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Dean Joe Ward with Students

May Swenson Legacy Student Poetry Contest

The May Swenson Legacy Student Poetry Contest was held in conjunction with the Swenson House Groundbreaking Ceremony Fall of 2018. The contest was open to all USU and Cache Valley high school students. Poems were new, original, and inspired by a May Swenson poem line. The winning poet read their poem at the groundbreaking event.

Winners of the 2018 May Swenson Student Poetry Contest:

First Place ($300): Stacie Denetsosie, USU English Literature and Writing graduate student
Second Place ($100): Mark Smeltzer, USU English - Creative Writing undergraduate student
Finalist ($50): Taylor Fang, Logan High School student
Finalist ($50): Ashley Thompson, USU English - Creative Writing undergraduate student

Granddaddy: The Glowing Man

by Stacie Denetsosie

Peeling an apricot, I remember my granddaddy's hand.
His veins glowing a greenish-yellow, the color of uranium,
Under his brown skin. My granddaddy, the glowing man.
Granddaddy was miner. He brought home his work,
And like any man, he left his clothes at the door.
Grandma damned his socks, for never going after him.
She washed his clothes in the same river
they drank from. The first time I heard,
Uranium contamination, was after my grandmother
Urinated in a cup at an Indian Health Services Hospital.
I sat in a blue fiberglass chair, next to my granddaddy,
Who came in for trouble breathing.
Long after, in their coffin beds, they lie beside
each other, glowing hot coals.

Inspired by: May Swenson | "October" | Stanza 2 | Line 3 & 25


Casting, Shadow, and Knots

by Mark Smeltzer

Two silver spinners clink on slick rocks.
One and the other, they slip in
Under the brush-covered burbling
Of foamy black crystal water.
I stand on the edge--
Down wind down stream down time--
Below my father, strongly calm,
Like the bent-back junipers
Clinging to the steep grassy hills.
I try to imitate his best casts.
But I'm not as patient, not as obsessed,
I'm just a dabbler,
My net too full of self pity and doubt
To fit a rainbow or a brown.
Maybe if I move upstream, ahead of him...
Now the sun rolls down the canyon's dark spine,
Casting his shadow closer to my feet,
As mine crawls up the bank and away.
Fishless, I trade my lure for something gold,
Tying it on with an improved clinch,
That knot that seems like it was made
Not for fishing but for passing down.
He showed me one day between the water and the clouds
The simplest knot, we use it every time,
Simply because it cannot break.
Even from the smack of line and metal on rocks
Treading violent water, gasping under cold spray,
Plastered by bleeding fall leaves shredded by the rush,
This knot he taught me will not break.

Inspired by: "The Seed of My Father" by May Swenson

Nightfall Dream

by Taylor Fang

I swallow the sun to hold
in my throat.
Night runs through the leaves, drips
from my cheeks like honey curling
off a spoon.
the meadow grass opens
its eyes, lifts the moon shadow
and stares
at the strange, silver world.
Rain, a river mouth
in the sky.
Clouds like hanging gardens
between cliffs.
Little pieces of delight
swirling by:
golden seeds, blushing berries,
insect wings like flecks of pearl.
Paper land rising in the nimble gleam
of the clock-face,
its strobing eye--

light, flooding the home
like water stitched to parched throat.
Body, a sculpture of glass.
Fountain of light where once
was only dark jungle,
buried kingdom--

We wake in the other world, sky inside our eyelid.

Inspired by: Last line from "Beginning Ended" by May Swenson, 1988

i'm watching myself being carried away

by Ashley Thompson

she just sits
on the couch with the gray
slip cover, makes direct eye contact
with me through the window. she just
stands in the kitchen
with an emply glass in her hand,
hovering away from the edge
of the counter. she drops

it, but it doesn't shatter. it never touches
the wood floor, which undoes itself one

nail at a time, boards stacking
neatly outside the front door. the front

door, which strips itself of paint and
back into a tree. and she doesn't

do anything about the foliage
that shrinks

back into earth and 
rainwarer. she just      sits

where the rug should be
but isn't. wind
little strands of hair

that should be braided
but aren't. she sits, the threads

of her shirt unweaving, springing
back into little balls
of cotton,

which float up and up until
they become the
clouds. I wish

she would do
i wish             she

Inspired by: May Swenson's "Something Goes By"