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2024 Virginia Rucker Walker Poetry Prize Winners

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The Creative Writing Program is delighted to announce this year’s Virginia Rucker Walter Poetry Prize winners. Out of the 24 applicants, one winner and two honorable mentions were selected by alumna Julia Anna Morrison. Below, meet our winning poets and read Julia Anna Morrison’s comments on their submissions.

1st Place: Ashley Beresch with her poem “standing still for the strawberry moon”

Ashley BereschAbout the work:
"standing still for the strawberry moon" stopped me in my tracks. Through "the widest aperture," the poem moves through time “like a dream." Its language brims over, sprawling and enjambed, at once spare and rich, traversing time and space with precision, desire, and deep breaths. Indeed, “nothing to do but hold the other firm” amidst the ebbs and flow of memory, transience, and longing. The poem’s spell, blurring prose and poetry, dream from reality, grants us access to the dream and, as with the richest dreams, leaves us with a feeling of waiting and wanting, with only its “spectral” memory, the strawberry moon itself like the “plastic bag catching wind down / the shoreline,” to barely hold onto.

About the poet: Ashley Beresch is a 3rd-year English major with an emphasis in creative writing.  Her work appears in Roi Fainéant, Apple in the Dark, Maudlin House, and other places. She can usually be found with a pencil tucked behind her ear. 

Honorable Mentions: Lauren V. Girod & Jason G. Hawkins
Lauren V. Girod with her poem “I am the Deer and the Deer is me”

Lauren GirodAbout the work: 
The parallel, contrapuntal form of “I am the Deer and the Deer is Me” scatters us across worlds; the text can be read a multitude of ways, forward or in reverse, up or down. The “skittish” poem sends “me spiraling,” tracking the drama of existence, of “driving alone at night,” or a night that “begins / and it ends more than myself.” Its syntax dazzles, deeply sensitive and vital. The chiasmus of its title invents the poem anew. This nonlinear architecture grants us many ways in and out of the poem and reinvents itself each time.

About the poet: "Lauren Victoria “Prophet” Girod is a poet, author, and narrative designer from Conyers, Georgia. She is in her final semester of undergraduate studies in English creative writing, and will continue writing until her pens have all but dried up. Her poetry has previously appeared in Stillpoint and Outrageous Fortune, and is pending publication with HINDSIGHT. When not creating odes to H.D. and Sappho, she can be found drinking cheap espresso and cuddling with her cat, Mr. Pumpkin." Her portfolio is located at


Jason Germaine Hawkins with his poem “Nightscape”

Jason Hawkins

About the work: 
“Nightscape” is an arresting, deceptively simple meditation on a particular night and kind of light near the face of Mount Nikkō. Enchanting and haunting, we gaze at a speaker “on the other side of the glass…black and silent,” looking in at two figures in a hotel room. The gulf between the glass and the hotel room feels dead quiet, symptomatic of something much darker—perhaps the fear of being seen (a “dream of visibility”), of trespassing, or of not being able to be seen, a mere “shadow” to be annihilated. The poem is chilly; it “stiffens” into the “featureless” face of Mount Nikkō itself.

About the poet: Jason Germaine Hawkins is a poet and short fiction writer from Georgia. He is a senior at the University of Georgia studying English and Japanese and will begin his MFA in poetry at the University of Pittsburgh as a K. Leroy Irvis Fellow this upcoming fall. He's interested in African American/African Diasporan poetry, twentieth-century American poetry, and translation. He has had poetry published in Stillpoint Literary Magazine. When he's not decoding Elizabeth Bishop, he enjoys video games, long movies, and language learning. 

Julia Anna MorrisonAbout this year's judge:

Anna Morrison is the author of Long Exposure (2023, Moon City Press) and a filmmaker living in Iowa City where she is a professor of screenwriting at the University of Iowa. She earned her BA from the University of Georgia and her MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Anna's work has appeared in Best American Poetry and has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poems, fiction, and non-fiction have appeared in dozens of literary magazines and publications including West Branch, The Hopkins Review, and Brink. You can find her at

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