The Annie Balocating Undergraduate Prize for Poetry

Annie Balocating holds a Master of Public Administration from Baruch College/CUNY, a Master of Arts in Anthropology from Hunter College/CUNY, and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Michigan State University (MSU). At MSU, Annie was an avid poet and a member of the Residential Option In Arts and Letters (ROIAL) program. Her M.A. thesis on Rwandan genocide memorials and collective remembrance was nominated for the 2009 Hunter College Shuster Award for Outstanding Thesis and her Rwanda research has been featured in Peace Review. She works at The City University of New York (CUNY) and has called Brooklyn, New York her home for the last twelve years, living with her husband Jeremy Couillard (also a ROIAL and MSU alumnus).




About Annie Balocating

Open to MSU undergraduate students in any major, the Balocating Prize awards $500 for a single poem.

Deadline for submissions for the 2017 prize is April 7.

Submit up to three poems with a separate cover sheet including your name, email, and phone number. Poems must not identify you as the writer.

Submissions to

The winner will be announced at the April 26 Spring Poetry Festival reading by this year's judge, Mark Doty.


About Mark Doty

Mark Doty is the author of nine books of poetry, including Deep Lane; Fire to Fire: New and Selected Poems, winner of the 2008 National Book Award; and My Alexandria, winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He is also the author of three memoirs: the New York Times bestseller Dog Years, Firebird, and Heaven’s Coast, as well as the craft book, The Art of Description: World into Word. Doty has received two NEA fellowships, Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundation Fellowships, a Lila Wallace/Readers Digest Award, and the Witter Byner Prize.




2016 Winner

by Anna Goodson




"Grace, when it comes, just overwhelms me."

—Eduardo Sanguineti


I'm all dog: salt-footed, flea-haired, tail clinging to the spine


like a child trying on her mother's favorite skirt, hiding oranges

in the pockets. My mother & I use the same perfume. Bergamot,

morning flowers, musk. They call it 'soft.' But my mother is sign

of the ox,


horn-strong flash-legged woman, leaves musk only in trails

like mountain paths beat to red dust. Nothing soft about her.

She splits open oranges with her thumbs


in one motion, leaves the rinds for me.

Where they're still rotting. Fresh out


of the hospital again today, only clean laundry is my mother's

sweater. "You're strong," they said there, white-smeared tile floors

reflecting their teeth, clogged with footprints,


tracked in rust with blood. My mother draped a bergamot teabag

over the I.V. "You're not strong," she told me,

"but you're going to be okay." Grace on her hands

when she smoothed back my hair.


Grace still overwhelms me. It's the place where the orange peels

rot. My mother holds a lily-of-the-valley in her mouth.

I never asked her to. "Let's run together," she said,

when I was that child still clinging to her skirt with only a tailnub

to say what I'd become, careening down a hill of dandelions

like two unnamable beasts, coated in streaks of yellow like

the yellow glass of a perfume bottle smashed everywhere and that smell,

that smell will never leave me.




2015 Winner

"Memorial Day"

Connor Yeck


We were washing graves at the edge

of June. Veterans, my father had said,

handing me pail, rag, twist-tie throat


of plastic peonies; family we mustn’t

forget, even here, the way-back-simple-

sticks of Hart, Shelby, Newaygo & Irons.


So I go to metaled spigot, swatting gnats

& potter wasps, half-proud, half-angry

at a weekend spent with dust-dull acres,


stern watch, stone-chip fields of knotweeds

& shagbark. Rubbing slattered bird filth,

I rinse those men in granite, marbled boys


who’d seen Belleau Wood & Saint Quentin,

the pined Hürtgenwald, till he calls me restless

across the day. It is near-time for lunch,


he says, & so opens the fish chest—fried

chicken cutlets, sweet rolls, iced-necks of soda

for the both of us. We eat in silence, crushing


chiggers, spotting sun-pricked pillar tombs beyond

a bank of hedge. I ask if we might turn on the radio,

& he says no, it is disrespectful to those passed,


(as if it might shake them back to living sense).

Rather, he tells me of work, though I am young,

& uncaring—how I can go to the Dow plant,


like himself, or the carom factory if I so wish.

It makes me ill to think of fall bowling leagues

& company picnics, shouting in the Polish bars,


& for a moment, I hate  him, a thing kept hidden,

loose, & careful, yet what he must’ve known, going

to the nearby fence line where curled, sun-spry


buckwheat had begun to overtake. A farmer’s field,

next-door. Brown-green runnels filled with migrant

workers. He calls to the nearest & three appear.


Cuánto cuesta? he asks, so loud and fool-clumsy.

The men hold up sky-burnt fingers. A few creased

bills, & they are gone, off to blue-bent buckets


on an endless, running turf. I am given the clutch

of asparagus, ribbed & gritty, a baton-like thing

of morals, perhaps. I expect him to say how young


they were, working on their knees in gingham aprons,

pulling, plucking, proud; how they’d be glad to clean

old graves for an afternoon, have something to drink.


But instead, he simply says, eat, & I do, tasting loam,

wet musk, the raw-keen bite of insecticide as he tells

me Oceana County, despite its meager size, is this-

that, crop capital of the entire living world.


Call us: (517) 884-1932  | Contact Information


Call MSU: (517) 355-1855 | Visit: | MSU is an affirmative-action, equal-opportunity employer.

SPARTANS WILL. © Michigan State University