Dudley Randall Poetry Prizes

About the Dudley Randall Poetry Prize

Dudley RandallEach year, the Detroit Mercy English Department honors Dudley Randall by sponsoring a poetry competition in his name. Now in its 54th year, the prize continues Dudley Randall’s legacy of amplifying creative voices within the Detroit Mercy community. Read winning poems since 2015 below or peruse prize-winning poems from 1970 to 2014 on the Archive Research Center's page.

Esteemed judges for the Dudley Randall Poetry Prize have included Casey Bell, Marcello Hernandez Castillo, Emily Corwin, Claire Crabtree, Farnaz Fatemi, Cal Freeman, Stacy Gnall, Rose Gorman, Gloria House, Michael Lauchlan, Sarah Pazur, Isaac Pickell, Alison Powell and Dudley Randall.

Photo of Dudley Randall at right courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library.

About Dudley Randall

Dudley Randall (1914-2000) was a poet, translator, editor, and publisher, as well as librarian and poet-in-resident at University of Detroit Mercy. In 1965 he founded Broadside Press, which published the work of major black poets including Gwendolyn Brooks, Nikki Giovanni, Robert Hayden, LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Etheridge Knight, Audre Lord, Sonia Sanchez, Alice Walker, and Margaret Walker. An accomplished writer himself, Dudley Randall was named Detroit’s first Poet Laureate in 1981. In 2001, Detroit Mercy’s McNichols Campus Library was designated as a National Literary Landmark in honor of Randall’s many contributions as a poet, publisher, and librarian. Read more about Dudley Randall at Broadside Lotus Press.

A staunch advocate for student writers, Dudley Randall inaugurated Detroit Mercy’s Poet-in-Residence awards, now called the Dudley Randall Poetry Prize, in 1970. Randall served as a judge for thirty years, until his death in 2000.

Dudley Randall Center for Print Culture

The Dudley Randall Center for Print Culture was established in October 2000. The philosophy of the Center is based on the elimination of the boundaries traditionally drawn in the field of publishing between electronic and print projects, and between academic, student and community scholars and writers.


We are excited to announce the winners of the 54th Dudley Randall Poetry Prize!

Congratulations to this year’s winners and to all of the excellent poets who submitted their work this year!

Dudley Randall Poetry Prize 2024 Winners

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    1st place: Sam Gillmore, "The Girl I Used to Be"

    The Girl I Used to Be
    by Sam Gillmore

    My mom said I’m a pretty crier.
    I sit and watch her tears fall in my mirror.
    I stare at my lips, salted with the memories of
    nights drenched in smoke and stolen liquor bottles

    and the deceptive freedom of having
    nothing to lose.
    I can’t hear the voice of God when
    I see my own reflection.

    I toy with the idea of one more rendezvous with
    that young girl I hardly recognize anymore just to tell her
    I miss her terribly and maybe just one more night together,
    just us, for old time’s sake or for the love that used to be there

    but I see my mother’s hands smooth my hair and I am reminded of
    the pain that used to be there, too.
    I miss when we pretended not to be afraid,
    riding fury-spoked bicycles on the breeze of a summer prayer.

    The haze of suburban glamour gave a teenager two swords and
    stripped her of sight. The onslaught of springtime made me
    a woman before her time and what else to keep your girlhood but
    to die still a girl? I wish I could tell her that

    I finally swept the sheared hair up from where
    she left it on the bathroom floor, the same floor we
    floated unconscious on when she pierced my ears. But
    she is still running from us

    so fast that her favorite shoes grew holes on my feet and
    I am beating wings worthless of a butterfly. I try to tell her
    how to love me but my words split into tongues and I try to write
    how to love me but my language circles an unsayable drain.

    I will love her, instead. With each turn of the hourglass, there is
    nothing I can do to break her fall as the grains of salt slip
    through the lonely neck.
    She told me Jesus smelled the wood of the cross and

    thought of home. I smell the smoke of burning leaves and
    think of her. I try to meet the gaze of the prodigal son but
    all I see is my mother’s foolish daughter. I think of
    the things that pass for love and everything

    I have allowed others to do. I think, too, of the Good Book
    my grandmother palmed through and I try to imagine
    the chapel that cradled my ribbon-haired mother.
    My story starts when hers ends but

    I have to learn things the hard way
    to have something to call my own


    2nd place: Antajuan Scott, "Hungry"

    by Antajuan Scott

    We were hungry when we met
    In line for food
    But what we craved was this
    Our beginning
    Lining up with life, getting grown
    Destined for it all
    Reminds me of the lemonade you drank that day
    Bright and sweet

    Your hair was long then
    Mine was short
    And overtime we’d trade
    Longing for moments like that
    Falling short, failing but keeping shape
    We stood in line for this

    Growing up, then apart
    Was bittersweet, like the orange
    Picked to soon, I still savor
    That day we saw each other
    Breaking bread and building
    Our new world

    Now worlds apart
    Do you remember the hunger?
    It never went away
    Even though we did
    lives rich and full as we were the day
    When we stood in line
    Hungry, and ready to eat.


    3rd place - tie: Mary Gagnon, "Gauze"

    by Mary Gagnon

    We are daughters
    born in the evisceration of ancient mud brick
    perched like twin doves in the minaret
    while the ardency of olive trees cry out against the collapsing skies
    the hills can no longer carry the weight of the cathexis and the man with kindness
    wrapped around his wounds sings out to the children
    November catches the resonance of his shuddering voice
    our uncles lay down their hand staffs and affliction and touch their foreheads to the dirt
    to listen for signs of concord and origin
    we whisper ‘what about us?”
    the sky anoints our thirst
    she paints torrents of rain and prayer across the deep gnash in our hearts
    embroidered by silver slivers of steel we used to use for hemming pant legs with in September
    now we use them to bring together folds of skin and sorrow
    she sews our braids into place thick with fishing wire from our father’s row boat
    there are no fish to catch
    he too hears the call from the sea
    the salt solders his heart into place
    rooting his hope deep in the earth
    we remember the knuckle kneaded platters
    the flour dusted hands of our grandmother’s
    at the center
    of canyons of wheat
    sectioning balls of oiled dough
    to feed the starved dreams of boys who cling to their mother’s smocks
    as they prepare to die without casket or ritual
    they sort through dried beans carful to section the stones from the flesh
    so we have something to throw at tanks that level roads we’ve been deceived into
    believing are safe for escape
    there will be no deep drums that hoist our grief through procession
    only the wailing of women, the breaking of hearts for percussion
    no fragile poppy petals blanket our final rest
    where we will finally know rest
    where we are final
    we will not see the winter end
    the fields of native flowers made for sisters to run barefoot in the spring
    our mothers will refuse to wash our blood from their hands
    there will be no sickeningly dry metallic scent
    only musk and fields of life disguised as death
    only untold stories of colonized wreckage and neglect
    we remember the sun toasting our skin like sesame in its absolution
    the shade of the Cyprus, when we believed we were children that help would come
    that we would not be forsaken
    We are sons of decent and stolen land pushing toy trucks through rubble
    we used to share a room
    a memory, a full stomach, a fire warmed pita of magotless bread
    we carry sheets of carboard from concave to concave
    where rockets have split open the layers of sand
    we’ll all sleep together so we may die together on this makeshift bed
    hearts free from doubt we heed what mama says
    my brother’s gaze widens
    I can see now he understands why
    light bombs detonate in the hazel of his eyes
    “what about us?” he whispers
    it’s not the first time we’ve watched baba cry


    3rd place - tie: Andrew Bosah, "The Shore of the Camp""

    The Shore of the Camp
    by Andrew Bosah

    The moon beamed broad,
    dancing across the current.
    There was something there
    unbothered by the night.
    Life was paused here,
    what I left behind forgotten.
    The next semester, the job,
    the entire next year.
    It wasn’t even remembered.
    All that was known was
    the crisp yet comforting air.
    I looked into the waters,
    where the land was absent.
    Where I should’ve sensed fear
    my heart was at rest.


