Poetry Contest Winners


Winner of the 2022-2023 Kay Murphy Prize for Poetry, judged by Derrick Harriell :

“balconies” by Sally Lipton Derringer

About the winning poem, Harriell writes:

This short poem is unafraid, steeped in the historical, and extremely clever. The line breaks are
deliberate and the voice is sure. The writer’s ability to juxtapose the significance and stakes of various
balconies, both through literary allusion and history, was just as impressive to read as it was painful.
The fictional character Juliet (Romeo and Juliet) is mentioned in such close proximity to Martin
Luther King that the seemingly two unconnected figures suddenly have eerie “balconies” in common.
The balconies in this poem are both dangerous and carefully considered. By the poem’s end, I found
myself staring at the houses in my own neighborhood, and counting the balconies I’d never set foot

Congratulations as well to our finalists:

1st Runner-Up: “Dangerous Times,” by Leigh Lucas 
2nd Runner-Up -“Remembering // Obsolete,” by Maggie Yang
3rd Runner-Up -“No Responses,” by Juliet Gelfman-Randazzo


Winner of the 2021-2022 Kay Murphy Prize for Poetry, judged by Sandra Beasley:

“Every Day Is Someone’s First in Purgatory” by Samuel Piccone

About the winning poem, Beasley writes:

“We sometimes praise poems using the language of diamonds: clarity, cut, precision.

These adjectives honor that a poem is a prism, fully capable of transforming the light of the world. A confident poem offers all the cues we need to experience text and subtext, and trusts the reader to reconcile the two. Other poems offer only vestiges of refracted light, keeping poet—as interlocutor—as the prism, firmly centered in the audience’s attentions.

The clarity of image, compelling lineation, and syntactical precision of “Every Day Is Someone’s First in Purgatory” would mean nothing if the poem didn’t risk, and risk again. Each turn of the story calls the reader to engage. “An operator once assured me in every way my telling invited reassurance. / Yes, I’m still here.” In just fifteen lines we swerve from everyday loss, to deep trauma, to thought experiment, to imperative inquisition. This poem is incandescent.”

Finalists are listed in alphabetical order: 

“Papillon,” by Mara Grayson

“By 4am, we’re headed toward an abortion clinic in Queens,” Jonathan Greenhause

“Volcano Rim,” by Oak Morse

“At This Table We Sing with Joy, with Sorrow,” by John Sibley Williams


Winner of the 2020-2021 Kay Murphy Prize for Poetry, judged by Trace Peterson:

“ZOOM” by Linette Marie Allen

About the winning poem, Peterson writes:

“Linette Marie Allen’s ‘ZOOM’ shows us what poetry at its most vital can do. Its timely subject matter and taut lines lay out a background location in gradual gestures that simultaneously establish an evocative, charged narrative. Artificial and real are blurred through the conflation of this almost collaged background setting with the words and space of the poem itself as it unfolds. Around the turn in the 9th line, the voice setting the scene turns dialogic, and interrupting utterances democratize the conversation, challenging an authority figure with a series of incredulous, exasperated questions which seem to come alternately from the addressee, from a person being taught in a class, or perhaps even from someone who is scarred by violence. The poem ends in an urgent yet open ended way, interrupting itself twice to conclude with a confrontational question which feels like a kind of dare.”

Finalists are listed in alphabetical order: 

“You Leap,” by Karen Beninato 

“instructions ghazal,” by Tyler Dettloff  

“nub,” by Tarik Dobbs  

“Confrontation Practice,” by Alexis Jackson 

“Commiserate with Experience,” by Michael Lambert 


Winner of the 2019-2020 Kay Murphy Prize for Poetry, judged by Toi Derricotte:

“Echolocation,” by Mark Wagenaar

About the winning poem, Derricotte writes:

“I love the far-reaching and compassionate impulse of Mark Wagenaar’s “Echolocation,” its desire to make contact. From the goldfish, fathers, and dreams of the first two lines, the poem connects us with belugas, with Schubert, the Untouchables, with Buddha and the pope. At the end the poet waves at anonymous passengers flying overhead on their way to various destinations. Like bats and dolphins who use echolocation to measure their closeness to other objects, he is waiting for a sign. The poem itself is a kind of echolocation. Through it we recognize our intimate connections—to the living and long dead, to the unnamed and missing, and to the mystery that remains—except for in a great poem—ineffable: the one that connects us to our own elusive hearts.”


