noelle hendrickson

undergraduate student & writer

"I was astonished by this poem's handling of its subjects—a poem that charges autobiography with fantasy, beauty, and terror. It's also a poem that understands so well that emotions are to be found in specific images: the trees, the burning lawn, the whole landscape stands in for the interior feelings of the speaker remembering a crisis. I won't soon forget the way this poem urges us to reflect on what's natural and about what and who gets lost in our destructive need for control."

- Richie Hofmann's comments on "Cardinal" after awarding it first place.

"In “On Wednesday, You Led Me,” we as audience aren’t sure what this moment on a specific Wednesday in a specific shop means, but we feel its weight through the way the speaker returns to it, holds it up against later events. In it, two people who are coming to know each other broach topics like a dance, push and pull over what seems a small purchase decision but might be symbolic in the assessment of the relationship. The mystery of what we don’t know about this relationship is balanced with specific sensory details—of the language (“slicked and salvable,” “catching and calling”), of the images (vowel-shaped candles, blue paint, copper skies), all inviting us into the experience of the poem. This is how a meaningful relationship feels: particular, visceral and tender—and yet abstract and enigmatic."

- Darlene Young's comments on "On Wednesday, You Led Me" after awarding it first place.

"It is not clear, in a poem that ends with the image of being scathed, what is “gentle” and what should be. These anonymous characters who swim naked together—who are they? Despite leaving so much unsaid, “How to Be Gentle” affects. Much of the experience of the poem comes through contrast. Sharp things--the heat, the rocks--appear against soft things--the rippling fields, the fish that slip against skin (with beautiful, wet s sounds), the curving light. Noise and white space, heat and coolness; the distance of the lilac-covered mountains and the jagged particularity of sharp rocks. All of this, stacked together, gives us a glimpse of the eternal “everything” within a specific, keenly present “here around us.”"

- Darlene Young's comments on "How To Be Gentle" after awarding it second place.