    Honorable Mention: Katherine Mutschler, "who deign to play creator"

    who deign to play creator
    by Katherine Mutschler

    i told you it’s like trying to squeeze a very large something out of a very small hole
    you chuckled and said, “try giving birth.”

    what i should’ve told you is that’s it’s like trying

    to capture the fragile rise and shudder of his shoulder blade beneath my hand
    to choreograph the lapping silver river to writhe like a sea monster slipping under moonless waves
    to ensnare the hitch in her laughter as she compares just how many bandits surround her with the waning sum of bullets in
            her cocked pistol

    to balance the thin chill of shock with the balm of sweat under her arm as the slush melts, her nose runs, and an old friend
            asks if she’d like to accompany him to his sister’s wedding next month with a tenderness she didn’t know he
    to shred flesh as an open palm skids across concrete and seaspray sours the wound
    to conduct eye contact cast across dimly gold-lit ballrooms
    to crack your spine across rock and still barter the strength to lick the blood from your teeth and keep, keep running
    to put a name to the primeval dread and desperation that snatches your veins as hair gets caught in the spit-soaked corners
            of your lips and the mountain’s summit stretches beyond even God’s reach before you
    to will centillions of lives you’ll never live into existence
    through the ever-trembling tips of your fingers.

    but even that wouldn’t convey that epiphanic ache
    of pressing a pencil to an empty page
    or a sweating ear against the heavy metal of the door backstage
    and catching scraps of chatter passed between couples strolling out of far too expensive bars, the cold clank of a train’s bell,
            the sobering scent of frying dough and wet garbage, the scrape of the turning earth against the infinite cosmos
    and praying to whoever’ll listen for the discipline it takes
    to march back onstage
    and release even a gasp of air inherited
    from every human who ever scaled and sobbed and searched and seized before you
    since the first very large something was squeezed out of a very small hole.

Dudley Randall Poetry Prize 2023 Winners

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    1st place: Collin Schacht, "Persona"

    Collin Schacht

    Collin Schacht

    Missing. As in a vacancy of the mind.
    Like a ballroom empty of rhythm.
    The beat that keeps the other alive.

    Though others can move past and leave behind,
    I am caught, strung up in a web of the unreal and dreams with him
    Missing. As in a vacancy of the mind.

    He’s missing as I’m missing a time
    Of green grass, kept alive by sprinklers knocking back to their original position, before original sin. The
    rainbow escaped its liquid prism.
    That is the beat that keeps the other alive.

    Moving in circles like a clock that slowly turns out of time due to the grind
    Of a loose belt or a section of a single mechanism
    Missing. As in a vacancy of the mind.

    A rose against the backdrop of a blue sky.
    The slurping of horrific cannibals underneath the dirt. Isn’t it
    The beat that keeps the other alive?

    Please tell me why. The realization through my eyes
    That I am gone, on ice within a new, mechanical, self. The old organism
    Missing, as in a vacancy of the mind.
    The beat that kept the other alive.


    2nd place: Olivia Vitale, "I Forgot Your Middle Name"

    Olivia Vitale

    Olivia Vitale
    I Forgot Your Middle Name

    How could I forget?
    the feeling of your hand gripping my arm
    so tight that I think I’ll never be released

    How could I forget?
    what you said to your mother
    after I told you I wanted out of this

    “I figured if I just kept pushing, she would eventually give in.”

    How could I forget?
    how little my objections meant to you
    and the weight that my words could never hold

    How could I forget?
    that the entire foot of height and two years between us
    meant that the fight I put up was for nothing

    “You should have just pushed him off of you”

    How could I forget?
    the feeling that showers couldn’t rid me of
    no matter how hard I scrubbed

    How could I forget?
    the way my skin crawled for years
    when someone said your name

    “Remind me, how long were you guys dating?”

    How could I forget?
    the feeling in my stomach I thought was butterflies
    but now seems more like a sucker punch to the gut

    How could I forget?
    what I was wearing, the day of the week, the time of day, the sound of your voice, my age, my height, the way I wore my hair, the crushing weight of your body on top of mine, my favorite color, my favorite subject in school, how I took my coffee, how afraid I was to tell my mom why you wouldn’t be coming around anymore

    How could I forget?


    I forgot your middle name

    So that’s a start


    3rd place: Lydia Chapman, "Evening Bats"

    Lydia Chapman

    Lydia Chapman
    Evening Bats

    Her eyes trail the unpredictable
    trajectory of the bats’ swift fluttering motions

    For a few hours these glossy onyx katanas
    mince hordes of floating midges
    Tracing them as constellations
    Highlight the dense amethyst sky

    Commanding the evening like
    black holes riding maverick wind currents
    snagging all insects in their path
    Only to dissipate with
    the dawning of morning
    scepter falling beneath the dust
    dismantled from their aristocratic status
    with a kiss from Liza
    Who knows where else they reign in high rank when they ride
    off with the glistening moon, and
    night falls to day


    Honorable Mention: Jeremy St. Martin, "The Man In The Below Poem Has Become Aware He Is In A Poem"

    Jeremy St. Martin

    Jeremy St. Martin
    The Man In The Below Poem Has Become Aware He Is In A Poem

    According to this author, I am currently standing in the rain at a bus stop and I am holding a bouquet of heliotrope or lavender or some such flower and I am looking out past the exhaust in some sort of Chopin-laden existential poignancy because that is what heartbreak is supposed to be. According to this author, I am supposed to unload some flowery Baroque language at the passing of the next bus, so everyone brace yourselves:
    You appear in every cloud of dust that is quenched in petrichor as the 405 slowly lumbers east near our first date at The Fly Trap. The rumble of the engine is like the stubble of your 5 o’clock shadow brushed against my face. Christ, that was awful.
    This author wants me to learn a lesson. And supposedly, there is no lesson more deep and meaningful than standing with flowers that I’m not going to give to anyone so I don’t know why on earth I have them in the first place, inhaling bus exhaust like it’s the ghost of my lover, and looking east as if there was some sort of direction of hope. Why not have a gray feather fall at my feet? Just to throw in some sort of tragic symbolism about mercy or the failing of hope? Even better, make it from a diseased pigeon. Or a dove with a complex.
    I’m cold and wet and I look like an idiot.
    I just want to get piss drunk at a Chuck E. Cheese on a weekday like any normal human being who is experiencing a simultaneous break-up and a mental breakdown. I want to eat food in bed. I’m not sharing these sheets anymore, so I will get Tostino Pizza Roll crumbs in them if I desire. I want to pull hair out from my drain or make an omelet or recycle or ignore laundry for another day because I am not Ryan Gosling with a single tear in my eye as much as this author wants me to be.
    I am hurt and I am fragile and I feel like shit and that’s fine because that’s healing for me. But fine, I’ll indulge this author for a moment.

    The wheels on the bus thrum and make cadence over each pothole, rhythmic like my heart. My chest aches and burns, not because of the milestones we pass--the library we met, the florist shop that yawned music as we entered, the streetlamp in the snow. My chest does not burn because of the moment I knew somehow in the corpus callosum in every synapse in every axiom that you were gone, that moment I replay again as the bus gains momentum. My chest aches and burns because I made the terrible decision to shame eat the entire leftover pan of day old enchiladas in my fridge at 2 in the morning.


    Honorable Mention: Aly Porcerelli, "Dearest Audience"

    Aly Porcerelli

    Aly Porcerelli
    Dearest Audience

    Coming to the stage will be the boy who almost died.
    No pictures, please, for he’s a bit camera shy.
    He may not end up speaking much, as it’s easier to hide,
    whether it’s how far he’s fallen or how far he’s climbed.

    Prepare to salute the boy with the bad luck,
    who trains for each moment yet still gets tripped up.
    But for every time that this boy’s gotten stuck,
    he has shared fifty laughs; from obscurity they’re plucked.

    So make sure to applaud for the boy with the beating heart,
    who feels too deeply for his explanations to start.
    And his mind works too readily for memory to part,
    lumping loss and progress into the very same chart.

    But now give your warmest welcome to the boy who never breaks,
    despite when his hands and his doubts begin to shake
    or when his reality appears a bit more than fake;
    there’s nothing in this world that the boy cannot take.

    Now hush, he’s coming on any minute now!
    Let’s see if he feels confident enough to take a firm bow.
    We’ll wonder when he’ll learn he doesn’t need to act so strong,
    for this boy, by existing, has been a hero all along.

Dudley Randall Poetry Prize 2022 Winners

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    1st place: Mehar Soni, "The Crown Jewel"

    Mehar Soni

    Mehar Soni
    The Crown Jewel

    My mother used to braid my hair;
    her seasoned hands untangling my dark waves.
    The percussion of the rain against the window;
    a perfect counterpoint to her lilting voice.

    With each pass of the comb, she wove a fairytale.
    Stories of how she met my father laced into my mane alongside
    fresh jasmine, gleaming thread, and golden bells.

    She talked fondly of my father’s love of pakora in winter,
    the British pocket watch he carried by his breast.
    She called him a young king preparing for the throne,
    or better yet, a military captain saving Indian lives.

    She said he’d armed himself with Mahatma Gandhi’s
    words: Satya. Ahimsa. Tapasya. Jai Hind!
    As if he could rub the crown jewel right out with salt!

