Wallace Stevens Poetry Prize Winners

The Wallace Stevens Poetry Program at the University of Connecticut began in 1964 with funding from The Hartford to honor Modernist master poet Wallace Stevens, a former Vice-President at that company. In the years since then, the Program has brought a roster of the most important national and international poets of the last five decades to Connecticut. An annual student poetry contest is held in conjunction with each year’s Wallace Stevens Poetry Program. First, second, and third place cash prizes are awarded. Prize winners read from their work at the annual program, and work by the winning poets is featured on longriverreview.com.

First Place Winner

Kerry Carnahan

Kerry Carnahan is from Kansas. After a decade working as an environmentalist, she now pursues doctoral studies in English at UConn where she is translating the Song of Songs. Her poems have appeared in Boston Review and she was a runner-up in the 2017 92Y ‘Discovery’/Boston Review poetry contest. She is a former Fulbright Scholar and MacDowell Fellow.

 

Wulf and Eadwacer

this poem was featured in Boston Review in April 2017

1

What surfaces?     A sacrifice of words      People his life to me is worth more than my own

People he was a gift he threw his body into it       A grace-gift       They will eat him

alive       Touch violence become it       I’m nothing like you    

Wolf became one island I the other       now dirty water surrounds us      shallow rivers run

fast       a deep pool dammed worth what’s slain at bottom       They want islands      

They damned us       Touch violence become it       I’m nothing like you       My Wolf hit

the road       I suffered my beliefs       then it was rainy weather I shrieked and

hid     When that pervert called me out ready to fight our embrace a tree engulfed in flames

I spoke truth it felt right to burn       I hated it       Wolf my Wolf your wet tail between your

legs        got that?       my song is sick for you starved for ideas       And you now       Watch

me!    Divider of nights       our cruel quick thing drags itself to the woods       It’s easily torn

that which never healed       The riddle of we two as one   

                                                                        

 

2

Of the fact this night will end       You may hear nothing all night       this night in which

fractured speech O gently        gently something cries but is overcome

Alert in the night to movement and scent I scent myself with jasmine to smell myself coming

I will hunt myself here I weep in rainy weather        drag myself from the woods like those

hunters who dragged the limp doe out by her neck        I heard a child in the woods

shivering        and wind and rain and a shallow river      

You may hear nothing all night       If you say blood and really mean it all that cheapness

shuts up       you don’t hear it stop but for a moment it stops       See the trees come to light

white and terrible       See the blank face I face now in the mirror       There is a tyrant in full

dress in a windowless room       the tyrant of our time cannot precisely be named       don’t

look it in the eye       I smell a whip       You may hear nothing all night like a hunted animal

and still feel yourself pursued

 

 

3

How many dimensions to that rain       drops on tin roof       slow hiss of steam green

You Benedict Arnold, you cunt  taunts one bird       yadda yadda yadda  says the other

The rock and hard place of that rain was being on each others’ tongues       unsayable

You took my body        you claimed your divide       mixed that stuff with oil or water and

pressed me a kind of crayon that blackened out our eyes       Look at all this black in

bloom we laughed       fools at bottom of a black river

We slide through the silver marshes       sun pale edged in clouds       I myself vacant all

eyes like a child       to go to you now could be wise my friend you could loosen and be

wise so I took a chance at the wrong stop       and we came running as if no history

prevailed upon us to restrain ourselves       Medallion sun when we finished speaking

Then silence of regard for one another’s loneliness        You never know who you brush

past who you’ll lose       down that long lit corridor of night

 

 

4

I walked to the river as the sun went gold       the late sun       shining overhead       I walked

past the corn growing tall to my right       yes I know the seed is impure                Placing

one foot in front of the other I made way down that poorly hidden path marked private       I

crossed the tracks under forest cover       hung my scarf on a branch       I stepped down into

that cold flow       Nothing forbade me       I met no one nothing except those clouds of

biting insects who would part as I passed smelling something exceptional       some

dangerous brightness       My blood ran with you still     

you who made me inedible       I waded freely into dark water       I bent and dropped my

head to the current       light rippling over the boulders       What can I say about this

that is true?       What can I tell about you river of bliss except I knelt in cold water and let

you drain from me       and I had no choice in the matter       yet even in that

There is only some truth or how well you tell it in this place still hung with wild grapes

 

 

5

Go to the window wait for day       If he has no window       Please look here       What  

admits huge light by day admits a dying       By night we’re reconfigured      If you’re

imprisoned your window not a window breathe your bright burning breath into your open

hands       But he is not glass       he’s burning matter       Breathe burning on burning think

breath on black glass       You in that black       What’s the shape of your pain?      

