The Annie Balocating Undergraduate Prize for Poetry
Congratulations to Maddy Wheelock, winner of the 2018 Annie Balocating Undergraduate Prize for Poetry, for her poem
Reflections on Catholic Guilt and Worshiping my Ex-Girlfriend!
Judge Leila Chatti said, "this poem beautifully engages the complexity of desire and religion. It begins deceptively simple—'I let a girl take me to church'—and continues unfolding in the lines following, bringing in the speaker’s devout grandmother and the speaker’s internal grappling with sin and belonging. Ultimately, desire is what the speaker has faith in; it is the beloved who the speaker worships. This poem is alive and deeply felt."
Maddy will receive a prize of $500.
About Annie Balocating
Annie Balocating was an MSU/Residential Option in Arts and Letters (ROIAL) alumna, where she was an avid poet and active in community efforts to assist refugees of Sudan. After graduating, she and her husband Jeremy Couillard (also a ROIAL alumnus) moved to Brooklyn, NY, where Annie would earn both her M.A. and M.P.A., and where she co-founded the Rwanda Research Group. 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. As Special Assistant to the University Associate Dean and Deputy to the Senior University Dean at City University of New York (CUNY), Annie worked to improve college prep programs for struggling schools throughout NYC. She was passionate about changing the world, and donated her time an talents to countless organizations and volunteer efforts. She established the Balocating Undergraduate Prize for Poetry in 2011, which awards $500 annually to an MSU undergraduate poet for one poem.
2011 Korey Hurni
2012 Grace Pappalardo
2013 Tony Lograsso
2014 Jenny Crakes
2015 Connor Yeck
2016 Anna Goodson
2017 Emma Hintzen
2018 Maddy Wheelock
Reflections on Catholic Guilt and Worshiping My Ex-Girlfriend
by Maddy Wheelock
I let a girl take me to church
after being 8 years clean of homily.
She folds her hands and bows her head
and thinks of anything but God,
she looks so good doing it,
I think maybe I could learn the hymns
if it means seeing her on Sundays.
She knows the moves to make,
the holy water and the sign of the cross,
the kneelers and the hallelujahs,
muscle memories my muscles forgot
after years of careful avoidance.
My grandmother writes Bible verses on my birthday cards.
As I listen to the Lord's Prayer, I think about her.
I wonder if she would be proud or disappointed
that I am here, in her place of worship,
with my hand pressed against the hand of another girl.
I have never been to a confessional.
I walked into this sanctuary feeling full of sin.
I wore this girl’s clothes like a security blanket.
My religion is less like my grandmother's.
It tastes less like communion wine.
It is more like sweat and bug spray,
more like Chapstick and chlorine.
I felt religion more the night before,
when this girl and I made a bed out of blankets
in the backseat of a van.
I felt prayers in the way she whispered my name in my ear,
I felt confessions in her body's movements against mine.
I spent most of the Sunday morning service
knowing the closest I've ever felt to god
was when this girl placed her hand over my chest
to feel my heartbeat speed up when I kissed her.
I named her my altar,
my sacrificial home.
I’m not sure where in the scripture
all of my days became Sundays.
We inhaled incense
in a constant confessional,
her: all covenant,
me: tireless piety.
It was all sorts of sanctuary.
Homilies in long drives,
communion in sun-soaked skin,
she and I reinvented virtue.
I’m not sure where in the scripture
I stopped reading her name.
When I realized, I studied hymnals
searching for us,
devout in my destruction,
eternally empty handed.