    Her palms glistened with coconut oil, the smell
    of Darjeeling tea in the air, as my plait formed,
    molded by my mother’s hands, like Lord Ganesha.

    When I asked where Papa was, she sometimes
    pulled my hair too tight or stuck a pin into my scalp.
    Ouch, ma, you’re hurting me!

    She never told me he moved to Bombay years before.
    Childish,         what a fool was I!
    My father                 everywhere but here.


    2nd place: Jeremy St. Martin, "A Monologue in a Drive-thru"

    Jeremy St. Martin

    Jeremy St. Martin
    A Monologue in a Drive-thru

    I think that will be it. Just rub the chip, sometimes the card gets fussy…there it is. Thanks. Hey, can I get a couple of napkins? Also, my dad is dead. Like just now, dead. We pulled him off a vent–it wasn’t Covid related, so don’t worry, although he was on a designated Covid floor so I apologize for handing you plastic that could be Covid affected. Do you give discounts to those who recently lost someone? Like 15 minutes ago, someone died in your arms so here’s a free donut type thing? I like y’alls donuts–especially the Timbits. Not that I’m pandering to you for free stuff. I understand you have to treat everyone fairly, and that there are a ton of other people behind me who haven’t lost anyone or maybe they have, or they’re having a great day, but regardless, everyone needs to stop and acknowledge my grief. And I know it seems weird that I’m ordering an iced coffee in the middle of a Michigan winter-like ‘my car hasn’t even fully heated up and I’m peeking out of the small crevice of the cleared windshield because I am that guy’ kind of cold, but I just needed that thing to clutch on to and iced coffee was it. I had shit coffee in the hospital and now I at least want familiar shit coffee. And make no mistake, that’s not your fault. The shit coffee, I mean. Not my dad’s death. Though that wasn’t your fault either. Did you know his last words were double-A batteries? Who says that? I guess I was expecting some sort of rage against the dying of the light sort of thing, but you want what you want and say what you say in those moments. Well, anyway, Kelsey, you’re doing a great job. Here–take my debit card and pay for everyone else behind me. It expires in 3 days, so live it up in the meantime, right? Bad choice of words?


    3rd place: Aly Porcerelli, "What They Don't Tell You About Suicide"

     Aly Porcerelli

    Aly Porcerelli
    What They Don't Tell You About Suicide

    I’ve spent my life being easily impressed.
    So when I overdosed on my bedroom floor
    On lamotrigine, blood and tears
    I couldn’t help but admire
    The way the room started to shake
    Or how my frail fingers could still dial 911;
    How life only exists in patterns,
    O, what a wicked cycle.
    I laid weary in my hospital bed
    Counting the ceiling tiles one by one
    Like it was some sort of game,
    Some figment outside of reality
    Consuming my brain like bad TV,
    Teaching me how to halt time.

    When I first awoke from my coma
    My father had surprise on his tired face
    But me, I had plans in my thumping brain
    To return to the life I knew;
    Because the urge to do nothing, to move on
    Overpowered any desire to get better
    So I told my mind, “Be quiet!”
    Between the concrete hospital walls
    Until the doctor deemed me
    Ready to go home.

    What he didn’t tell me is that
    This will never go away
    That I’ll wake up choking on air,
    Feeling as close to death as I did
    On that June afternoon
    And what no one told me is how
    My mother will worry until she’s sick
    And then worry some more
    More than she did when I was small
    And the world was large

    What they will never tell anybody
    Is that the self-help books lied
    That it probably won’t get easier
    That what doesn’t kill you almost did
    But through all the suffering
    There will be moments of ethereality
    Of stardust and beacons of sun
    Laughter and magic and hope.
    So I’ll run, or walk, it won’t matter;
    Until there’s no blood left in the cut
    Because today I saw the sun
    And it was shining in celebration

Dudley Randall Poetry Prize 2021 Winners

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    1st place: Sarah Ko, "Red Packets"

    Sarah Ko

    Sarah Ko
    Red Packets

    The Windy City blows against the red lanterns outside,
    Tendrils from the awaiting hot pot waft through the air,
    With withered hands, a thick crimson packet is handed to me,
    Grandpa smiles, eyes twinkling.

    A new day in San Francisco,
    Perfect for a walk, thinks the stranger,
    His eyes shining, oh how lucky to be here,
    living so close to family.

    Such a generous gift,
    He said in his old age of 86, he found himself very lucky,
    To share such special moments like this,
    Safe, warm, with family.
    Small, crinkled, rectangular paper cannot amount to it.

    Tentative shuffles into the sunlight,
    Exercise is important for old men like me, he thought.
    84 times traveled around the sun,
    a life that is blessed, prosperous,
    --- unassuming.

    Months later,
    Grandpa did not travel around the sun for the 87th time,
    he moved on to the stars.
    Grieving, but at peace that he went forth,
    from a tranquil place.

    Pavement is cool in the shadows,
    last moments,
    a whirlwind of motion, the ground and sky realigned.
    The cold, hard, unrelenting cement,
    then nothing.

    Both coming forth from the lands of their ancestors,
    outlining new lives for their descendants,
    only for them,
    to be looked upon as a virus,
    something of contamination,
    lumped into an assumption,
    rewarded with violence. 

    may this be a year of resilience.
    The lives they have sown like oxen,
    rightfully exist in memory.
    Brothers and sisters from all walks of life,
    dignity and respect,
    that's all we ask.

    *In tribute to Vicha Ratanapakdee, his family, and those victimized by the recent attacks against the elderly Asian community. 


    2nd place, tied: Taylor Bays, "Ballad of Atlanta"

    Taylor Bays

    Taylor Bays
    Ballad of Atlanta

    Inspired by Dudley Randall’s “Ballad of Birmingham” and in response to events that took place during the Black Lives Matter movement in Atlanta, Georgia, 2020.

    “Mamma dear may I go downtown
    Instead of on my phone
    To march the streets of Atlanta
    With my boyfriend and not alone?”

    “No, honey, no you may not go,
    For the police are angry and hostile
    And batons and bullets; smoke and fire
    Aren’t good for my precious child.”

    “But, Mamma, I won’t go alone.
    Other people will be with me
    To March the streets of Atlanta
    For justice, in a land where we are not allowed to just be.”

    “No, honey, no you may not go
    For I fear tear gas will make you a crier
    But you may watch from afar
    And record what you desire.”

    She marked down history in her footage
    Then dressed to go get something to eat
    And wore an oversized hoodie on her small brown frame
    And brown Birkenstocks on her feet

    Mamma smiled to know her child
    Was capturing history from a safe distance
    But that smile was the last smile
    When she heard of the police’s unjust persistence.

    For when she saw the video
    Her eyes grew belligerent and riled
    As she raced through the streets of Atlanta
    Stomping for justice for her child.

    She stormed through thresholds of metal and wood
    And dodged remarks about calm civility
    She demanded answers to questions
    About freedom, when her daughter was not allowed to be free.


    2nd place, tied: Nurzahan Rahman, "Muslim Not Muzlum"

    Nurzahan Rahman

    Nurzahan Rahman
    Muslim Not Muzlum

    Zindagi , life

    a scarf wrapped delicately around my head
    threatens your view of freedom
    you say oppressed without knowing what oppression means

    Oppressed ● noun
    the exercise of authority or power in a burdensome, cruel, or unjust manner - dictionary.com

    oppression doesn’t make

    1. Daughters a blessing

    4. Employment a choice,
    every penny going to me

    2. Education a right

    5. Nothing is his that is mine,
    but what is his is mine

    3. Divorce an option

    6. I will die with my maiden name,
    I am not my husband’s property
    like the west has painted. 


    that is an ounce of the power I hold
    but you make the grave mistake of seeing culture as my religion.

    countries going extinct
    facing humanitarian crisis
    seeds planted in innocent lands strip them of their beauty and independence
    they now stand divided : the only thing the west projects :
    Where is our coverage?

    are we that big of a threat?
    that you have to ban a head covering in Belgium?
    hate crimes are committed in France : dirty hijabi :
    forbidden drawings of our holy prophet (ﷺ) pollute the country
    where is the religious respect that you breathe at the mention of other religions?
    hate crimes.

    tik tok is our trusty informant
    news stations too scared to report our reality
    only when they are the victims will you hear a peep, even then it's still half the hospitality
    social media feeding me more truths than ABC, CNN, and FOX
    Where is our coverage?

    the hollocaust reborn in front of our eyes
    Uighur Muslims in Chinese re-education camps

    Raped, forced hysterectomies,
    Forced intoxication with the wrecking smell of alcohol,
    Forced consumption of bacon

    what is being "re-educated"?
    stripping the islamic flesh because they are different? because they are muslim?
    history replays itself as we stay quiet just like 80 years ago

    One of the most horrific terms in history was used by Nazi Germany
    to designate human beings whose lives were unimportant,
    or those who should be killed outright:” - The Atlantic (1)
    Uighur Muslims, Holocaust, Genocide. 2021.  

    are we that big of a threat?
    hiding in my car, worried sick for my friends,
    is today the day? Will today be the day I go?
    what attack lurks behind the shady corners in a world
    where color and religion are worth more than someone’s life,


    don’t look suspicious tattoo it on my heart
    living in fear is not the freedom promised to me in this foreign land.


