Hope College Academy of American Poets Prize 2019

We’re delighted to share this year’s recognized poets and poems below. Congratulations to these talented student artists!

About the Prize

The Hope College Academy of American Poets (AAP) Prize award is funded by the AAP’s University and College Poetry Prize program. The academy began the program in 1955 at 10 schools, and now sponsors nearly 200 annual prizes for poetry at colleges and universities nationwide. Poets honored through the program have included Mark Doty, Louise Gluck, Joy Harjo, Robert Hass, Robert Pinsky, Sylvia Plath, Gjertrud Schnackenberg, and Charles Wright. The winning poet receives $100. 

About this Year’s Judge

Poet Todd Kaneko is the author of The Dead Wrestler Elegies (2014). His poems and prose have appeared in Bellingham Review, Los Angeles Review, Barrelhouse, PANK, the Collagist, and many other places. A recipient of fellowships from Kundiman and the Kenyon Review Writer’s Workshop, he is currently co-editor of Waxwing and teaches at Grand Valley State University in Michigan.


Kellyanne Fitzgerald’s “Road Trip”

Todd Kaneko writes:

There is a lovely surrealism to this poem, and also a kind of unpredictable sensibility, as the poem takes us from the speaker’s silence to that moment where they sit on their own tongue and listen to the words they are saying. I appreciate the elegant strangeness to this poem as it moves from the ribcage children to that request: “Kiss me,” the speaker says, which is the poem’s center in this dream about the tongue, about longing, and a disarming combination of desire and fear. And that moment at the end when the poem delivers the parenthetical about love, it follows a quietly violent description of a kiss that is as startling as it is quick. This poem is a journey through the body, and it keeps the reader off-balance so expertly to deliver that understated turn at the end. It’s a marvelously strange trip.

Road Trip

I dreamed that I was small, and my veins
were the size of highways, and we were puttering

around inside, throwing pebbles and listening
to the echo as they hit some vital organ.

What are we doing here, you asked,
and I had no answer. We climbed my tongue

with ropes, and sat at the top, listening
to the words cascading across my teeth.

Red lights stretch the dusk of my heart
like taffy. I am afraid I am a liar

and that the children in my ribcage
just want to be adopted. “Kiss me,”

I suggest, and your pupils shine black,
fingers slipping to grab the sides of my face.

(if this is not love I don’t know what is.)


Honorable Mention

Julia Kirby’s “A Billy Goat Rests on Dolomites”

Todd Kaneko writes:

This short poem shows such admirable restraint as it roots itself in an observational moment before allowing its strangeness, anchored by the simple image of the goat, to seep into the ground and the flowers. It all seems so tranquil and normal, and yet I can’t help but wonder where the wine comes from in the first stanza, and how it changes to blood in the second, a reverse transubstantiation of sorts, a disturbing miracle with no one around to witness but that goat who doesn’t seem to care. This poem takes its power from its simplicity, its concision, and its ability to surprise.

A Billy Goat Rests on Dolomites

A goat perches
atop a range of Dolomites.
Drinking from a puddle,
his beard drips with Italian wine.

Crimson sinks
into the mossy earth
below his hooves, turning clovers
into blood-soaked poppies.

The reflections
of Lago di Carezza
mirror in his eyes – brilliant
emerald and turquoise.

His head hangs low,
eyes glassy and content.

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