Congratulations to the 2015 winner - Sam Forbes!



The Sallie Wright Harrison Poetry Award was established in 1998 by an alumnus, in

memory of Mrs. Harrison, and as a testimony to her love of poetry and teaching. This

 fund has been endowed in order to further promote the creation of poetic writings by

students at the College. All students are strongly encouraged to try their hand at this form

of expression, which may be different from what they have previously attempted,

and which they may well find enjoyable as well as enriching. To this end, the poetry fund 

generates an annual cash award for a Hampden-Sydney College student who has

proven by his authorship to possess a genuine interest and creativity in verse.


“The poet’s language is a faithful echo of his feelings.

It is emotion – warm, generous, lofty emotion, inspired by a perception

of the beautiful and the grand, such as seems to raise him who feels it

above the sordidness and petty concerns of ordinary life –

which seems to be the essence of poetry…”

Prof. George Tucker, 1830



Selection and Presentation



The award will be made to a Hampden-Sydney College student who has demonstrated

competitive writing ability, by participation in the English Department’s periodic poetry contest. 

The Chairman of the English Department will set the amount of the award and may select a

recipient as often as annually. The prize (most recently in the amount of $500) will be

awarded at Spring Convocation. The donor, who will remain anonymous,

will be informed of the designee each year.



Letter and Certificate for the Winner


At Convocation, the student winner will receive: (1) a check or letter from the Business

Office, confirming the dollar amount of the award; and (2) a framed certificate,

 with the following inscription in calligraphic form:








The Sallie Wright Harrison Poetry Award



Established in 1998 by an alumnus in memory of Sallie Wright Harrison, as testimony to

her love of poetry and teaching, this award is presented to a student who has proven by

his authorship to possess a genuine interest and creativity in verse.



Awarded on       (date)       at Hampden-Sydney College



To          (name of student)         



__________________________                       ___­­_____________________

      President of the College                                       Chair, Department of English











2015…………Sam Forbes


12 Gauge


What is it that makes you so daunting shotgun?

Your neck is smooth, butt nicely rounded, and carved by hand,

Color of the brightest hue be not your friend,

For your color belongs to the dirt,

To the land. Branches, burrs, and bark unite

To make your hue shine no light.


You are a lady,

Who knows no more that what is told.

So stretch out your body and be gripped,

Until we find a blood that fits

For some warm ruby lips.


Bury your target’s blood into me.

One more we’ll take, you and me.

Do not worry about a lack of shimmer,

But live undauntedly, for your blood is all mine.




2014…………Drew Fletcher


The Return of St. George


Evening skies reign supreme

above a cracked icy pond.

The leaves rustle like a requiem

For the souls that won’t respond.

A faint light leaves a gleaming


reflection of a decadent dream

weaved by old storytellers. A fawn

mosies by a moss steaming

from a sword of flames. Beyond

its shadow is a figure from a dream.


St. George stands at ease,

gazing at the strand of stars

that have granted him release.

Upon his hands are the scars

That swelled from the night’s breeze.


The smoldering ashes still

flash in his head from the fight

with the dragon that he killed.

The blazing embers light

A damning dream full of shrill


voices that vanish in respite.

The wind blows out the flames

Of his sword while its bright

Steel plays stranger ingrained

In the moss invisible to the knight.


He greets the fawn and rests

his hand on its head where he felt

a spirit only a saint could attest.

The dragon’s fire he was once dealt

was now a smoke cloud put to rest.




2013………..John Taylor Pannill


Math Class


Little civilizations of numbers

Greek letters and odd symbols

Divided into classes

Of subscript and common denominators

Squared and square-rooted


A brave .3 wielding a parenthesis

Wages war on the superscript 2

Squaring it from above

While X struggles below

To be found

Crammed next to a slope

That's coming to its end point


And over the hills of bell curves

Through the deserts of scatter plots

Sits Y having an identity crisis

Always equaling this

Or being equal to that


It spends its days talking

To imaginary #'s graphing itself,

And reciting love poems to π




2012……….Christopher Griggs


Topophilia for a Goldfish


A measly gallon of water, shape of a cube,

Incased in glass, my one and only home;

I hope one will understand that I am only

Partially upset, I breathe the stale liquid,

Love the miracle of floating. It’s easy!