What admits huge evidence of a world?       Hello I shouted       but she couldn’t hear it      

how the wind shakes a tarpaulin is violent in trees       She had no evidence the earth

spins       the moon hangs       that even in the most colorless night the moon is shedding

such evidence       That so much brightness we can’t see       She was sick without window

she may die alone       You rested your hand then I was alone       When night

traps you alone remember what I said there’s so much brightness you can’t see       I saw

it in your hands       Go to the window wait for day       Daylight is our evidence

 

 

6

Black wick me       he is what flickers       His medicinal grace my desire      

They’ll serve his head on a plate if he meets the hunt       our bodies torn apart      

Wolf you are I am that striking grasp of opposites       Islands blood-rich       Islands worth

our lives       His head on a plate if he meets the hunt       our bodies torn apart      

Wolf-eyed my wanderings        my dreaming it dogged me       Again?

Rainy weather and I wept and rested        When the untranslatable I fought my way out

some meaning was won some joy       yet even that brought me grief

Wolf my Wolf I lacked for no meat it was my pining for you sickened me       your

intermittance soaked my heart hear me out       And you!       Vigilance

committee!       You all watching your property your itchy trigger finger why must our young

endure such cruelty?       That man easily destroys what never was in union       Our

song together

 

 

7

Crimson drops in the snow       my skin a blotched mirror       I wept       you Wolf

you slunk away with no tracks just a shadow a thickening       I am tired of weeping      

Coyotes here they say are part wolf       they beat air       draw arcs of migration with

leashless hands baring teeth to represent violent interbreeding       So a taste of

catastrophe plays itself out       don’t piss on my leg and call it rainy weather       You

a wound bit and licked yourself       Now you say I broke you

Your broken body I once swept to shore so powerful my passion and patience      

Your mind exhausted by pain I held tight       I twisted fingers in your fur grasped your

scales gritted teeth       when you burned me no matter I didn’t let go       Wolf my

Wolf I believed it I bore it       are you a wolf am I what a wolf fears       Wolf

my Wolf down on all fours I cry out: you are too close to see what you are breaking

The shadow of no wolf lengthens across snow 

 

Second Place Winner

Matthew Ryan Shelton

Matthew Ryan Shelton is a poet and translator. He holds an MA from Queen’s University, Belfast, and is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Connecticut. His dissertation work focuses on the role played by translation and translingual practices in poiesis, or poetic making. His poetry and translations have appeared or are forthcoming, in English as well as Irish Gaelic, in such publications as The Cincinnati Review, Abridged, Poetry ProperAsymptote, An GaelMantis, Causeway/Cabhsair, The Swarthmore Review, and Parhelion. His poem “Talus” was recently nominated for Best of the Net 2018. He lives in Philadelphia, PA.

 

[At Kilmainham]

We were born in the poet’s eyes
at Liffey-side, the stonebank tide
carving a canal thru city rubble.

We were midnight hanging on the water
mist-thick in the shallows growing dim —
nocturne whispers struck on copper cords —

dreams in the morning calm.
We were Maeve’s legions buried standing,
eyes cast to the cloud-cover,

pale-faced warriors streaked with fog —
sunlight thru dusty shambles
sprawling in the street alive.

Dead in the dawnlight we were
the bulletholes and tangled teeth of Easter
blind and blackened,

tortured alleys stained
with memory and sunken souls
fractured by the fault-line.

 

Third Place Winner

Christine Byrne

Christine Byrne is a senior at the University of Connecticut. She recently toured as a winner of the 2019 Connecticut Poetry Circuit. Her work appears in The Flexible PersonaBadlandsThe Offbeat, & others. Christine looks forward to moving to Chicago this June to teach high school English.

 

NOTES ON AN IRISH FUNERAL

My father notes I’ve stopped cutting my hair

(I had sun poisoning and an agenda)

Notes the weather. And my figure.

I was disturbed by the distance
of the rearranged and less in love, of Irish funerals
where we drink too much
& mom, away with her guinness.

It was an inconvenience to my other life—
The white hair,
white hands, white

Flashes of childhood, gripped and flinching
An over-blonde mother’s craze,
Vices. God. Pork tenderloin,
inchings and inklings

I never planned on coming back home where every building
Is greased with where I stood with my fists at my chin,
screaming hit me then throwing myself

Barres of Irish funeral, where my father, fatherless, scoops my face—
God they’ve done a number on you

& the salmon sheet walls
& the pastes of vintage photographs

the little Irish prayerbook, to be buried

& both my parents
disassemble his life
In the room of whispering guests.