Logo for the Anna Sonder Prize of the Academy of American Poets

Hartwick College Announces Winners of 40th Annual Anna Sonder Poetry Prize

April 22, 2019

The Hartwick College Department of English is pleased to announce Taylor P. Miller ’20 has won the 2018-19 Anna Sonder Prize for Poetry from the Academy of American Poets. Miller took home the top prize for her poem, “baptizing saturn.” Honorable Mention was awarded to Amanda Thurston ’20 for her poem, “Melt.”

This year’s Anna Sonder Prize competition, the 40th, attracted 46 poems from 13 Hartwick students. Judging this year’s competition were Associate Professor of English Lisa Darien and Assistant Professor of English Bradley J. Fest.

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 College is a permanent member of AAP, which was founded in 1934 and 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.

Miller said, “This award is an honor, and I’m thankful to those who’ve helped me in my creative endeavor.”

The College will recognize Miller and Thurston at the 2019 Honors Convocation ceremony on Wednesday, May 1. Their poems, which will also be published in the 2020 issue of the College literary magazine, Word of Mouth, can be viewed below:

“baptizing saturn” by Taylor P. Miller ’20

 —our rebirth


mossed-over bones settled into a bouquet
of marigold, swollen with curdled cider.

your touch stretched over me, illuminating my fingers to the soggy sand beneath,
teaching me that boxes crafted from mahogany
and walnut
                  are outdated.

where we are going, the sun is not superior;
no, it’s the fifty-three revolving eyes blindly watching.
resting atop your lips, we baptized the ground
                                                                 with the fallen limbs of the marigolds
and then you taught me not to deny gravity
but to sweep away space with my tongue,
                                                       though you never mentioned that afterward, I’d 
                                                            be tongue-
looped around your empty dialogue and bands.

and our errors are paralleled, collapsing, capsizing us
into remembering that neither of us
                                                       is more than the smoke we exhale.


coughing up the dust that tore through our lashes,
we stumbled into sockets of gas.

our radii competed to find the trains heading east,
                                                                  regurgitating the liters of old pictures we 

cutting off the noes that swing off my orbital range,
you slipped into the grains of virgo’s trail.

we left behind broken marigolds in our wake,
                      in desperation to find our way back to our skeletons.

the hymn you crafted from honey
sapped my waning warmth, 
                                 disconnecting me from pink nebulae.

cross out the paths we used to roam, please,
so that we might forget the ice that melted our alibis


and stripped our tendons of their white.

“Melt” by Amanda Thurston ’20

Silky soil splendors
in honeyed, narrow-toothed decay,
silty with the spoils
of growth—

the worms have a knack for
making mushrooms out of
fertile flesh and
brittle bones.

My moldering makes maps
detailed in moss and
punctuated with lichen, 
a way to creation highlighted by bone—

snarled root-balls replace
the jelly of my eyes
and tear-tracks turn to trailing ivy:
expression of an artist’s decomposition.

I secrete sap
from the gaps
of my pores and make
blue amber—

it traps
no living creature,
but I do suspect it caught my sorrow
and crystallized.

In time, veined skin translates
to papery leaves lining
bone-branches that stick
out of dried tendon, a twisted trunk—

gnarled, craggy roots of a beetle-kingdom
penetrate pyritic inclusions
a mile below the bird’s nest crown
that knows naught but sky and wind. 

In rot
I melt;
in death
I grow—

alive again.

For additional information on the Sonder Award, contact Fest at 607-431-4921 or festb@hartwick.edu.