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 email@example.com
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.
by Anna Goodson
"Grace, when it comes, just overwhelms me."
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.
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.