English major Summer Lichtenberg (San Luis Obispo, CA) has won Cal Poly’s Academy of American Poets Contest for her poem “On Sunday,” which takes an unflinching look at mortality and poignantly renders the experience of those left in the wake of a tragedy. She will receive a $100 award from the Academy. 

Award-winning poet Charif Shanahan judged this year’s contest. Shanahan praised “On Sunday” for its “impressive (and nearly essayistic) narrative scope, strong sense of the line and poetic closure, and imagery at once surprising and poignant.” First honorable mention goes to “Pink” by Emily Bomba for its “fine use of sequence, and the couplet within them, as well as the poise and earnestness of voice.” Second honorable mention goes to “A Bending” by Ell Hundertmark for its “extremely pleasurable sonic qualities, which offset the pain of the content, its reaching for philosophical inquiry within the space of the lyric, and the unflinching look at—and into—what to do with our wounds.” 

Charif Shanahan is the author of Into Each Room We Enter without Knowing, which was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Poetry and the Publishing Triangle’s Thom Gunn Award. Born in the Bronx to an Irish-American father and a Moroccan mother, he has lived all over the world and has taught literature and language at numerous universities. He is currently an Assistant Professor in the undergraduate and Litowitz MFA+MA graduate creative writing programs at Northwestern University. 

The Cal Poly English Department and the Academy of American Poets, which is a longstanding advocate for the art of poetry and is located in New York City, sponsor the contest. The winning poem will appear on the University & College Poetry Prize page of Poets.org.

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