Congratulations to the 2019 Peter Sears Poetry Prize Winners

Open book with the word "poetry" written on a page

The English Studies Department announced the winners of the 2019 Peter Sears Poetry Prize. The first prize went to Nicole Caldwell, second prize to Tricia Manzano and third prize to Laura Wildfang. The three winning poems are below.

The competition received over 60 poems from students. An English Studies committee selected 10 poems that were forwarded to the final judge, Jennifer Richter, poet and professor at Oregon State University.

Of Nicole Caldwell’s first-place poem, Professor Richter wrote:

“’Coming Home’ is stunning—a powerful reminder that not everyone is lucky enough to hear any ease or relief in that title.  The poem’s single-sentence momentum propels us through each stanza—mirroring beautifully the fluidity with which the speaker moves between familiar and foreign lands, peace and wartime, what’s hidden and exposed, seen and imagined—till we’re delivered to the devastating last line that resonates far beyond the page.”

First Prize: “Coming Home” by Nicole Caldwell

They shipped us home,

never telling us enemies would follow,

crouching in fever dream  jungles, watching

our gun boat slide by,


or that there’s no waking from scanned riverbanks,

shifting eyes and hidden barrels, that in all the waters

of the world, we’ll see heads of unlucky brothers,

bobbing obscenely


in the ripples we cast, graying skin stretched tight

across skulls like membranes across the rice drums

we sometimes heard through rattling palms,

that even eyes clenched shut,


won’t convince us they’re only rocks.


Second Prize: “This Too Will Take Some Time” by Tricia Manzano

I don’t know 

what I’m supposed to do 

when you tell me lately

I remind you of the moon 

A gravitational pull 

and push 

You say you miss 

the comforting sound of waves 

lulling you to sleep

and the moonlit rays 

that softly blanket over you 

You say 

now, I’m ever shifting 

weightless in the sky 

You’re unable to reach me

yet I’m glowing among stars

You always take notice 

the darkest of my nights

I know you

you won’t take it personal 

since you know me

I won’t apologize 

for all my phases 

You’re unable to see me 

as of this moment 

because I’m working 

on changing


Third Prize: “Fly Fishing Romance” by Laura Wildfang

Waders make him look even bigger,

water swirls around his knees.

His large arm casts between 10 and 2.

His favorite place, the river.


A fish strikes and tries to run,

he is patient.

If only he was that patient with me.

Aggressively the fish fights

now around his knees.

I know what the fish sees,

looking up at the towering body from below.


He scoops the fish out of the water.

Gently holding it,

I wish he held me that way.

He marvels at the colors and size;

releasing it unharmed back to the river.


The small bruises scattered on my arms

have begun to turn purple.


They match the ones that freckle his back

that his drunk father left last night.


Sitting on the bank

carefully tying a woolly bugger to my tippet.

Fly fishing is done with love.

We go fly fishing all the time.



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