2014 Academy of American Poets Winning Poetry

English graduate student Jonathan Maule has just won Cal Poly’s Academy of American Poets Contest for his poem “Repurposed.” He will receive a $100 award from the Academy.

Judging this year’s contest, Walt Whitman award-winner Greg Glazner said that Maule’s poem is “a moving study of brothers” and that it’s “written vulnerably and unflinchingly, with painstaking attention to detail.”  

The judge noted that the poem has “an admirable command not only of detail, voice, and arc, but of humanity as well, showing us how perspective deepens, in the end, into responsibility.”

1st Place Winning Poem



Camping on BLM land just North of Lucky Peak,
my brother leaned against the stainless roll bar

in the back of my pickup, held a
double-barreled beer bong as high as he could.

Two at a time, the others twisted red and white irrigation nozzles
and chugged through acrylic tubes.

One of the younger ones botched it up,
pulled back too soon and shot a piss-colored fountain

all over the cracked plastic bed-liner of my truck.
We drank Keystone, and blasted metal.

My brother lost his virginity that night, in a tent, with a blond.
Or in a truck, with a brunette.

He rubbed butter on the bright red funnel to cut the foam,
poured beer after beer, held his hands above his head,

reveled in the double bass
while the others dragged a felled tree to the fire.


I sat him down and told him about getting high—
what it would feel like in his lungs,

how long it would last, how to hold it in,
the correct way to breathe.

I showed him the pipe—
a three-inch length of galvanized steel with

a threaded elbow at one end, a repurposed
sink aerator for a screen, the whole thing

wrapped in black hockey tape. Sitting by the man-made
lake at the center of the apartment complex,

we sparked bowls and laughed
when he singed his eyebrows.

“Don’t worry, if someone comes, just throw it in the lake;
it’s so heavy it’ll sink to the bottom.”

He held the pipe loose, like he was weighing it,
considering the depth of the water.


He calls again asking how I’ve been.
He’s drunk and I’m not.

He says the bastard locked him out,
changed the locks while he was at work,

He says it’s been bad since June,
says he didn’t see it coming.

I listen as the story bleeds into other stories.
I pinch the phone between my cheek and

my shoulder while I hang damp laundry on
a ratchet-strap running the length of the crossbeam above my bed.

The mattress sinks as I step and stretch,
reach up and hook another hanger,

he talks about a homeless woman with cigarette burns peppering her arms,
says she needs a place to sleep, a place to get clean and forget a few things,

his voice, hallow like the shrunken shirts hanging over my head,
sounds more and more like my own.

-Jonathan Maule

Honorable Mentions

First honorable mention goes to English graduate student Lauren Henley for her noir-ish poem “Cool Hand Luke,” which takes its title from the Paul Newman movie and expresses the way romantic love can offer hope in dark days.

Cool Hand Luke

For 750 a month I am queen of the unfinished studio
above Lucky Jack’s Garage
while all the friends I don’t have
live in condos downtown

It is July inside & it is July outside
We know because we feel like birthday checks
filled out with pencil
& dropped in a toilet

I pick up J.M. at midnight from Shin’s Sushi Bar
where he’s been waiting tables
dressed in all black like a spy or a ninja or midnight
He smells like someone who works in a sushi bar in July

The rotting narrow stairs
on the side of Lucky Jack’s are in total darkness
I climb onto J.M.’s back my cheek presses into the fish of his neck
my arms around the fish of his chest

One thinks of stealing water even though you have water
of breaking into city pools of raindrops the size of hazelnuts

At two am after sex the July moon turns on the town lights firecrackers
up & down the street makes a sound like laughter trapped inside gelatin

There are still divorce papers to finish more court visits my ex haunts
my dreams no moving air No cooling no moving no air!

At 3 am I whisper sweet things open polar sea meat locker
Siberia ice castle

4 am & there is no more borrowed Ambien so we talk movies
Cool Hand Luke cutting heads off parking meters
his reason being it was a small town not much to do in the evenin’
Was it an ax or a crowbar that he wielded
when the street was not laughing—

- Lauren Henley

Wine and Viticulture major Madeleine Mori earned second honorable mention for her atmospheric poem "Sa-­I-­Gu," which, based on the LA riots, renders the tensions and dangers of urban life, especially for shop owners.


             “Four-Two-Nine” 1992
Deep in the desiccation of Los Angeles lawns,
            everything’s been long half-bloomed.
A cigarette butt, a velvet breeze, now
            begins the mid-air humming
of junked refrigerators out the backs of bodegas.

The thin red crime threads are cut,
            the lawns gnarl in shadow:
oozing lemonheads glitter on the sidewalk
            like the sweat of liquor money
that pools in Uncle Joo’s cash drawer.

I swab shelves of Soju and Goldschlager,
            the Camel and chew, saved
behind this metal cage that lets only dust enter,
            as a young brown boy drops a six-pack
of Miller High Life on Joo’s counter:

How much?
            What do you mean how much?
For this man.
            I’m not selling you this.
Why the fuck not?
            Because I see you! You steal from here every day!
Man, you don’t know what you’ve seen--
that ain’t me!
            Of course it’s you!
            It’s always you!
Joo screeches and halts like the Florence St. bus,
            Boy curdles like our Sunday egg custard,
hotbox couple above us fucking, then shrieking,
            the hairs on my neck all blazing:

The windows broken, the new guns cocked,
            the ribs concave, the ears slashed off,
wings of dried blood, resting like a brown ash moth,
            swept down the gutter, they’re illuminated,
- Madeleine Mori


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