2019 Academy of American Poets Student Poetry Contest

Every year, Millersville University participates in the Academy of American Poets Student Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Nate Warren, a senior English BSE major, who won first place and to Alicia McCrady, a senior English BA student, who earned “Honorable Mention” in this year’s contest.

Nate wrote a post about his poems, how his poetry comes to be, and the context of the three poems he submitted to the contest.

For me, my favorite kind of poetry to write is something that contains multiple moments in a single one – just a frozen bit found in the multitudes we feel simultaneously in our busy lives. One of my major goals in this style of poetry that I keep in the back of my mind as I write, and can always work towards, is that I want a welcoming tone with a little bit of optimism, or some hope for change. It’s okay to not know or understand everything – it’s impossible to – but for each person, there are things we can’t shake from our minds, both collectively and individually, both for better and for worse. The following poems were made with that mindset.

Altitude Sickness at Sea Level

Planes are atemporal, even though

I know it will be late when I reach home.

I’m just waiting for someone to tear me down,

To tell me to do better, to stick to

those weekly agendas, that daily routine

that will make me feel again. That will

make my contributions materialize.

Oh, to be grabbed by the hand of god

and shown to my place in the amber lights,

On Earth. An address that could be mine. A life

with a living. Worth where the struggles are

not left for thermolysis.

When I am told to get better, I am told to heal. There is a difference between that and improving. They are, after all, different words. Healing is still the act of returning to a perfect state. I want to improve in a way that says, I am not omnipotent, and neither are you.

– I wrote this on the plane coming back from a student activist retreat in Chicago – it was a long weekend at the retreat, and the semester started the next morning. It was also my first time flying at night, and the city went on for miles. I didn’t plan to talk about disability too, but that’s how it went.


The lightning bug glow, near to the grass

and Susan yellow,

assured me that I had felt this before.

And each time, having won, this was also acceptable.

More fireflies joined their brethren in a sparkling display, like

streetlamps refracting in muddy puddles.

As I watched, they grew increasingly in sync, and zipped up to the sky.

Thunder rolled back down a second later.

The raindrops absorbed into my skin and froze,

settling myself within my body

I felt there.

On every person’s tongue and into everyone’s deepest thoughts,

And weaving into the day and time,

It rumbled on.

– It was a rainy, thunderous day, where everything felt surreal for no real reason. I believe small talk serves an important social function, of making sure the other person is okay, but that day it felt repeated word-for-word as we talked about the weather.


Comfortable with elephants

we converse in gusts

shriveled rustlers in the melody of bells.

And while we’re at it, bites take

reality or build icons

but I’m afraid to represent still moments:

photos, ruin, and words, destroy.

Underneath the bones you tripped on

are bones, and dirt, and bones.

They struck me as prophetic.

You came away with a rash and a newfound love.

Grassless hills of loam shade us

and trick us into seeing only science

so by the time we’re in the sun again

proprioception erodes away,

with only faint muscle memory

of having stumbled.

– This one was written without an idea in mind initially, but as I wrote I remembered a day spent clearing up debris near a river across from this one restaurant when I was younger. The memories are both distinct and amorphous, and some modern thoughts slipped in.