The Walt Whitman Poetry Prize Winners


Wining Poem – “Stereoscope:  Pioneer Cabin Tree” by Jill Bergantz Carley

1st Runner Up – “Browsing” by Sarah Oso

2nd Runner Up – ” Zubiri” by Alexandra McIntosh

Runner Up – “the cigarette burns my body alive into a cherry” by Emily Ellison

Runner Up – “In The Marketplace” by Joseph M. Gerace

Runner Up –  “Tappahannock” by Kim Harvey

Runner Up – “Little Spoon” by Logo Wei

Runner Up –   Faith and The Silver maple by Sandra Kolankiewicz

Runner Up – “My Chosen Bestiary” by Tassyln Magnusson


The Walt Whitman Prize First Runner Up

by Sarah Oso

Wednesday at the thrift store on Fourth
means half off everything but lamps,
teacups, and hand-me-down hardware,
so I step through the thicket of men’s long sleeves
starched and bark stiff on their hangers,
pull one from the end of the row––
a coat with ROBERT marked on the collar,
pine green, the color of evening woods, dark and deep,
secrets, desires, and roads taken,
years with a woman who’d called him Robbie
and pressed the twill to her mouth
on nights when he was away––

Sarah Oso


Sarah O. Oso is a Nigerian-American poet living in Atlanta. In addition to receiving the inaugural 2017 Georgia Tech LMC Creative Writing Award, her work has appeared in Four Ties Lit Review and is forthcoming in Dragon Poet Review and Helen Literary Magazine. Oso, a pre-law student, is a senior at Georgia Tech, where she is pursuing degrees in both Public Policy and Applied Language/Intercultural Studies.

The Walt Whitman Prize Winning Poem

Stereoscope: Pioneer Cabin Tree
by Jill Bergantz Carley

Dogwood blooms, Bierstadt’s mammoth work–
Look: what they are telling you, is true.

I’ve never seen a thing so heavy
Below us, always, curled and
curving a weft of roots to hold them straight,
a ripcord frayed by us, by time, by drought, by fire.

The spot where a trunk meets ground, it is like that;
It’s a weight so large the earth will barely hold it.
Time and exposure,
hemorrhaging cells iron red like our soil soft; downy fur, its trunk, red roots shot through
We could both find a ferric grave.

Here is Krakatoa, soot-stained into this flesh
Here: it has known language in all its incantations
Here: disaster, cellulose packed so tight there was no growth those years at all, such small cells
Here: winter,
swollen, a baptism, here:

Pinned into its red fur, my first boyfriend slid his hand under my blouse;
and, this thing of wonder, of me quaking beneath him, first and always in the dirt at her feet; rise
and fall, a sharp breath, our own topography.

Or the live oak, a riot of mistletoe in its branches;
the heavy stone, feldspar-flecked,
upon which we took our vows;
the lake,
a mirror.

I will tell you: it fell in my lifetime;
I will tell you that.



Jill Bergantz Carley

Jill Bergantz Carley makes her home in Calaveras County, California, where she lives a half mile from the stoplight and directly over the Mother Lode.  Her visual work has appeared in the DeYoung Museum, bG Gallery, ARTWEEK, and elsewhere.  Her writing has been published by Transfer, Catch, Virga Magazine, and is forthcoming this fall from Silver Needle Press and Opossum.  She’ll be reading at the Death Rattle Writers Festival in Nampa, Idaho, the first weekend of October.  Her day job in engineering keeps her  out of trouble. 



A newborn mouse clung to life in the kitchen,
Where I nearly kicked it as I filled the kettle,
And then unconsciously decided it was a he,
And that he was dead.
But his minuscule entirety quaked.
After whole minutes of paralysis,
I put a glass over his shivering frame,
And slid a piece of cardstock beneath,
Then took him outside like a bothersome spider,
Leaving him on a rock to wave barely perceptible limbs at no one.
What an easy symbol, I joked later.
If I used it in fiction, you’d roll your eyes.
And I waited for someone to explain to me that symbolism,
So I might know why I still find myself short of breath,
My mind echoing with silent cries.