    1. Opening sentence of an Atlantic post. Taylor, Alan. “World War II: The Holocaust.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 16 Oct. 2011, www.theatlantic.com/photo/2011/10/world-war-ii-the-holocaust/100170/.

    3rd place: Mehar Soni, "A Letter to Olga"

    Mehar Son

    Mehar Soni
    A Letter to Olga

    Dear Olga,
    I’m not one to put pen to paper quite often
    I find the activity akin to patching holes in leotards:
    a temporary cover, but never quite permanent enough.

    In this way however, I hand in my resignation.

    I know you found my skin a particularly gleaming fabric to display;
    especially when the scene was suiting.

    Ah but I’m never quite like Clara am I?
    Not nearly as lithe and swan-like
    her skin presented a unique translucent quality.
    Almost like a little dancer in a snow-globe,

    Quite useful to suit an array of scenes, tutus, and roles, don’t you think?

    Anyway, I thought going to the Academy would be enough.
    My toes playing tag with the x-ray machines.
    I remember being told
    my port de bras had never been so beautiful.

    Your little Clara couldn’t stand it, so she found ways to break them.
    Who knew your beautiful dorogoya
    Was more like a Caliban en pointe!

    From my time here I’ve learned one thing.
    For some, the snow settles on stage once the lights dim.
    For others, the dust remains dust.

    But I know!
    The aftermath is neither dust nor snow,
    but the chalk one dusts pointe shoes with.

    Thank you,
    “The Nutcracker-Mouse #3”  

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    1st place: Mary Elizabeth Johnson, "a shoplifter in amity, new york gets caught on purpose"

    Mary Elizabeth Johnson reading her poem at podium

    Mary Elizabeth Johnson
    a shoplifter in amity, new york gets caught on purpose

    it’s 1975 and it’s so easy to pluck
    a vial of nail polish from the shelves of the corner shop.
    the owner had a tv by the cash register playing the local news:
    they think they finally got the shark that killed the naked girl,
    the little boy on the floatie, and the black dog.
    the shoplifter sees chief brody’s nose,
    sharp and sunburnt, sweat slipping
    underneath the weight of his wire-rimmed glasses.
    he says he thinks the fight is finally over.
    summer has closed its jaws
    and people don’t have to be scared of the water anymore.
    the shoplifter falls in love.
    so she picks up a can of bud light, looks around
    (something only an amateur would do)
    and puts it in her purse. she picks up another and drops it.
    she halfheartedly rushes to the doors and gets caught
    as easy as that first shark, the red herring.
    chief brody shows up and looks into her eyes,
    all stern-like. she wonders if he’ll sing her a sea shanty.
    she twirls her hair, wants to be like the dead naked girl,
    like ophelia, wants to be caught, drunk,
    in the heat of the night. but she’s not even the boy or the dog,
    she’s the one with the gills.
    movies will tell lies about her
    and hunt her down until her kind is endangered,
    not knowing that she only took the nail polish
    because she wanted to look pretty when the girl-killer came along.


    2nd place: Jency Shaji, "Citizen"

    Jency Shaji

    (Inspired by Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen”)

    The words out your mouth and the fake smile on your face have no regard for the fear in my

    With skin like that and a name that can’t be
    pronounced, you should make up for it.
    Clothes must be American. Hair must be
    American. Accent must be American.

    But am I not American? Not according to the color of my skin. Is it not the place of my birth?
    I know the difference now:

    I ate chicken biriyani at school once—

    a girl told me I smelled like it and looked like it too. 

    I was helping my mom with groceries—

    an old man pushed his cart in front of mine,
    condemning me for not speaking English.


    I attend a class with all white students—

    they don’t see their privilege.

    When I’m on the phone with my dad—

    a boy asks me if I speak Indian or Hindu.

    TSA checks me for the second time—

    my hair could be hiding something. 

    I tell the class I am Indian—

    Are you Cherokee or Navajo? 

    I’m in my churidar, walking with my husband—

    Were you actually in love or was it arranged? 

    I get stopped every time I go on a plane—

    when I ask why

    they look at my eyes but stare at my brown face.


    3rd place, tied: Dante Lamb, "Moments of Monachopsis"

    Dante Lamb
    Moments of Monachopsis

    If you want a sound: It is your name uttered
    By someone you don’t know
    The name new in their mouth
    They play with the pronunciation
    ike prey
    Or say it like a mantra
    Hyperaware of the lip movements made
    Soon growing bored of it
    Because it sounds weird
    And they will ask you anew
    Next time anyways.

    If you want a smell: Take the hardened air of autumn
    Fill it with an apple orchard
    Post season
    When the fumes of candy sickness waft through the gnarled branches
    All of this
    As you pass by in a car filled
    Too fast with body heat
    Windows now down
    Tumbling air
    Whisking away the traces.

    If you want a taste: The bitter of an unwashed English cucumber
    Will coat your mouth
    And make your chewing
    It will not be driven away by the first wash
    of barely cool sink water
    Instead it will make your breath heavy
    And prompt you to scrape your teeth
    Along your tongue.

    If you want a touch: Don’t put lotion on for a month
    Wash your hands four times a day
    And tell your lover to put on corduroy pants and a velvet shirt
    Run only your palms
    Over their entirety with your eyes closed
    As your fully clothed body
    In a confusion of arousal.

    If you want a sight: Look into the mirror
    After a day where everything
    Has gone wrong
    Leave one light on in the other room
    So the shadows are now heavy and one side of your face looks
    Like a charcoal portrait
    Stand there for a time alone and watch
    The shadows stagnate
    In a moment of stillness.


    3rd place, tied: Savannah Sloan, "I am in the graveyard across the street from the McDonald’s"

    Savannah Sloan
    I am in the graveyard across the street from the McDonald’s

    I am in the graveyard across the street from the McDonald’s
    I went to every Thursday to grab a chocolate shake
    I could dip my fries in. In a sea of navies, blacks, and grays,
    my friends and family mourn, mingling laughter with tears.
    No two handle it the same, but each one places a white daisy
    on the ground in front of the headstone, new beginnings
    for all of us. My best friend comes up to me,
    or where she thinks I am, to lay a flower down.
    Eyes red, not only from crying, she remains the same
    and I am dust and dirt and worms. Whole body trembling,
    her mother leads her away, holds her close. I could not say with certainty
    what brought my mother here, for we never saw eye to eye,
    were never cheek to cheek. We did not even speak
    after she found out what I had been up to
    with the boy who came over on summer afternoons
    to eat mint chocolate chip ice cream and watch cartoons,
    but she must have felt something, even though I had lost God
    and she had lost me. She prays, asking Him to forgive me,
    begging forgiveness for herself
    for raising a wicked little girl—a sinner. I am next to her
    reaching out with hands that touch nothing,
    calling out with a voice I do not have
    and for whom or what I do not know.

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    1st place: Mary Elizabeth Johnson, "winter scars."

    Mary Elizabeth Johnson
    winter scars.

    My father once broke a man’s hand
    while standing on a dirty curb
    outside a bar.

    That’s what he tells us. Your dad’s hands
    say something different each time you look,
    changing in your eyes like you’re the funhouse

    mirror and he’s the drunk kid paying too much
    to impress his girlfriend. It will start with
    teddy bears and elephant ears. When his hands

    are gnarled with fungus
    it’ll be child support. When his hands
    are ashy and cracked, it’ll be mittens

    for the kids. His hands will never break,
    even though he won’t let me
    give him a manicure.

    Are my cuticles skin or nails?
    They’re a part of my nails, but next to my skin. I held
    my dad’s hand and asked, “Did you

    know that horse’s hooves and elephants’ tusks
    and bull’s horns are made out of the same thing
    hair and nails are made out of? I thought

    they were teeth.” He eclipses my hands with his
    and says, “Teeth? Who has teeth on their hands?”
    And I said, “The Devil?” And he laughed and laughed

    but he never let go of my hands. I thought of hair and teeth and nails
    in teratomas. I thought, just maybe, my nails might grow
    like tusks through my father’s hands.

