Please celebrate this spring's award-winning graduate writers of poetry. The Creative Writing Program appreciates the finanical sponsors who make these awards possible, and we express our thanks to our judge, Ladan Osman.
Ladan Osman is the author of the chapbook Ordinary Heaven, which appears in Seven New Generation African Poets (Slapering Hol Press, 2014) and the full-length collection The Kitchen-Dweller’s Testimony (University of Nebraska Press, 2015), which won the Sillerman First Book Prize. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center, Cave Canem, and the Michener Center. Her comments follow.
Hobart L. and Mary Kay Peer Poetry Prize, $1000
Eman Ghanayem, “Soils”
This poem moves in the wry declarative, with what seems like a contemporary nonchalance. Really, it’s the only way to approach vastness, ambiguity. Its work is in absolutes, in revealing the foolishness of bounds (in thinking, between nations and individuals). “They don’t have the memory of the earth that birth,” the poet writes, recalling Toni Morrison’s image in A Mercy, where some humans remain tethered to nature, while others sever it. This is a play of “we” and “them,” with no assurance of justice, or soundness. It is all ridiculous, and painful. “They called...our care, an unhealthy obsession / and scorned our bodies...” The limits of the body, of the nation, of distinction give no relief.
Hobart L. and Mary Kay Peer Memorial Award, $500
Michael Hurley, “Green Plastic Army Men”
Instead of references to current conflicts, here are imaginary wars (through sound, slant allusions to early American wars). This play creates hyper-real reminders that trauma and imperial philosophies aren’t dated even if the methods are. “In Falliah,” not Fallujah. “Floating men,” who were “made ribbons,” bobbing, and “stormed in upon,” a relentless list of actions that highlight their use: to receive violence while outfitted to enact it. “We lacked report,” could read as: We lacked rapport. They may have lacked report from their weapons, and their voices. “We may have been ghosts by then.” We may consider who can afford to play with war, with recollection and invention.
Skyler Lalone, “Loch Lomond”