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
$1,000: Daniel Healy for Eddie Van Halen Playing Eruption: Love Poems*
I love you happens to suffuse throughout the day and the night—
I never thought I’d get to know you.
I’d always hoped.
I took time up North (where men use gasoline to wash their hands. where I come from
where I couldn’t help knowing the white the brown the gravelly fights,
the ones that jump up
from tension beneath the way people do things,
the tension that
grocery store trips,
hunting supply catalog deliveries,
passive aggressive PTA meetings,
eddie van halen playing eruption,
overdoses in the middle of beer-shoplifting,
pharmacy errands [oh god] pharmacy errands,
restraining-order Samurai sword taser incidents,
libertarian presidential candidates.
I know it happens.
I know it best, that windburnt land where men use gasoline to wash their hands
to ward off poison ivy).
I wintered in a vision of southern kudzu,
baths of washy hope and woodsmoke—
took it like a champ, the wanting.
hard inside of hardnesses, barely becoming
sparse inside of barely becoming inside
of small abundances; the richness offsets the trouble—
But who am I kidding?
You know I’ve never had a
winning streak, no winner’s circle.
sun streaks hard through the cold—
it happens, it wakes me up, it becomes a becoming
it became so much before the wanting started.
I want you all the time
in your many seeing sights,
your many havens (sites of placement),
the plenitude you own, distill from the world,
for others to see all around
and inside, and before, and always so much to come,
like the discovery of clean fruit
in a blue-green bowl
in the morning,
Strangers gave me
for a whole week after we met.
They slipped it right into my back pocket,
spat it from their mouths to my hands on the train
like they knew something special,
they dribbled blue into my cupped fingers,
smiling silent before turning away
they wore matching jacquard suits, with gold piping
They gave me all of their treasure.
I made a choice.
To show them gratitude,
I gave them simple, brushed-lip kisses on their ruddy cheeks. One on each side.
I made sure to show gratitude.
It’s like the myriad creatures
woke up to breaking news of a brand-new kind,
a reset mythic vocabulary,
some age-old golden bough so far unseen,
the day after the night I ate you up.
Such small, small change. Small carnage.
A beer-bar date,
and all that talk about our asses not fitting into the small corner the host put us in,
my first walk to your little house
where you drew me diagrams of dendritic spines
before beating the shit out of me in your bed.
I hurt your back, we ate of each other so good,
and I was worried.
A hickey shone grape-bright on my neck the next day
on the team-building celebratory whitewater rafting trip and
one of the other high school teachers in the seminar-group teased me,
gave me breakfast before and beside the not-so lapis lazuli Ocoee river.
It’s like the myriad creatures welcomed me into their fold,
like being invited to go bowling
with all of your friends,
like a fever,
I’m so stupid.
The stars outside a bowling alley at night are dark,
would kill us if they could.
How can we have learned each other’s love
in a world that’s trying to kill us?
Already killing the myriad peoples
it forgot to forget
with a clean complete break.
There’s gunshot residue all over the fingernails
Of our love’s body
Our love’s like white phosphorus.
Fever in the midst of warfare,
a burn from the touch of the exhaust manifold of a tank.
I hang on to those stones in my pocket like they’re the last best thing I’ve got.
III. Capitalism, Elizabeth, My Family
In times of love and bamboo
I cannot stand not knowing what will come of us all.
You delight me
while we lie in late in bed at ease
You give me your hand to hold as a
smallest huge delight.
I feel your other holding me
the wood around your carpet glows warm and
your touch feels like light through sugar,
a gasp escapes,
my head rests, joy’s overturning waves
the bent sounds of the day
layers of what is not
Bamboo could go upstairs in the house.
But carrying on
helps no one, not even me. So
I’d rather isolate
what I can give to you, lips, left incisor,
whatever the scientists call the roof, (palatine)
onion, winter, water, ecstasy.
Bread and cacio e pepe.
They’ll help us.
They’ll help us all or die trying.
That time I pushed into you up
and against your refrigerator.
I can’t get enough of it in my looking back,
I’m hungry for you, my dear one.
I want my hands on your hips in the
light of day
in the end of time
for work and thought.
We can refract each other’s pieces and what will happen.
We can give it our best.