    *Inspired by the title and first line of Larry Levis's poem "Winter Stars."


    2nd place: Hannah Tillman, "S. Franklin St."

    Hannah Tillman
    S. Franklin St.

    “A king’s design, he lived in the law. He wrote the book together with me.”

    Saturday, S. Franklin St. behind the old Lutheran church
    A white open wall beckons.
    No windows, no witnesses. He calls me:
    “Bring my bag” and flips the phone shut.
    Summer, 2004, and the sun is beginning
    To hit the brick, golden splashes like the Sahara.
    I slip in, bag strapped, swing it over my shoulder, and toss it
    At his feet. The St. of S. Butler—he turns tagging into aesthetic
    Historic lecture. I sit back on the cool still-shadowed cement
    And wait for the St. to perform his miracle.

    A king’s design, he lives in the law of creation,
    Mind melting and fluid like the waves of Monona
    On the cusp of spring. Paint lids popped off
    By young black fingers as he wakes the liquid up,
    Exciting it to be born. Paint hits the wall, and he steals
    The golden warmth from the sun.
    I watch God create the earth then—
    He starts with sandy plains flowing like water
    Into cracked, craggy soil. I watch an acacia sprout
    From the brick, fresh and damp, the Queen of the Jungle rests beneath.
    His works today a miracle of blood memory,
    Buried, dormant, hibernating. In back-alley Madison,
    He tagged: You’re it.

    He wrote the book together with me
    On guerilla graffiti. It requires
    A message, a mission. Today he colonized
    A small white church in a small white city.

    We capped the bottles, packed them away,
    And chased the sun to East Wash. The warden queen
    Watched us go and languished in her stolen sun and space,
    Ready to guard her turf tooth and nail.

    She wasn’t going to be erased again.


    3rd place: Jasmina Cunmulaj, "The In-Between"

    Jasmina Cunmulaj
    The In-Between

    …The thoughts of a first-generation immigrant caught in between two worlds, unaccepted by both, neither as one or the other. Dedicated to the in-betweeners.

    Somewhere in the in-between
    dreams of picketed fences and overflowing
    rose gardens disappeared
    into pristine mowed grass boundaries
    and yellow weeds that were close to being

    Close to

    being an American,
    like shooting off fireworks from your
    cottage on the fourth of July.
    Smoke of the barbecue fogged the night sky
    and our vision.
    Still, we were never close enough.

    Close enough-

    to see and smell and hear
    the generations of
    American families,

    who wrote their history on the cloth
    ripped from the backs of their ancestors
    tossed into an attic and sold off as antiques,

    that we were close to

    Somewhere in the in-between
    we found an identity that fit in the palm of a
    pale hand
    with just enough room for our
    names and foods that were “exotic”
    bringing us close to our new homes,
    we found comfort in our cramped spaces
    yet craved to stretch our limbs and tongues
    when words and gestures became
    too foreign,
    too close,
    to our neighbors.

    Close to

    becoming American
    was like saying we can eliminate poverty
    with a donation for just 2 dollars a month
    identifying as precisely one nationality
    was like saying humans need
    not oxygen to breath.

    Stuck in the in-between,
    we were forever bound by the dirt from our
    past villages hidden beneath our fingernails,
    and the stain of American money that ran
    through our fingertips,
    reaching to get somewhere
    close to the other side.

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    1st place: Jasmina Cunmulaj, "She Loves Him, She Loves Him Not"

    Jasmina Cunmulaj
    She Loves Him, She Loves Him Not

    He held the delicate daisy
    as he would have held her hand,
    between his cracked hands
    after years of work.
    Dirt found a home underneath his nails
    and between his calluses,
    and the white petals stood bright
    against his dull earthy palm.

    one petal floated to the ground.

    She loves him not.

    There was something about
    the darkness and ache in his gaze,
    that made me tired.
    The way the years
    had carved fine lines into his skin.
    Like the way water marked the earth,
    and formed rivers.
    And the hollowed crescent skin
    that turned upward underneath his eyes,
    rung with familiarity,
    inviting me in with a feeling of home.
    Smile wrinkles hugged his gently pressed lips
    and glanced down

    as another petal floated off.

    She loves him.

    And I can’t help but wonder,
    if he had longed for his other half
    for she had taken the color
    out of his grey cheeks,
    and left him
    for her longing of another life elsewhere.
    And as she left,
    his bright eyes followed her,
    full of hope,
    full of love,
    then became flooded with a bleak gaze,
    which replaced the vision of his bride.
    in her own field of daisies
    dancing under the gleaming sun.

    the last petal floated down,

    She loves him not.


    2nd place: Indira Edwards, "When I Am Young Again"

    Indira Edwards
    When I Am Young Again

    When I am young again I ride my bike.
    Mud painted Sketchers turn the pedals like time, a caterpillar in eternal rotation,
    Oily gears pumping a metal heartbeat, held down by the animal’s gravity.
    There is a heaving, dancing tree at the end of the block
    Cornered off by a frizzy hedge, and if you wanted to keep it a secret
    All you would have to do
    Is brush your open palm to the other side of its locs,
    Close your eyes, and seal the memory. I remember in this moment
    I am young and religious--
    I say a prayer while passing below the bough on two wheels and god grazes my chin upward, an index sprouting past her offshooting thumb. Toward an angel
    She lifts me with gossamer wings; I approach the eudicot’s venation with scorpion’s pincers (you see that’s a description i learned later on, when i was older and did know that when i was younger i did not know things that i do now)
    Well, I am still here, suspended from my bicycle, this angel’s wings a part of mine.
    I observe the broad, milky specimen where light hits;
    I observe that I’m a fish and this is the sun filtering through the crest of the tide’s music.
    The trunk of the brooding, clay cast tree crashes through a whitecap and whispers to me a loud ocean’s SHHHHH!!!
    She does not need to yell at me.
    The tree faces me, blood creaking, gurgling through raspy vasculature:
    “You remove what once sits upon this earth, yet you are foolish enough to believe that it does not sit upon the earth once removed.”
    I watch with beady eyes, tense for her to elaborate--
    But trees do not need elaborate.
    We are what elaborates upon the veins we seek our blood to reach,
    To understand that time and leaves are one in the same--
    Not 5 minutes later did I mold to the breast of my home with the ghost of a leaf in my palm,
    And not 10 more years later did I molt to the present moment
    A breath that the tree had left-- much more than that leaf I believed I had suffocated.
    That leaf that never died
    In that moment remained in this world
    For nourishment, a gift
    To birds and mosses and molds and worms,
    To all bodies of cotyledons, new venations to groan upward through the soils,
    Plucked off, new life and life alike.
    I am young again and I ride my bike;
    A fresh leaf flutters into an upturned palm,
    A secretive, zig-zagging string dangling ceaselessly, embalmed.


    3rd place: Antony Nedanovski, "m--y"

    Antony Nedanovsky

    “babe, here’s something i just wrote—i think you might like it! it goes like this:

    ‘the truthful glance you cast upon me felt like concrete poured into a casket
    .it crushed me.
    crushed me into a pulverized valentine’s card,
    you know, the ones with sweet nothings smothered on a canvas donning a bleeding heart;
    but this valentine’s card dared to push through to the other side of the cuckoo house nest—
    that damned rib cage within this punctured chest.
    a noble, humble pursuit
    so i then draped that valiant, valentine heart onto the shoulders of blessed pallbearers,
    each convulsion of the sealed casket a decree from the tomb:
    i love being nothing for you.
    and still, my oldest love lives young.’”
    she paused, never being one to first speak without thinking:
    “hmm, baby, it sounds quite poetic. its meaning is completely lost to me
    but it reminds me of a cherished line my mother always said to me:
    ‘you know m---y,
    there’s nothing unsettling in our substance of being nor our being of substance.’”

    i stirred from the magnitude of that message’s power—
    christ, even in my daydreams the girl’s modest.


