The MFA Creative Writing Program thanks all the fine poets who participated in this year’s College Poetry Prize, Co-sponsored by the MFA Creative Writing Program, the Poetry Society of Virginia, and the Academy of American Poets. The College Poetry Prize is one of the longest running poetry prizes offered to college students in the nation; many of our best poets received a College Poetry Prize as their first literary recognition in their careers. We hope you will send us your best work again next year!
Sarah Goughnor (Undergraduate Winner) and Wendi White (Graduate Winner)
Sarah Goughnor and Elizabeth Dwyer (Undergraduate); Wendi White, Jeffrey Turner, and Heather Weddington (Graduate).
The 2010-2011 contest was judged by Adrian Matejka. Matejka’s first collection of poems, The Devil’s Garden, won the 2002 Kinereth Gensler Award from Alice James Books. His second collection, Mixology, was a winner of the 2008 National Poetry Series and was published by Penguin Books in 2009. Mixology was subsequently nominated for an NAACP Image Award. He is the recipient of two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and fellowships from Cave Canem and the Lannan Foundation. His work has been featured in American Poetry Review, The Best American Poetry 2010, and Ploughshares among other journals and anthologies. He teaches at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville where he is the William and Margaret Going Endowed Professor for 2010-11.
Below are Matejka’s selections with comments:
“Thin Ice” by Sarah Goughnor is a lovely mediation on personal history and the way it relates to memory. What is so wonderful and surprising about the poem was the clarity of image. Moments like “My feet would glide over the glossy ripples / in the frozen water” and “I kept walking on thin ice just by believing I could” are engaging in their imaginary and stunning in their fragility, like the very ice itself.
“Mango” by Sarah Goughnor — The attention to detail and the tactile moments in this poem are striking. The imagery is reminiscent of one of my favorite William Matthews poems, “Onions.”
“Décor” by Elizabeth Dwyer — Really powerful allusions and surprising resolution in this poem. The tone reminds me of some of Charles Simic’s earlier writing.
“September, closet raider” by Elizabeth Dwyer — I love the play with tropes and emotional clarity in this poem. The tone is insistent while still maintaining its imaginative narrative.
“Galilei’s Glass” by Wendi White is a graceful and balanced poem that ruminates on our “proper position” in this sometimes unimaginable universe. The poem is full the kinds of linguistic revelations that bring the reader close like “the sidelines of the firmament” and “Jupiter festooned with moons.” Through these imaginative images, the poem reminds us to praise the smaller moments because it is through them that we understand the bigger world.
“Benediction” by Wendi White — This is a lovely poem of appreciation and reverence. The individual images are powerful and the linear rhythm is nearly a song in itself.
“Punctual” by Jeffrey Turner — I really appreciate the associative connections in this poem and the playfully expansive diction. It reminds me of some of Mary Jo Bang’s work in that way.
“Chosen Ancestry” by Heather Weddington — The way this poem weaves the historical and personal into one narrative is really wonderful. It draws its intellectual strength from the exterior and the emotional power from the poet’s insides.
Elizabeth Dwyer (two Undergraduate Honorable Mentions) is a senior at Old Dominion University and studies English with an emphasis in creative writing. She plans to attend graduate school and hopes to become a college Professor. She agrees with what T.S. Eliot has said about how genuine poetry can communicate before it is understood.
Sarah Goughnor (Undergraduate Poetry Prize Winner plus Honorable Mention) is a native of Herndon, Virginia and a sophomore at Old Dominion University. She is majoring in English with a concentration in creative writing, and hopes to minor in vocal performance. The College Poetry Prize is the first writing award Sarah has received since the sixth grade, and is a deeply appreciated boost to her self-confidence.
Jeffrey Turner (Graduate Honorable Mention) grew up in Plymouth, MA. He completed a baccalaureate degree in philosophy at Dickinson College. He is a first year MFA Creative Writing student at Old Dominion.
Heather Weddington (Graduate Honorable Mention) is a third year student in the MFA Creative Writing Program, and the recipient of the Sutelan Scholarship. In summer 2010 she received a work-study scholarship to the Juniper Writers Instutite at the University of Massachussetts in Amherst.
Wendi White (Graduate Poetry Prize Winner) comes to Norfolk, Virginia after an odd assortment of sojourns in Austin, Boston, Mexico, Guatemala, The Philippines, and originally, The Adirondack Mountains of New York. She was drawn to Tidewater by a siren song promising crab cakes and fried oysters on a regular basis. At home she keeps one husband, two sons, a dog named Charlie, and too many books to count.