Give me your hand.
I like to think of touching you as a kind of plan.
Sure, it’s good to know you’re there, feel you, confirmation.
But if I can reach, reach out,
and feel such joy in the working, your fingers, green eyes,
joy I can’t help
and can’t help
want to share with you.
If I can’t wait until the end of time
for the day’s work and thought
to work with you again,
then I can’t weather apocalypse,
this constant untying of things,
this making unmaking
slow and all around
If I can’t focus inside of this unfocusing.
There’s no floor upstairs in the house up north.
We need kisses, scientists, cats, bread, plans, vegetables, each other, wet sheets on a Sunday, dark coastline stories, leavening, climate accords Paris Kyoto protocol United States Yemen, focus, gardens in Massachusetts, holding each other against your refrigerator and memories of holding each other against the refrigerator and moments to do it again, to survive.
Give me your hand
IV. Eggs, Sour Beer
The relief of unfamiliar places in familiar cities
reminds me of the relief of home,
looking a little different
upon each return,
asking new questions of me,
holding safe the same old entrenchments
I found a bar that served eggs in
after driving you up
to Logan airport to fly south and home
and I had nowhere to go
and I was thinking about what I did to you
Looking down on tobacco fields,
The Dextrose white of fields, frozen linen,
The river in connecticut looks like the river in tennessee,
It’s the living ghost of the land
Root systems, coiled and golden,
Light-baked clouds, crumbling
The whole horizon’s
Terrain as we can map it,
Its fiberglass furrows,
The noble gases
I was drinking jack and ginger—my dad’s drink at restaurants—
The flight attendant had given me two,
She was very kind
And it was kicking in,
And I’m a welterweight.
Gold holes opened down through and
Toward the land as I could see it
The sharp math, soft math, the overwhelming sum total
Things got thicker and blacker as we flew further on,
Weird hints from the moment before
And its floating architecture.
The lights would have let me see warehouses,
The lit-up diodes of the suburbs across the South
ok call, you’d said
you’d texted me at 1:05 in the morning to say you were coming down from new hampshire to get your ears tested
i remember my cat licked my hands in my bed in the loft in connecticut to wake me up to the work,
and I remembered that time near government center
as we sat on a bench taking
a break from what we’d come to do
a scared-eyed dude came up to us to say all about the kind of house
he and some people had down in JP,
to get us to come and join,
they had started something
but he was melting away into the concrete and brick.
what a hard day I remember
your cat died
and we got stoned in the worst way—
I hadn’t heard you
A frothy plastic cup
I didn’t miss the gravity of the land one bit
when I’m with you now I’m not with you enough
i left home, but you should have been the one
i’m amazed the little bunker you built for yourself has maintained its defenses
My mind opened up in the garden store on the way up close to come to catch the plane
Stretching like unlubricated metal parts
Like a hinge
Singing on a church door
About to fall off
You realize how much you love your people
In moments like that
I felt small when
There was fire through the trees
Went through to rip them out and up and into the air
The light shone through the whole house
Through the decay it bore almost without saying
This ground’s not for me
Damon destroys everything
In the video he makes his brother hold the camera
while he walks him into the middle of the
big gray-gold field
to dismantle him and put him back exactly right,
to take the world apart.
I like the beginning part best because it is itself,
it makes me think the least.
It makes me feel ready for what’s about to happen,
which is very little.
The two boys wear light-up shoes that
blink when you walk.
The two boys talk about building their very own
in a hole they’ve made in the mist of the cropped,
dead hay. I never forget the look that Scott
gives, the look that says, “I’ve never
had a brother but you. And I couldn’t see
than fishing and swordfighting and
eating cereal with you.”
Damon takes his little brother by the hand and lifts him
by the britches with the other,
holding him up in the air until he’s stuck in just the
right place, eating up space, a mass of person
in the moving gas of the wind of the open air
of the field
and he never moves
or cries. Not once, I tell you.
The tracking corrects itself here. It says TRACKING
on the purpling screen of my television
The bands of black and white haze through Scott
and they’re gone now.
Second Place Winner
$500: Julia Brush
Third Place Winner
$250: Matthew Ryan Shelton
Honorable Mentions: Kelly Rafferty and Olivia Baldwin