    Honorable mention: Mianna Gonczar, "Reflections on Almost"

    Mianna Gonczar
    Reflections on Almost

    It’s amazing how life happens
    And you don’t even realize because
    You’re too busy hoping
    That you’ve done enough and
    You spend all this time
    Forgetting that you are still
    Doing right now
    But in our defense
    To live in the moment is not
    As easy as it sounds
    Because, do I look good in the moment?
    I should’ve done my hair this morning
    So that all my moments were good
    And how do I know which moment
    I should live in?
    Moments are a minute, a year, a day
    I let the moment pass.
    I always regret when moments pass
    And the regret is always more tangible
    Than the moment itself
    But I really miss that moment
    I knew it would’ve been a good one
    Sometimes I spend so much time regretting
    A moment that passed
    I go on and let the next one pass too
    This happens all too often because
    Life is just a string of moments
    And sometimes I forget that
    It’s not like watching a movie twice
    A second chance is really just
    A different chance
    A sorry doesn’t take back the hurt
    And even if I buy a new car
    It doesn’t take back the fact that
    I crashed my first two
    But I’m working on it
    I’m working on noticing when a moment is
    One worth noticing
    And understanding that not all moments are ones
    To be remembered
    But most of all, forgiving myself for letting moments pass
    The next one is sure to happen soon

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    1st place: Alexis Carlisle, "Honey, I love you"

    Alexis Carlisle
    Honey, I Love You

    She bleaches her hair as if she is trying to bleach away the past;
    And even though my roots have grown long
    I can still remember the burning sense of rebirth.
    She soaks in the first blush of the sun
    Like a cat bathing in the rays that
    Run their fingers through her hair; Long and tangled
    With past stories that only come out
    On late night drives home from the bar.
    She doesn’t remember telling the story.
    And when she asks if I’ve heard it before
    I always say no
    Because when she speaks, it is the spring
    Not the cruelest month, nor the one that comes after or before.
    She is the month in between.
    Skipped in calendars – Bleached out – Lying in the sun –
    – Laughing – She is actually laughing –
    At all of the things about me that my mother rolls her eyes at
    And in that moment I start to understand what love is
    She –
    – is the month of love
    The protector and the keeper
    And I wonder why I do not protect her as she does for me
    But I’ve learned there has to be a teller and a listener
    I let her tell
    Because out of her mouth sprout flowers and perfume
    And I am just the schoolboy
    Who forms his first crush on Persephone
    Not knowing she is the eternal spring
    She melts in the passenger seat of my car
    With the seat warmer on she melts like honey
    The weather is most unstable in spring
    But she doesn’t know, the voices she hears
    Are just the bees at work building honeycombs in her hair
    Lightweight, but stronger than you could ever imagine
    The man outside the bar told us that spring is here
    And she will not back down
    She is two swords and no armor
    She is honey with arsenic
    The month that no one can see, nor can they pronounce,
    She is the first blossom and the first crush,
    She is as unstable as spring and twice the beauty
    But will slap the mouth that calls her beautiful
    And tell them “I. Am. Smart.” Brighter than the sun.
    But also, right now, asleep like the moon.
    Behind me I can hear her purr with golden strands,
    Basking in the sunlight.
    And it is all of this that is stored in the body of a girl
    And the underestimation of such feminine power is punishable by damnation
    That pulls Persephone back down.
    But please, be cautioned, because like the sun,
    She will rise again.


    2nd place: Jasmina Cunmulaj, "A Note to My Father"

    Jasmina Cunmulaj
    A Note to My Father

    You placed your hand
    over mine
    that grasped the fishing pole
    so tightly,
    as you whispered
    the winning strategy
    and performed
    a rhythmic jerk
    like a marionette,
    playing his puppet
    and danced the invisible line across the pond
    that reflected
    a shadow
    of a moment in time.
    And as the line pulled
    and rippled a crack
    down the middle,
    a silver-breasted fish soared out, like a newborn
    wailing for a first breath
    of oxygen.
    But quickly delved back
    into the one-way mirror,
    and released our connection,that was held simply by string. Just as the ripple calmed,
    the shadow of our bond that once casted over the grey waters, vanished with the sun.
    And with every sunrise overlooking the pond,
    I hoped it would return
    with you,
    once again.


    3rd place: Jazmin Nevarez, "I wonder"

    Jazmin Nevarez
    I wonder

    I wonder what it’s like,
    to live in a house
    That doesn’t chip from the ceilings,
    Into our Holy Water bottles
    That Tita uses to bless our doors, daughters and foreheads.
    I wonder.

    I wonder what it’s like, to live in a house
    Without missing shingles on the roof,
    walls that are finished,
    fresh paint-covered plaster
    Scratch-resistant, bulletproof.
    I wonder.

    I wonder what it’s like
    To not live in fear of the Red Line.
    Especially on summer nights alone,
    In one ear-headphone. Waiting, watching
    Cityscapes with high rises too pretty to see
    My South Side home,
    I wonder.

    I wonder
    I wonder what it’s like to permanently live in a house
    Where the windows and doors have molding
    And white picket fences are in view.
    A bedroom to myself,
    No urge to record silver badges on front lawns
    Just in case another Black and Brown life
    Is taken too soon. I wonder.

    I wonder what it’s like
    To live with a deep, dwelling security.
    Not having to fight
    consistently for equality.
    A tiring effort, unfortunate example of timeless
    Time and again.
    I wonder.

    I wonder what it’s like
    To live with peace of mind.
    Without the thought of my 9-year-old brother
    Wearing a transparent backpack to school.
    Walking through metal detectors before class
    Because, maybe, just maybe
    His classmate’s father left his nine
    Unlocked, easy access
    To protect himself, his family, his pride–a true Sugarman, in his prime.
    I wonder.

    I wonder what it’s like to live
    Outside the confines of condensed, cramped
    Almost-sweltering poverty.
    Polluted danger forced upon us,
    Away from suburban and lavish properties
    That unsuccessfully attempt to suck the soul from what is left of our woods.
    Moving in on us.
    Capitalizing off our soon-be-gentrified neighborHoods.
    I wonder.

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    1st place: Alexis Carlisle, "Things I've Found While Cleaning My Room"

    Alexis Carlisle
    Things I've Found While Cleaning My Room

    1. The band aid you gave me when we were in 8th grade when I thought we were going to get married, I never took it out of the wrapper and for some reason I’ve kept it in the same box I keep money.
    2. A pearl necklace that my dad added a pearl to each year on my birthday; it is now a complete never ending loop.
    3. Anna Nicole Smith’s biography where most would keep a bible, I know her holy words better than Father Joseph knows the scripture.
    4. A receipt that slipped out of his pocket and I shoved it into mine to remember a time when I loved him.
    5. The stereotypical half eaten rotten apple that only the grossest people keep under their bed.
    6. A student written postcard from Alma College I received as a junior, I kept it not because of an overwhelming interest in the college, but rather because I felt like Cody class of 2014 really cared even with no picture on the card I cried because I loved Cody class of 2014 so much.
    7. A 16th birthday card from my dad, the inside said “I will always love you, no matter if we are together or apart” it was the first time I realized he completely understood what 16 meant.
    8. The picture I was drawing in math class the first time I ever pierced my own skin on purpose it was only half finished and some things are better incomplete.
    9. A miniature pin from a miniature bowling set I threw away during a panic attack I threw away 2 garbage bags full of things that day and I cried the entire time as my mother kept on saying “you don’t have to do this”.
    10. A very tiny pencil...You snapped my pencil in half the day you didn’t have one and you then sharpened the half with the eraser and gave it back, I taped it to my wall in memoriam of the senior boy who put the sad sophomore girl first.
    11. I found some notes that I took when while talking on the phone to you when were best friends and you were telling me about how you wanted to become a pilot because you were chasing the crash and you said “it will be sunny and I will go down quick” as I continued to cry you told me it would be fine, that you would die quickly and it wouldn’t hurt that bad.  I couldn’t fall asleep that night.
    12. A spider that I was going to kill but started to appreciate the mutual comfort we both felt living together.
    13. A water bottle with her chewed gum stuck to the side of it I kept on my bedside table for weeks as a reminder that she had been in my room, she had been in my bed.
    14. Ripped nylons that I promised my mother would last me until New Year’s but it was only November and they were very ruined.
    15. Diamond earrings my dad gave me for my sixteenth birthday, I held them in my hand for a minute wondering why he gave them to me.  I was turning 16 years old not 23, and that’s when it hit me, that my dad understood that he would never see 23 or 46 or 17.  He understood how everything happens suddenly and at once and I didn’t even understand the situation enough to write a goddamn eulogy.
    16. 16 will mean more to me than 21 ever could, more than a 21 gun salute and the bullet shell casing from the ceremony on my nightstand there will always be a weight on 16 and goal on his 66. I finish dusting off old memories and shove most of them back under my bed and as I leave no matter how many times I try the switch, I can’t turn off the light.

    2nd place: Patrick Redigan, "Bradley"

    Patrick Redigan

    I remember the dashboard,
    the trashed ashtray woefully
    overcrowded with
    discarded bubblegum and
    lipstick-pinched Camels

    Beside lay a royal blue sticker:
    simple and shiny reminding her
    “one day at a time”
    the fever mantra, the
    words she pledged her life to.
    Her gold medallion
    hung from the rearview mirror
    but we knew there was no sense
    in looking back.

