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English Major Wins Cal Poly's American Poets Contest

English major Morgan Condict has won Cal Poly’s 2018 Academy of American Poets Contest for his poem “To an Old Coworker,” which investigates the homelessness crisis in San Francisco through a compelling, personal perspective. He will receive a $100 award from the Academy.

Judging this year’s contest, professional poet Rachel Richardson said, “‘To an Old Coworker’ delicately and vividly describes both complexity of feeling and of the world. I was moved by its compassionate observation and the precision of its details.”

English Student Morgan Condict
Morgan Condict

Cal Poly English professor Mira Rosenthal said, “Morgan Condict’s poetry provides social critique, but always with a subtle touch and surprising point of view. His often allegorical poetry gives us powerful metaphors for some of our most pressing questions.”

First honorable mention went to English major Vanya Truong (Pacific Grove, CA) for “Diasporic,” a concise poem that deftly explores the effects of immigration. Richardson described it as “a tiny poem that accomplishes a huge feat. Not a single word is out of place or unnecessary, and the solitary metaphor resonates deeply in the empty space.”

Second honorable mention went to Jacob Lopez (Huntington Beach, CA) for his poem “Notes on Bull Creek Trail South.” Lopez’s poem, the judge said, is “gorgeously vivid in evoking its place through sound, smell, taste, and touch. I'm mesmerized by the sounds of this poem and the rich world it creates.”

Rachel Richardson, this year's judge, is the author of two collections, Copperhead (2011) and Hundred-Year Wave (2016), both in the Carnegie Mellon Poetry Series. She is the co-founder of Left Margin LIT, a literary arts center in Berkeley, California. She also directs poetry programming for the Bay Area Book Festival.

Morgan Condict
Academy of American Poets Prize
Winner—Cal Poly, San Luis

To An Old Coworker 

We were mostly voices  
to each other during the eight 
hours in which our eyes 

were fixed on work 
or peering out the breakroom
windows over Potrero Hill 

as midnight came and went. 
We traced with our bleary vision 
the signal from Sutro Tower’s 

four tiers of flashing lights 
into hotel rooms, apartments, 
the manager’s office, 

where it swelled from screens 
in a synchronous flicker 
as you said 

“just to see what it’s like” 
of your coming trip to China, 
before going and staying for good. 

I had told others at work 
the story of the tent 
pitched in the middle of a sidewalk

across from a swanky gym. 
How I’d seen it often walking to work,
but how like a nightmare it was 

when one day from within 
its tenant cursed and howled 
as if in the throes of amputation.

And how plainly the flow 
of foot traffic, tinted rotten
yellow by the wailing, 

festered in confusion before
rechanneling away 
from the noise. 

How brokers on phones maintained
businesslike tones  
with index fingers stuffed 

in their ears practically 
to the knuckle. Only to you 
did I, with regret, 

place myself  
among the flowing 

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