Escobar ’24 Wins Hartwick College’s Annual Sonder Poetry Prize

January 28, 2022

The Hartwick College Department of English is pleased to announce Sofia Escobar ’24 has won theLogo for the Anna Sonder Prize of the Academy of American Poets 2021–22 Anna Sonder Prize for Poetry from the Academy of American Poets. Escobar took home the top prize for her poem, “Rejecting Copper.” Honorable Mention was awarded to Isabel Brown ’25 for her poem, “Ode to the Woodbox.”

This year’s Anna Sonder Prize competition, the 43rd, attracted 15 poems from six Hartwick students. Judging this year’s competition were Associate Professor of English Bradley J. Fest and Assistant Professor of English Tessa Yang.

Otto Sonder, late professor emeritus of sociology, endowed a prize in 1978 for the best poem written by a student at Hartwick College, to be awarded annually by the College under the auspices of the Academy of American Poets in New York City. Hartwick is a permanent member of AAP, which was founded in 1934 and is the largest organization in the country dedicated to advancing the art of poetry. To fulfill this mission, the Academy administers a wide variety of programs, including the college prize program, which comprises

Hartwick College’s Anna Sonder Prize. The prize honors the memory of Sonder’s mother, who died in 1978.

“It is an honor to receive this award and I want to thank my friends, family, and professors for their continued support,” said Escobar. “I am incredibly grateful for this experience and the opportunity to share my writing.”

The College will recognize Escobar and Brown at the 2022 Honors Convocation ceremony. Escobar’s poem will be published by the Academy of American Poets and both poems will appear in the 2022 issue of the College literary magazine, Word of Mouth. Each can be viewed below:

“Rejecting Copper” by Sofia Escobar ’24

after Natalie Diaz’s “Catching Copper”

My sister has
a plan.

She keeps the key
on a lanyard with
the periodic table of elements.

My sister clutches the fabric
fearfully—doors cannot be
left unlocked.

My sister’s plan
is two-fold, all speed,
for the outside is just a room
and its emptiness. Like a vacancy—
you should see my sister’s students
make a hideout, hiding life
behind protected walls.

My sister loses
the race all the time—
when the door doesn’t lock in time,
she risks fatality.

My sister searches the room,
the windows for exposed daylight,
a black shade drops down.

Eventually, my sister calls out,
Dismissed, drill, dismissed—
the kids come running, talking.
The fear always stays
within them all. When the drill becomes
real to them, unlocked doors
leave a mark.

My sister is at fault
for jammed keyholes
because the key won’t make a click
and wants to see her struggle intently.

My sister tells sixth graders,
They will never hurt you
with me there first.

My sister, who doesn’t believe in prayer,
prays for them despite not believing; it’s funny
how the anti-religious become prayerful
in a state of panic for others, in
this God-created perfect world.

My sister’s students are gifted.
An academy of Catholics. It has a church,
library, cafeteria. If they are lucky,
no intruders. If not, a broken community, a memorial,
a statistic.

My sister says she would die
for her students. If my sister dies,
my family would be lost.
If my sister dies,
I’ll never trust God ever again—
my faith is for saving people.

I wouldn’t go so far
as to call myself
a hero, my sister says.
But my sister’s intention
is always heroic like God.
My sister is holy.

You could say my sister’s students
saved her—the way she loves
filling their heads with knowledge.
Yes, my sister’s students
saved her, makes her
save them too.

“Ode to the Woodbox” by Isabel Brown ’25

Sifting through paper memories, I run
my fingers across the glass paint protecting
the fondest moments captured in my youth.
She sits with me, her hand cradling mine

while we brush her bow across strings tightly drawn
along its neck, allowing soft hums to escape from
the walls of her delicate fiddle. There you are,
faded into the blurs of black and white.

I’m reminded of you and your treen skeleton.
We filled you until your mouth
could hold no more, overflowing
like baskets I carried from grandma’s garden.

Hours and hours she spent tending you,
feeding you with slivers of trees that
she took pride in splitting herself.
You sit on antique stones

just as I would sit there, with her in
that neon hat and tattered coat. We tried
to borrow heat from your cast iron friend,

the one she fed in the morning and
night using her tough little hands that
we used to joke were leather, keeping
the house warm and the fire alive.

You were with my grandma in that
big house where I grew up. And you moved
with her to that quaint camp she called home,
where she now rests in the garden.

You sit by the stove in that cold little camp
watching over her and her river, as the flowers grow
tall, as the geese fly south, as song birds sit in
feeders, and as the mergansers find their way home.

Sometimes, I sit at the table where we used to drink
French press coffee on bright summer mornings.
I glance at the meandering curves of the river, wishing
she was here with me, laughing as we sit enjoying

the aromas of buttered toast and golden
scrambled eggs. Now I’m sitting in silence,
waiting for her to walk through the
door, but she doesn’t. She won’t.

I’m left to look to you.
She has gone but you remain here
still standing tall the way she left you.
You are now empty

yet more full than before
as you carry the memory of her
in your strong timber arms.

For additional information on the Sonder Prize, contact Fest at 607-431-4921 or