    Ten years clean, or so it seemed
    I never could tell when she closed her eyes
    and hid her hands beneath our table.
    A high-strung junkie for Jesus, watch as she
    drowns her sorrows in his blood,
    stained like the glass, the depiction

    of the blessed mother that
    hung on the living room wall
    beside my 7th grade portrait made
    crooked by my clumsy fingers.
    The gaze of the virgin caught me
    dead in my tracks, my heart was
    hers to hold. The features were soft and
    her shawl was the shade of a dream,
    a creamy bluish-green like the little eyes on
    my little face. I close them
    for my nightly prayers,
    but when I wake, I want to face my fears
    and no longer force my smiles. To
    speak my mind, love my enemies and to
    test the waters of a fiery lake and
    cool my tongue with the serpentine
    mercury of ceaseless self-discovery.
    I want a puppy.

    I want to be someone new, someone cool
    too free to be me, too true to be you.
    I want creation.

    But placed beside expired plates,
    a grey and faded sticker pasted
    hastily long ago:
    a word, a whimper

    One last commandment heard
    high above the demon hiss of the
    rusted exhaust pipe, fuzzed slightly
    by a ghostly sneeze of smoke.

    It spits in the face
    of my mother’s embrace,
    murmured into ears too
    broken to be bothered:


    3rd place, tied: Antony Nedanovski, "My Ladybug Queen"

    Antony Nedanovski
    My Ladybug Queen

    “Antony,” even after all these years of having heard my name, I know that this word—out of all the
    words she may say daily—will bring out that accent. “Antony, leave those girls alone.” I couldn’t
    help it. They wouldn’t move, and neither would my eyes, which had been transfixed on them
    momentarily. I was trying to derive some meaningful lesson from their spotted shell when I nudged
    one with my finger. With sunlight illuminating its underbody, glimmering between its tiny wings, it
    flew down towards my feet. Despite having witnessed the climactic descent of their sister, the others
    continued to rest on the window. I thought of the times I had accidentally crushed them under my
    feet; the absolute terror of thinking what lay beneath my sock. Or the times when I found them at
    the windowsill, already resting. I wondered with fates like these, and no outcome other than death,
    why my mom loved these little critters. Sometimes their shell was attractive to the eye, a smooth red
    with black dots; but then there were the bland, light brown shelled ones that roamed the basement
    tiles and found themselves under my feet. She viewed them like they had just married into the
    family—she wouldn’t kick them out, but then again, she didn’t want them to be at the table when we
    ate. So on her finger, or sometimes on a napkin, she’d pick them up and place them at the
    windowsill. They were her girls, because with three sons and no time for company, she found them
    comforting. Uninvited visitors, but a gracious host she was—and a very clumsy tenant I was,
    uneventfully ending their lives time to time. Then came my nudging finger, rudely making this
    ladybug soar against its will. At my mom’s insistence, I let the others be. Sitting at the mahogany
    table, cluttered with books from past semesters, I watched the other girls remain steadfast.

    “Just leave them alone, they’ll bring good luck.”

    I could tell without looking that my mom was in her chair, doing her Sudoku and shaking her head
    at me. She was always superstitious.

    3rd place, tied: Erin Stein, "Frustration While Watching the Evening News"

    Erin Stein
    Frustration While Watching the Evening News

    “It’s about the children here, Huel.”

    The News shares a mini-documentary on how

    Michigan let toxic water corrode pipes

    and how it has seeped into people’s bloodstreams,

    as if they need more negativity in their systems.

    “88 schools were closed, how does that help the children?”

    A fancy(ish) man in a cheap looking suit, (let his dress define him)

    paired with an even cheaper tie— pipes in to remind the three social justice soldiers that strikes

    are unconstitutional. And that it’s immoral to stand up for better rights.

    The Suit must have never read Jeremy Bentham or Martin Luther King Jr.

    “Were any of the members involved fired?”

    Of course not, they kindly stepped down, because resigning

    looks more noble than getting ripped of one’s title.

    But then again, teeth falling out because gums can’t hold

    bone anymore doesn’t look that noble either.

    “You should let the parents know if another sick out is planned, it’s only fair.”

    The term fair seems to bite a little,

    it is filled with ironic venom that does not go unnoticed.

    When the textbooks used in these ancient ruins of schools don’t include the last

    two presidents, nor the Recession, that seems to ring more to the hymn of unfairness.

    What’s unfair is daydreaming in class and looking up to see the bleak

    heavens poke out between the cracks in the ceiling, while rocking in a desk that has barely two legs.

    It’s walking down a hallway and seeing bits of nature take over the cracks were the

    Foundation (ha!) of the building meet dirt.

    But don’t worry Suit, this picture of history will make its way into books

    that hopefully everyone will get to read.

2015 Winner

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    1st place, Patrick Redigan, "beads"

    Patrick Redigan

    "hail mary, full of grace
    I’ve been given this glorious rosary”
    red threaded beads like Jesus blood
    to assure she stays a good girl. 

    a decade for the boys overseas
    and one for johnny kennedy.
    say a prayer for patti hearst,
    saint catherine protect my purity

     the gospel according to luke-
    who picked sunflowers and
    bought her cracker jacks
    a catholic and a gentleman 

    he took her hand
    she took his name
    into suburban obscurity
    though their love was real
    and shapeless like the night.

    she took a job as a secretary
    he found work in Ford’s assembly lines
    salt of the earth, middle of the pack
    lord knows

    three babies broke out, two boys
    and a girl, I believe. They said their
    prayers and avoided swears
    and soon became soldiers of Christ,
    cheeks slapped by the wicked bishop,
    knuckles bruised by Sr. Sarah’s

    the children had children and
    they were very good. The girl
    (who, as a grandmother, ate chocolates
    and watched televised mass
    on her floral-print sofa)
    closed her eyes
    her wooden box was overpriced and
    her bones were cloaked in a
    matronly shawl
    and her rosary
    was wrapped around
    her world-weary fingers

Dudley Randall Poetry Prize Winners

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    1970 to 2024


    • 1st - Sam Gillmore - The Girl I Used to Be
    • 2nd - Antajuan Scott - Hungry
    • 3rd (tie) - Mary Gagnon - Gauze
    • 3rd (tie) - Andrew Bosah - The Shore of the Camp
    • Honorable Mention - Katherine Mutschler - who deign to play creator


    • 1st - Collin Schacht - Persona
    • 2nd - Olivia Vitale - I Forgot Your Middle Name
    • 3rd - Lydia Chapman - Evening Bats
    • Honorable Mention - Jeremy St. Martin - The Man In The Below Poem Has Become Aware He Is In A Poem
    • Honorable Mention - Aly Porcerelli - Dearest Audience


    • 1st - Mehar Soni - The Crown Jewel
    • 2nd - Jeremy St. Martin - A Monologue in a Drive-thru
    • 3rd - Aly Porcerelli - What They Don't Tell You About Suicide


    • 1st - Sara Ko - Red Packets
    • 2nd (tied) - Taylor Bays - Ballad of Atlanta
    • 2nd (tied) - Nurzahan Rahman - Muslim Not Muzlum
    • 3rd - Mehar Soni - A Letter to Olga


    • 1st - Mary Elizabeth Johnson - A shoplifter in Amity, New York, gets caught on purpose
    • 2nd - Jency Shaji - Citizen
    • 3rd (tied) - Dante Lamb - Moments of Monachopsis
    • 3rd (tied) - Savannah Sloan - I am in the graveyard across the street from McDonalds


    • 1st - Mary Elizabeth Johnson - Winter Scars
    • 2nd - Hannah Tillman - S. Franklin St.
    • 3rd - Jasmina Cunmulaj - The In-Between


    • 1st - Jasmina Cunmulaj - She Loves Him, She Loves Him Not
    • 2nd - Indira Edwards - When I Am Young Again
    • 3rd - Antony Nedanovski - m—y
    • Honorable Mention - Mianna Gonczar - Reflections on Almost


    • 1st - Alexis Carlisle - Honey, I Love You
    • 2nd - Jasmina Cunmulaj - A Note to My Father
    • 3rd - Jazmin Nevarez - I Wonder


    • 1st - Alexis Carlisle - Things I’ve Found While Cleaning My Room
    • 2nd - Patrick Redigan - Bradley
    • 3rd (tied) - Antony Nedanovski - My Ladybug Queen
    • 3rd (tied) - Erin Stein - Frustration While Watching the Evening News