The food is regular and gently digested,

And my cellmate is my twin. We make kissy

Faces in the dark, and in the light

We flaunt our bedroom eyes at anyone,

Giants through the glass, our Benefactor,

His eyes, unlike ours, anchored somewhere else.

When we bathe (but we always bathe) in darkness,

When we are not playing with ourselves,

We hypothesize the origin of blue,

His blue, his glaciated consciousness,

Which we play at plumbing, but never plumb;

O Benefactor, your would-be definers ache.

In your absences, we have discussed the likelihood

That you are sad, that your experience

Is moraine, and that a formidable mass

Has left you, starkly corrugated and frozen—

You see how much we care! (And see how much

We learn from the books on the table: Icy Tundra.)

Benefactor, you are as much a place

As this water; and I often wonder at

The distinction, my halfhearted satisfaction—

Halved because of clotted glass, fences,

Hearted because your bigger heart exists,

And glass is, after all, only glass.

Are our theories unfounded, Benefactor?

Do you feel every facet of the verb deserted?

Dip your hand in the tank, so we will know

If you are lonely; your pulse disturbs the water.

Briefly, you are the molecules we sift

For sustenance—you are the spaces, too.




2011………Matt MacFarland


It will be the same for both of us


He tossed the mulch like shrapnel, lifted it

from a wheelbarrow mountain of shattered

bark to the dirt path under his boots,

an explosion of dust gushing out

each time the weight of mulch came down.

There was a rhythm to the work:

expected clash of steel on steel,

scrape of the tines against the barrow’s bowl

which, every time, gouged at my ears,

relentless as gunfire. When the pile

was depleted, I hauled back up the hill

for more, shoveled the mess in, and turned

back, tripping over roots and rocks to his tired

form. Old as I was, he still seemed to loom

over me, a giant, somehow more

than what he was: ultimately, a man

leaning against the handle of a busted old pitchfork,

dusk falling around him at the edge

of woods we thinned ourselves.

It was his eyes that spelled exhaustion,

the brim of his hat that seemed to weigh him down

most. War, I thought. I have never been

to war. Neither had he,

but something in his leaning form

told me of what war on the body was like—

that any man, at the fleeing shapes

of the foe, collapses, shivered spear

slipping to the dirt.

He would have made a good solider,

I guess, except that he would have felt

too much in his bones for whatever soul

stood across the line where no one crosses,

that pale expanse between your ranks

and theirs. Somewhere in that plain

Aeneas flees with father and son,

his wife’s ghost urging him to run.

Is this what it means to father—that above

all prior duty, he must fling himself

through the bronze-sheathed masses

with past and future in tow?

He pauses now, and tells me this

is good work, the work souls are made of.

He buries the pitchfork in the mulch and lifts.



2010……… Matt MacFarland




That early winter we found the wind thin

and biting—the way a wire fence pricks quick

into skin—in the twilight morning, in the after-


moon night. I stared up through astigmatic

eyes, sifting the prisms of light from the lot’s

lamps and asked you where Orion’s belt


cinched the black in-between, and how Cygnus

filled the sky’s silence with her first (her last)

throaty ode, thrown against our eyes and catching


in our chests. You would find the hunter for me but not

the swan and her death lament, not the words that heard

death breathe hot against her neck the color


of the way moon-shine whitens the lot lights

curving up through the night air.

You whispered something like I’m cold


and that you wanted to leave the stars alone,

that even such great distance as theirs

closed your throat up tight with an awful terror.


