2014 Judge: Marcus Wicker

  Marcus Wicker is the author of Maybe the Saddest Thing
  (Harper Perennial), selected by DA Powell for the
  National Poetry Series. He holds an MFA in Creative
  Writing from Indiana University. Wicker's awards
  include a 2011 Ruth Lilly Fellowship, Pushcart Prize,
  as well as fellowships from Cave Canem, and The
  Fine Arts Work Center. His work has appeared
  in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Third Coast,
  Ninth Letter
, and many other magazines. Marcus
  is assistant professor of English at University of
  Southern Indiana and poetry editor of Southern
  Indiana Review. He serves as director of the
  New Harmony Writers Workshop.

Please join us for a reading by Mr. Wicker, along with winners and finalists in this year's contest, on Thursday, October 9, at 7:30 p.m. in the Lilly Auditorium of University Library, 755 West Michigan Street, Indianapolis, 46202.

The Light

I caught it like a shard of glass catches a beam.
How a stranger’s smile can level a man. Can light

his sunken chest. Swell a new breath. In other words
I was the shard who glinted your eyes. In that light

blue halter, fifth hour, you were the poetry
I normally ignored. Your ballpoint’s clean marks. Light

blue, light touch against my windbag essays. That made
you especially stunning. Made you lightening

I had to harness, hand-in-hand, beneath a desk. Or
in an unattended dark room. Tenderly, red light

washing over us. As I did. Abruptly—telling
you it takes the right type of girl to make a black-white

relationship work. You loved how Common rapped “The Light.”
I listened to him more than you. His sly anti-white

woman rhymes never touched me. But you. You filtered through
a magnifying glass. Warmed the cherry orchard, white

with frost. Your light sweetened my pit. You are lightning
crashed through his pulpit into this poem. Beaming. Yes, white.

A gleaming axe hacked through what we were growing into.
I was the axe. You were two syllables too many. White

space in a wheeling sonnet. A corner I couldn’t turn
in nine lines. But now I am mourning. Thanks to you, first light.

(Originally appeared in Vinyl Poetry, Volume 5, March 2012)

2013 Judge: Orlando Menes

Orlando Ricardo Menes currently directs the Creative Writing Program at the University of Notre Dame where he has taught since 2000. His third poetry collection, Fetish, won the 2012 Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Poetry and will be published by the University of Nebraska Press in Fall 2013. He is also the author of Furia (Milkweed, 2005) and Rumba atop the Stones (Peepal Tree, 2001). His poems have appeared in several prominent anthologies, as well as literary magazines like Ploughshares, Harvard Review, The Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, Hudson Review, Shenandoah, Callaloo, Indiana Review, RiverStyx, Epoch, Spoon River Poetry Review, NewLetters, Crab Orchard Review, and Green Mountains Review. In addition, Menes is editor of Renaming Ecstasy: Latino Writings on the Sacred (Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe, 2004) and The Open Light: Poets from Notre Dame, 1991-2008 (University of Notre Dame Press, 2011).  Besides his own poems, Menes has published translations of poetry in Spanish, including My Heart Flooded with Water: Selected Poems by AlfonsinaStorni (Latin American Literary Review Press, 2009). That same year he received a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. His poetry delves into questions of liminality, the hybrid sacred, diaspora and exile, and the relationship between the cross-cultural imagination and a poetics of the baroque.

Rice was not a gift of T’ien Ti,
God in Heaven, but that of a wild
dog. Long ago, on the plains
of Xietan, a flood killed all crops
so that humans had to hunt
in summer, scavenge in winter.
One day the clumsiest of hunters
saw a wild dog leave a marsh,
rice seeds stuck to its tail.
These grew and soon he harvested
them with his bare hands.
Thus the dog’s reward would
forever be a sweet and sticky
ball of glutinous brown rice.