1st Runner-Up: “My Mother’s Guest Room,” by Pamela L. Sumners

2nd Runner-Up: “smiles & other pronounced marks,” by Trace Howard DePass

3rd Runner-Up: “The Reptile Dealer’s Daughter,” by Gabriella Fee

4th Runner-Up: “Trompe L’oeil,” by Pamela Davis


Winner of the Kay Murphy Prize for Poetry, judged by Danielle Pafunda:

Tell Me How It Makes You Feel, by Valerie Hsiung

About the winning poem, Pafunda said:

Let us write down our own words— // An unfolded map in lieu of tablecloth. When a child is disconnected from a language, a map is lost and a trauma incited. Valerie Hsiung’s poem seeks recovery, won’t stop at simile, calls on Trickster—sister, shaman, frolicking monk, free traveler, free from the genome—who links arms with us laughing, but also scolds: irony is no homeopathic against loss, earnestness no guarantee of reward. Pay attention to noise in this uncharted territory. It’s greener than you’d think in apricot valley’s pink hills. Who comes to get brown noise? Screechy white noise lover who can’t pronounce your name. Pay attention to doubles. When the architect misspeaks the scissors “we are,” will you be the the blade that stabilizes or the blade that drops? Can you recreate the map in cut-ups? Can you express that which refuses expression? Can you “Tell Me How It Makes You Feel”?


1st Runner-Up: “Message,” by Kathryn Jensen

2nd Runner-Up: “Bad Tidings,” by Patrick Cantrell

3rd Runner-Up: “Yoko,” by Danielle Zaccagnino

4th Runner-Up: “dig a cave into the future,” by Patrycja Humienik


Winner of the Kay Murphy Prize for Poetry, judged by Kay Murphy:

“Praying Mantis” by Mara Adamitz Scrupe

About the winning poem, Murphy said:

“Mara Adamitz Scrupe’s ‘Praying Mantis’ is a beautiful and complex example of the various techniques available to us in creating a human-centered poem. My auditory sense is congratulations immediately seduced by the moderated alliteration and assonance. The title, followed by annus horibilis cut away in parentheses as if the Latin were the taxonomic category of the insect, introduces the subject of anguish. The plague, whatever it is, affects the speaker personally: it is horrible, it lasts for a year, and the mantis is praying for, not inflicting injury upon, the speaker. Through the artful rendering of suffering, my empathy and compassion are awakened.”


“Birds of the Illegal Trade” by Benjamin Garcia

“The Long Meadow” by Rosa Lane


Winner of the Kay Murphy Prize for Poetry, judged by Myung Mi Kim:

“The Slave Owner’s Daughter Makes Soap,”  by Alexander Payne Morgan

Judge Myung Mi Kim praised the poem’s “fervent, vivid imagery” and called it “an exquisitely observed world made palpable through vibrant use of details and sounds. It  is at once concerned with the immediacy of the particular and intergenerational family legacies surrounding slavery and race. It traces a charged field of the voices, cadences, and narrative particles that become indelible markers for how we construct a reading of ourselves, our own historical becoming.”


“C-ration” by Taeyin ChoGlueck
“Yangtze Baiji Expedition Log” by Beatrice Szymkowiak

“The Privative Alpha” by Jenny Montgomery 

“Family Wheel No Tree,”  by Mara Adamitz Scrupe


Winner of the Kay Murphy Prize for Poetry, judged by D.A. Powell:

“Plans to Disembark,” Seann Weir 


1st Runner Up: “Things I Wish I Told My Mother” by Samuel Piccone
2nd Runner Up: “Yard Sale Full of Old Meat” by Mark Baumer
Honorable Mentions: “Prologue” by Dylan Carpenter and “Elegy for a Bell” by Cintia Santana


Winner of the Kay Murphy Prize for Poetry, judged by Jane Miller:

“The Loneliness of the Middle Distance Transmissions Aggregator” by Marco Maisto


“Come Back” by Sally Rodgers


Winner of the Kay Murphy Prize for Poetry, judged by Jane Miller:

“Nude to Pink” by Madeline Vardell


Winner of the Kay Murphy Prize for Poetry:

“Then, the Unabridged” by Benjamin Sutton


“I Expect to Make a Complete Recovery” by Rachel Bennett
“If from a Great Nature, Our Own Abyss” by Andrew Ruzkowski


Winner of the Kay Murphy Prize for Poetry:

“Kissing Oscar Wilde” by Jade Sylvan


“Short Lists on a Diagnosis” by Aran Donovan
“Love in the Graveyard” by W.F. Lantry
“Mazatlan” by Gabriel Spera