2012 Winners

2012 Academy of American Poets Winners


Nationally published poet and Cal Poly lecturer Leslie St. John has chosen English undergraduate Jess Zwicker (Thousand Oaks) as winner of Cal Poly’s 2012 Academy of American Poets Contest. Zwicker will receive a $100 award from the Academy for her poem “No One Is Lost.”

English undergraduate Kate Sugar (San Diego) and Journalism undergraduate Victoria Billings (Atascadero) earned honorable mention for their poems “Seasonal Dryad” and “White White White” respectively.

To honor these very talented students, the English department is posting their poetry below for all to enjoy.


Kate Sugar

Honoarable Mention

Seasonal Dryad

Sometime in June, a small bleached
girl performs handstands
in my backyard pool. Her taupe feet
bob through the chlorine shell
while she condemns our people air.

Dripping afternoon imaginings,
in September, the girl settles supine
on the olive lawn.
The fir tree curtseys beside her—
boughs stretching upwards become her arms.
Blistered tree knots form on her elbows
and sap creeps down the limp skin
that limbos between cheek and lash.

But during December the child peruses
her tree kin as they stand
obediently in rows in the Rite Aid parking lot—
very far from soil or grass or a backyard
pool, illuminated by liquor discount signs
and car headlights.

She positions herself amidst
their huddling bundles.
She stands with them, waiting to be chosen 
to stand in the corner of a living room.
She prepares her limbs to be pried,
then pierced with hooks and colored lights.

She knows she will soon die—thirsty
and dry, her disembodied needles
left like confetti
on somebody’s soiled carpet.



Jess Zwicker

Contest Winner

No One is Lost

There is a lighthouse on the edge of the wasteland.
The operators are paid dearly in time,
in lit nights and a sky the stars
have drowned in.
Wanderers come to their doorstep, slipping
on eddies of ash and fragments of
trampled chrysalises.  Nothing
is allowed to change its colors.
Now is all that is known.
The workers hang lanterns
in the holes in their hearts,
passing out pieces of their lighthouse
so people can see the road they’re on—
there is an exiled sun chained to the floor,
there are Ozymandias’ fields of sand and rubble,
there is a lighthouse on the edge of the wasteland
that spears open the night.



Related Content