    • 1st - Patrick Redigan - Beads


    • 1st - Bethany Romish - Lindon Street
    • 2nd (tied) - Mohammad-Yasser Ibrahim - Philosophy of Life
    • 2nd (tied) - Eleanor Oster - Why Write
    • 3rd - Allie Schmidt - Raindrops


    • 1st - Michael Basha - Tell Them
    • 2nd - Angeles Gavia - Untitled
    • 3rd - Ian Thibodeau - Middle School


    • 1st - Lori Allan - Absence
    • 2nd - Estia Scott - The Blind Fold
    • 3rd (tied) - Angeles Gavia - Mourning for Mexico
    • 3rd (tied) - Jennifer Ross - The Nurturers 


    • 1st - Maria Ibarra - The Socia-lie-gical
    • 2nd - Allison Bohn - Song of Myself: For Walt
    • 3rd - Deonte Osayande - Gratefulness


    • 1st - Alex Jones - Crossing the Border
    • 2nd - Deonte Osayande - Jesse Owens
    • 3rd - Brandon Clark - Detroit Poem


    • 1st - Anjelica M. Armendariz - For Hannah
    • 2nd - Jason D. Brown - Carpetbagger
    • 3rd - Noel M. Rivard - Chest, Cave


    • 1st - Amy Thomas - Boats
    • 2nd - Angelica Amendariz - Danae
    • 3rd - Kemael Johnson - For Fall Brothers, Walking


    • 1st - Amy M. Thomas - The Donut Shop
    • 2nd - Meghan Tonjes - Lower 9
    • 3rd - Danielle Blasko - Photo from the Indypendent
    • Runner-Up - Melody Owens - Colored Christmas


    • 1st - Elizabeth Reifert - Flying Lessons
    • 2nd - Nicole Guevara - The Olive Tree
    • 3rd - Alex Gallegos - Perplexed


    • 1st - Leslie Hogan Morgan - In Honor of Lady Gertrude Torrence Hogan 1883-1977, the Woman Who Came Before Me
    • 2nd - John Freeman - Requiem
    • 3rd - Scott Kennedy - The True Meaning of Original Sin


    • 1st - Rebecca Lopez-Kriss - Untitled
    • 2nd - Tracy Irby - The North Star
    • 3rd - Melissa Ames - The Cynic’s Nursery Rhyme


    • 1st - Amy Taraskiewicz - Prometheus
    • 2nd - Althea Jewell - Grandma Had Boxes
    • 3rd - Damien Neva - Labour Stops Press


    • 1st - Kathy Darrow - Lucky Devil
    • 2nd - Rebecca Vonesh - Simplicity Art
    • 3rd - Tonia Mohammed - Tonia Mohammed


    • 1st - Mary Henold - A Simple Man
    • 2nd - Nina Jett - Madwoman
    • 3rd - Madwoman - The juggler (with chainsaw)


    • 1st - Nicole M. Thomas - Ma Dear
    • 2nd - William DeGenaro - Kentucky
    • 3rd - Maria Santiago - Food for Thought


    • 1st - Maria Santiago - Woman
    • 2nd - Mary Henold - Tears for Mother
    • 3rd - Kevin Zajac - Summertime
    • Honorable Mention - Russell Davidson
    • Honorable Mention - Tim McElguinn


    • 1st - William DeGenero - To M. Ghandi
    • 2nd - Karen Farrelly - Untitled
    • 3rd - Scott Demaeght - To Pamela: February 14, 1993


    • 1st - Lina Farris - Children of Lebanon
    • 2nd - Jeffrey Begley - Cool Jack Kirby
    • 3rd - A. Merrill Howland - The Knoll
    • Honorable Mention - Renee L. Naud - Morning Coffee With Mother On The Anniversary of My Father’s Death


    • 1st - Moira Kordel - Early Autumn Tears
    • 2nd - Kathlene Barrett - Pandora
    • 3rd - Anne Nichols - Untitled
    • Honorable Mention - Francis A. Desiderio II  - Wake Up Call


    • 1st - Michael Fulgenzi - Posterity
    • 2nd - Moira Kordel - 1956
    • 3rd - Kathlene Barrett - Canticles


    • 1st - Thomas Dunne - I Poured Salt on a Slug
    • 2nd - Ernest Sands II - Untitled
    • 3rd - Michael Fulgenzi - Segue From A Vamp
    • Runner-Up - Francis Desiderio - Francis Desiderio


    • 1st - Geoffrey Parkinson - Road Kill
    • 2nd - Chris Huskin - 8am Cafeteria
    • 3rd - Paul Sternberg - Dedication


    • 1st - Deborah Sattler - Autumn
    • 2nd - Geoffrey Parkinson - Public Paces
    • 3rd - Gwendolyn Hurtado - Ode to South Africa


    • 1st - Chris Farnum - Millions of Mischiefs
    • 2nd - Deborah Sattler - Scratch
    • 3rd - Patric Shaun MacFarlane - Untitled


    • 1st - Roger Heino - Social Paralysis
    • 2nd - Jerome Fraeyman - Why Diet?
    • 3rd - Gwendolyn Hurtado  - The Masquerade
    • Runner-Up - Waleska Vazquez - Black


    • 1st - Maureen McLaughlin - Looking Sorrowfully At The Past


    • 1st Place Graduate - Barbara Toth - Portrait of a Conscience
    • 1st Place Undergraduate - Gail Presbey - A Branch
    • 2nd Place Undergraduate - Mary Sharnowski - Bitter Season


    • 1st Place Graduate - Judith Reed - Not as Birds Sing
    • 2nd Place Graduate - Pegi Summerfield - Harvest, and After
    • 3rd Place Graduate - Marcia Spriggs - Richard in the Natural History Museum
    • Honorable Mention - Without Wax - Barbara Toth
    • 1st Place Undergraduate - Marisa Petrella - Autumn Leaves
    • 2nd Place Undergraduate - Cynthia Rojowski - A Glass Fish Mobile
    • 3rd Place Undergraduate - Walt Turowski  - Salt
    • Honorable Mention - Julia McDonald - Espial


    • 1st Place Graduate - 1st Place Graduate - Leaven
    • 2nd Place Graduate - Pegi Summerfield - Volume
    • 3rd Place Graduate - Raman Jalota - Absolute Freedom
    • 1st Place Undergraduate - Linda Watson - All Ladies of the Night Are Not Shady
    • 2nd Place Undergraduate - Waldemar Turowski - The First Polish Cosmonaut
    • 3rd Place Undergraduate - Pamela Harrison - A Medieval Festival
    • Honorable Mention - Thomas Hood
    • Honorable Mention - Patrick Broderick
    • Honorable Mention - Mary Durand


    • 1st Place Graduate - Patricia Conners, RSM - Graziella
    • 2nd Place Graduate - Marcia Spriggs - The Heaven of Women
    • 3rd Place Graduate - Pegi Summerfield - About My Pride
    • 1st Place Undergraduate - Judith Reed - Another Dream of Death
    • 2nd Place Undergraduate - Jennifer Conley - Patience
    • 3rd Place Undergraduate - Rob L. Coleman - On Sleeping Till Noon


    • 1st Place Graduate - Mary Ann Cameron - Marketing
    • 1st Place Graduate - Joseph Zink - Sestina
    • Honorable Mention - Ursula Carlson - The Wise Unborn
    • Honorable Mention - Joan Gartland - Van Gogh
    • 1st Award Undergraduate - Michael Busse - Heads Together
    • 1st Award Undergraduate - Karol Jackman - The Blood Remembers Long
    • 1st Award Undergraduate - Joseph Kouri - Pick Up On It, Dammit
    • 1st Award Undergraduate - Michael O’Mara - Waiting for God/Oh
    • 1st Award Undergraduate - Michael Sparough - On the Effects of Ken Feit
    • 1st Award Undergraduate - Terry Wolverton - Marilyn
    • Honorable Mention - Tom Mahoney - Thru to Me: A Song
    • Honorable Mention - H. Mallgrave - Omphalos
    • Honorable Mention - Wendy Readous - Welcome to Harlem
    • Honorable Mention - John T. Walker, Jr. - She Is
    • Honorable Mention - Rob Wallace - Second Honeymoon


    • 1st Place Graduate - Joan Gartland
    • 2nd Place Graduate - Michael Sparrough, S.J.
    • 3rd Place Graduate - Veronica Sanitate
    • 1st Place Undergraduate - Chester Wilson
    • 2nd Place Undergraduate - Bill Pleas
    • 3rd Place Undergraduate - Owen Wells


    • Winner - Pamela Famning
    • Winner - Joan Gartland
    • Winner - Mary Ann Cameron
    • Winner - McLane Birch


    • 3rd Place - Daniel J. Misteravich - Bookstore Burning