You said the fire would be closer and warmer than dead

suns spinning and spending their heat on the vacuum-void,

but I held fast, mooring you tight to me,


wrapping your fingers and fears around mine

and around the breathy, feathered quiet.

Then glidingly the stars began sliding


gentle like headlights glinting along a highway—

some quick, some unhurried, some looked like they were

flashing straight for us, and I felt your hand tighten.




2009...............Clay Whittaker


Sunday Morning


When the spring comes

there is a breath

deep and full. It

hums in the wings of insects.


When the snow melts and dries,

it was there all along,

but hidden from the eyes

of the birds long gone, but soon-returning.


And among the grasses

waving in the warm wind

rabbits play with snakes

a game that has one winner.


Young saplings reach above

the begging arms of weed stalks,

their learning-to-walk branches

dense with unseasoned, babyskin

leaves that crumble wet

in the palm of my hand.




2008………….....Samuel C. Rosten


Fairhope in Spring


The pink flush of azaleas

Covers gardens and borders side walks,

With long grandpa arms of live oaks

Hanging moss over lazy streets.

Fishermen and sailors on the town pier

Stretch out over the calm brackish water.

A child gasps, scanning

Through the public binoculars,

At Mobile’s skyline across the bay.

Wives and children waltz

Down the sidewalks of old downtown,

With Tulips and Stargazer Lilies.

Old men grin in the barbershop and,

Out from the little league park,

Ghosts march, each innocent’s past.

A Magnolia’s white brilliance

Is ignored by children climbing its thick branches.

Next to a yacht club, filled with docked sailboats

Sounding light, hollow tinks as they sway,

A Pelican skims the placid waters,

Swoops up sharply, then dives for its blue mullet dinner.

At night, the streets empty.

If it’s fall or winter, the trimmed sweet gums

Are covered with sparkling lights.

There is only a community college nearby;

But, on Memorial Day the wild ones have returned.

They talk at the pub and the café by the sailboats,

Sometimes oblivious to the treasure of the sleepy town.

The old clock stands handsomely on the corner,

While the dawn soon lights its brilliance,

And city workers rise to maintain our beauty.




2007………………Stephen Leo English


To My 21


I was planted in the Tobacco fields

of Eastern Carolina, reared up

with a gut full of smoke,

sixteen years before America

was told to never forget.


And so, I grew; my rough leaves

rubbing against one another

like pages of a Dickens’ novel

whose words bled black into

the sandy, fertile soil.


Subsiding on words like

French fertilizer: Dumas, Duras,

I grew; my rough leaves

reaching north where the tea

turned bitter and the wind cold.


Reaching north to escape this

Faulkner-weed, this rampant

overbearing shadow, I grew;

what place is there for a

voice that can only mimic?


Exhaling that belly full of

smoke, like three before, and

so many after, I bloom;

uproot to realize the ground is

only good enough here.


Here in the tobacco fields

of Eastern Carolina where

my family dies, black-lunged,

where I stay rooted and solemn

reading words like Seven-dust.




2006………………Kyle Ewers


Worn In


Your oldest shoes

Have beaten the odds

And gotten you home before curfew;

Tracked mud into the basement and

Discovered dog piles on your lawn.


They carried you up the rock

That overlooks the river,

And took a relaxing nap

While you dove into the cool water.


How did they navigate the mud,

The rocks, and the piles

When you never bothered

To tie them.




2005……………..John Ramsay




A camera paraphrases life,

freezing circumstance with

calculated depressions

of the shutter release.


Bits of metal, plastic, and glass

form a time machine

incapable of predicting the future,

only revisiting the past.


Film is pulled from its back

like a fetus

delivered too soon from the womb.

The pictures are underdeveloped


and poorly prepared to do their job.


A slim pane of glass

focuses the intended image

and preserves it.

A mere reflection of reality.

Odorless. Tasteless. Silent.


The camera’s product is stillborn,

And folks who only exist in pictures

are still dead.




2004……………Alec Ridley


Linear and Painterly


I have been told to think of art

In one or another way.

