The Leslie Leeds Poetry Prize is sponsored by the English Department at CCSU. It was created by former English professor Barry Leeds to celebrate the memory of his daughter Leslie.
2018 Prize Poems
Winner: Cecilia Gigliotti
Finalist: Ryan Curcio
Finalist: Kayla Bassingthwaite
Judge: Professor Leslie Taylor McGrath
Igor Stravinsky Awaits the Arrival of Dylan Thomas
California, November 1953.
By Cecilia Gigliotti
A patriotism riddled with amnesia
Afflicts the wayward soul: he grips his leaden
Pen, restrains the thought – crude and unbidden –
Of how he has been driven into Eden
From sinful, scarlet-fevered Mother Russia.
A rogue can garner just so much achievement
All by himself; he needs a co-creator,
A crooked criminal co-conspirator
Who lends his craftsmanship to instigate or
Soothe the people, soften their bereavement.
The crowds are struck by his mad Muse: they riot
In Paris, curse the blasphemous ballet
In Venice and Vienna. He will say,
“Forgive them, Father, they know not what they
Do,” and smile, until at last they quiet.
The foreign fellow whose advent was pending
Is dead, hardly a week past thirty-nine,
Who drank straight whiskey ‘til they made the sign
Of the cross on his forehead. Life divine
Eludes the Russian; the wait is never-ending.
They meant to meet, the poet and composer,
And write a work which in this sunny haven
Would serve as an indictment of its craven
Politics. Instead, to a higher heaven
The pilgrim prophet Welshman draws still closer.
Pocket of Your Windbreaker
By Kayla Bassingthwaite
You wear different in the pocket of your windbreaker.
I wanna know what breakdown made your bangs,
and what you and your hair are
always in between.
Where did the fixation of the days of your parents–
like you’re missing something–come from?
Does life line by line spin you on the record table?
Do you, splayed in yellow smoke, straddle the needle?
I could wander back in time with you
or we can live inside your diachronic lips,
tasting hourglass tongues,
teeth shatteringly extraordinary.
By Ryan Curcio
The soldier too far from home
walks with his icy-nitrogen
heart that feels like it will settle
in the sand. He walks with hands up
toward men in swirling turbans
who cackle—cruel, cacophonous,
and mocking. Their eyes shine
with victory, and their hands write loser
in Pashto, engraving the word deep
into the compact grains.
A translator bends forward “Your country
will abandon you.” The soldier’s neck hangs
like an undisturbed tetherball; his thoughts ring
at the volume of received I.M.’s.
Soldier returns to his native land—a new ass
pressed in the seat. Commander-in-chief
speaks: “Private X should be shot on sight.
Wish I could pull the trigger
myself. He is not a hero, but a coward
with yellow film cancering his skin.”
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Thanks to Professor Leslie Taylor McGrath for judging the contest and Professors Burrello and Gilmore for handling all of the logistics! A big congratulations to the winner and the finalists! You all added so much to the English Department end-of-year party!