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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.

Literary Festival

The Literary Festival in November 2nd was a great success! If you didn’t have a chance to attend, the theme was “The Writing Life” and there were myriad presentations spanning fiction, poetry, nonfiction, publishing, and everything in between. The guest writers and presenters showcased writing as a means of self-exploration and engagement with the world around us.

The winner of the Flash Fiction Contest was Nichole DiGirolamo, a sophomore Psychology major with a minor in Art — congratulations!

Nichole DiGirolamo

Nichole’s piece, “My Mother’s Closet,” is about childhood memories, specifically memories about the items and colors inside her mother’s closet. Nichole explains, “How I miss being a child and seeing the colors and fabrics and not having a care in the world about anything going on. I wrote the piece because of all of the wonderful memories I had in that closet trying on my mothers shoes that are always way too big. Wearing her jackets that fell to the floor and always seeing the artwork she has kept from all those years. She reacts and treats each one like a million dollar piece of art even though it was terrible.”

An excerpt from her story:

A drawing made by a girl of a house on the hill. It was made with oil pastels, greens, blues, yellows fill the page. The house small but full of windows and doors so there’s a never ending amount of light to enter the home. A bush outside the shape of a cat with a tail longer than a mile it had what looked to be roses growing on it. There’s a walk way with bright pineapple colored stepping stones and in between each stone was smaller lemon colored stones. The sides of the house rough made out of bricks and cement. In the front yard a family, I tall tan man with a mustache the size of the titanic, eyes greener than limes and scribbles on his arms to mimic tattoos. A woman short with blonde hair above her ears with beautiful greenish blue eyes and a girl with long brown hair and straight across bangs giant eyes like pools of chocolate.

This is Nichole’s favorite part of the piece because of the sentimental value: “The picture is me and my family and all the colors and the details used to describe the picture was exactly how it Is described. I drew the photo when I was about 6-7 and remember every moment of making it.” To write the piece of fiction, Nichole describes that she “sat in my mom’s closet and just took a look around at the height level I would be when I was younger. I closed my eyes and touched things and smelled things to get a better sense of my surroundings and to give better detail. I looked at things that had the most meaning, like the shoes and the money. The money showed the trips we took as a family and showed how many memories we had on those trips.”

Here are some photos from the festival on November 2nd:

Panel Discussion – “The Writing Life” From left to right: Barb Strasko, Mitchell Sommers, Matt Kabik, Alex Brubaker, Phil Benoit
Poet Michele Santamaria
Event Organizers: Jeff Boyer and William Archibald

Poet Le Hinton (on left) with Matt Kabik

Former Lancaster Poet Laureate Barb Strasko
Books for sale at the event

Thanks to:

  • Festival Chair William Archibald and Assistant Chair Jeff Boyer for their work organizing the event
  • Curtis Smith, Le Hinton, Jenny Hill, Michele Santamaria, Mitchell Sommers, Barb Strasko, Alex Brubaker, Megan Phillips, Phillip Benoit, Jamie Beth Cohen, Jen Hirt, Laura English, Timothy Mayers, Katarzyna Jakubiak, and Michael Deibert for agreeing to present
  • Graduate Assistant Andie Petrillo for creating the WordPress site and assisting with general planning
  • Rachel Hicks for creating advertising

Literary Festival – Flash Fiction Contest

Millersville University is hosting a Literary Festival in the McNairy Library Room 100 on November 2nd from 9am to 5pm with a keynote speaker at 7pm. Guest writers will hold sessions on writing fiction, poetry, memoir, creative essays, and journalism throughout the day. Check out the full event schedule here

The Millersville University Literary Festival is sponsoring a Flash Fiction contest!

Submission Criteria:

  • Millersville students only
  • 1,000 word limit
  • Submit here (click on the “Submit Here” link) by October 15th at 11:59pm

The night before the festival (November 1st), the student fiction prize will be awarded at an open mic event in Saxby’s from 7-9pm. The winner will win a $100 prize and a spot in the George Street Press literary magazine.

Please submit your stories and come out to the open mic on November 1st!