It’s linear or painterly

And I don’t know which one am I.

In Germany there is a word

What here would take a page.

Ah, Martin Luther had

A certain rhetorical style

And what if maybe once did I

Use it for my own?

Please don’t tell me how to paint;

Your wall will be

Blue, all in good time.




2003…………..Greg Justice




You poor moon.

You’ve got that weary look in your eye

From people carving craters into your face

With old battered words.

But full and flowering,

You’ve still got it in you

To light my pen.

The waves don’t seem to mind,

Beaten to exhaustion as they are too.

Still they go on,

Licking your light,

To you as you are to the sun

and I, to both of you the same.

In the end I am most weary,

For the weight of all human longing and joy,

Summed up in your sandy milklight,

Beats down on me,

Trying to squeeze out some drop

That is mine.

After all, everyone else has taken that from you.

I’m glad to see your old habits still reign,
for the white of my paper

Carries on the tradition,

Bouncing up thrice-reflected light,

excepting of course the scars

carved by my black pen.


I hope I didn’t ruin you with this tattoo.




2002.............Billy Ciucci


Spears Mountain


These new advisors, gushers, poets—

They have to be submerged in Nature

Somewhere to connect:

They cannot tell what then they were,

Up in the Grand Titans once where he

Uncovered a mossy little squirrel’s skull, or

Striding along the strand at Key West

Making song love to the salty sea.


O Organic Epiphany,

You smell of earth and sand,

Like a place where a building used to stand.

Like a place where a building had to fall.

Like a jagged boulder that doesn’t fit,

So wet pilgrims can curl up under it.


I was on Spears Mountain last summer.

We sat back to back to back—

A Greek cross—

Three people I love and me.

The sun dropped.

Distant air blushed yellowred white,

Rings of bleeding light pierced by happy peaks.


I could almost say something.

I could almost feel a wafer on my tongue.

I could almost reach out and grab the sky

In handfuls,

Like it was mud, or paint, and smear it

Over all our faces so that it would dry and crumble

When we smiled.

So that we could take little pieces of it

Home with us underneath our fingernails.




2001.............David Wickham


The Web, The Box, and the Machine


This spider web of

Grand design catches all

With a gentle, calculated

Touch, or a quick



This toolbox of

Honest joints and obedient

Bones is piloted by

a short, fat foreman,

Who blames all losses

On the weaker link

At the other end.


This love machine strokes,

Caresses and sifts its

Way into her pulsating

Heart, sending streams of

Electricity down her bent



This web; this box;

this machine; this hand.




2000.............Ian Sheu


In Hiding

(Baden-Baden, Germany, 1943)


"Silence the child!"

a heated whisper shouts.

The door opens

a seeming mile away.

The creak of entrance

first made Little Love cry.

Momma does everything:

sugar, comforts, baubles.

Every creak above us,

every light and shadow,

agonizes the unintentional betrayal.

We silently scream,

"Nothing nere,

but a moldy sack of potatoes

and salted pork gone bad."

Mother frantic to silent Little Love:

croons, cradles, breast.

The steps slow above us,

dully drumming, thinking.

We force our gaze ahead.


A hand holding a shawl

passes over my lap,

silences the child.

Dust slowly falls as

the steps stop,

deciding, then decide;

there is nothing of worth

in the cellar.

We are saved

and our secret safe.

We now look at Little Love limp.

All the same as before,





1999.............James Thatcher


Spiritual (Listening to Eric Dolphy)


The two dimensional man in someone else's three dimensional space;

How does the misfit communicate with God?


He babbles aloud, pokes and prods his weary imagination,

thinks of how thin he is, lying here lonely,

looking for a Leader.


Alas God appears; static syllogism, paper idol...

This cannot be true; there is more to the "I AM" than meets the eye.


There is tropical growth

control and abandon

the thinness of happiness

the thickness of insecurity


And before all this, the surprisingly radical quest,

to be loved.