless in the sky
You’re unable to reach me
yet I’m glowing among stars
You always take notice
the darkest of my nights
I know you
you won’t take it personal
since you know me
I won’t apologize
for all my phases
You’re unable to see me
as of this moment
because I’m working
Third Prize: “Fly Fishing Romance” by Laura Wildfang
Waders make him look even bigger,
water swirls around his knees.
His large arm casts between 10 and 2.
His favorite place, the river.
A fish strikes and tries to run,
he is patient.
If only he was that patient with me.
Aggressively the fish fights
now around his knees.
I know what the fish sees,
looking up at the towering body from below.
He scoops the fish out of the water.
Gently holding it,
I wish he held me that way.
He marvels at the colors and size;
releasing it unharmed back to the river.
The small bruises scattered on my arms
have begun to turn purple.
They match the ones that freckle his back
that his drunk father left last night.
Sitting on the bank
carefully tying a woolly bugger to my tippet.
Fly fishing is done with love.
We go fly fishing all the time.