Leslie Leeds Poetry Prize Literature Poetry

Leslie Leeds Poetry Prize – 2023

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.

Winner: River Lockhart

Finalist: Ta’Nina Gatison

Finalist: Nicole Moulton

Judge: Professor Aimee Pozorski

2023 Winner

The Bassist

By River Lockhart

He strums away on his strings
While the choir sings low notes
Over bass tone. And I think to myself
“I want to be like the bassist”

He plays a new song while the pastor
Gives his weekly lecture about the dangers
Of sinning. The choir stops singing
As the pastor barks his sermon.

He roars “The scripture warns us against
Gluttony, and though Jesus did turn water
to wine, he never fell into drunkenness.
Now I ain’t alone, can I get a witness?”

And at his call, the bassist plays his song.
And I recall my grandpa saying
“Ain’t no reason for that boy to be here
smellin’ like alcohol.” 

The bassist keeps playing his song
Ministers respond “Amen”
The pastor stops his sermon and commands
“Praise Him!” as the bassist strums

I want to be like the bassist
Not to learn how to play his four strings
But watching the church move, I learned
That sinners praise better than saints. 

Finalists 2023

Sea Sponge

BY Ta’Nina Gatison

If I could see, I’d search

for the light above the

surface. The depth of my

dwelling binds me.

Chilled currents of the sea

fill my porous frame, and

I ponder how the sun feels

on the mainland where

the sand is always warm.

I seek sanctuary

In your radiance.

The beacon of hope

awaits my arrival.


By Nicole Moulton

It was no foreign word

It had grown with me like pierogies and kompot

The pear trees in my grandparents garden

Raspberry branches, overgrown arms reaching beyond the fence

I was raised by loud voices, coffee fanatics, and lovers of music

It was somewhere between the lines

Of learning to believe in God

Knowing two languages at two years old

And being told to play outside 

I find peace in sunlight on my face

And the pitter patter during a calm rainstorm

I find love in dark corners 

Where it may just need some watering

Life is flowering

A lotus from the mud 

Ever transforming to a better place

Just as us humans can do

I grew up with insomnia 

Sleep paralysis demons finding their way 

From night into day

But we all have them anyway

I cross each bridge with care 

Because we all share overgrown raspberry gardens 

Crazy daydreaming humans, backyards filled with

Miscellaneous treasures, experiences

Reminders that even the stinging bee

Comes with the sweetness of honey

I now find peace in my backyard

As I sleep through the night. 

Header Image courtesy of Deneja Atkins for Blue Muse Magazine.

River Lockhart, Ta’Nina Gatison, and Nicole Moultan are students at Central Connecticut State University.

Blue Muse Magazine is a general interest literary magazine published by the students of the English Department at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain, Connecticut. We publish poetry, fiction, and a gamut of creative nonfiction on anything and everything the blue muse inspires us to write.

1 comment on “Leslie Leeds Poetry Prize – 2023

  1. Mary Collins

    Hearing you all read your poems at the English Department end-of-year honors program was so rewarding. So much good work going on in the Dept. Congratulations to you all!

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