Award Winners

George Bogin Memorial Award - 2019

Sara Henning


Blessed be the good-time girl thighs-deep    in a striped inner tube
cattail fronds & cigarette butts    lush against her toes    blessed be
the empress of chic I was    sixteen    shellacked in Coppertone    tangled
in a pick-up game    of football    her hands    muscular birds
gripping deep    through blitz    & tackle    all the jacked-up Fords
like piss drunk cicadas    pulsing hymns    through rolled-down windows
Stevie Ray and the Boss    shredding through steam    as I spread
my hips    my legs    & lunged    I was the girl kissing boys in sit-top
kayaks    another flea-chawed dog    sun-blissed & brined    as if
someone told her    to breach is to breathe    pretty baby     it's time to blow
this mortal coil     every minute of her life    so I rode the twist & flush
of summer    until even the stars    couldn't look at me    before I
was a woman     sand-hardened    late thirties    I slipped like a fish
into spume I quaked all night    in the weeds    I fed on every shine
that would touch me    so Lord,    will you make a temple of the water
will you    brandish your body    in lake-skin for me    I've had
enough of this    lemon-swoon sfumato    this musk-blaze of summer
genuflecting    like a fool    I've already buried    the shame-slick
pretty young thing    I was    I smoked that queen    when I kissed my mother
blown open by cancer    watched strange men    hoist her body
into an oven    set to the temperature    all things    beautiful & terrible
begin to burn

Khaled Mattawa on Sara Henning

Among a very strong pool of poems submitted, I have chosen the work of poet Sara Henning as the winner of this year's George Bogin Memorial Award. An elegiac spirit gifts these poems their power as well as the various turns of passionate declamation, restraint, and the thoughtful search for solace. The poet revisits memories, probes traumatic moments with enviable objectivity offering tender forgiveness or issuing firm judgments on the self as the case may be. And while the locus of these lyrics is that of personal experience, the poems offer a powerful indictment of the culture of violence against, and degradation of, women surrounding the speaker. The poems deliver these psychological, social and political insights with a great deal of esthetic pleasure. The narrative pacing is quite remarkable as the speaker sets up the dramatic tension then deftly explores the surroundings with equal amounts of revelation and suspense. We are quickly and powerfully drawn into the world of these poems and into the experiences of the speaker, and the by the end of our reading we find that traces of these experiences have lodged themselves within us, changing us. None of this powerful effect could have been achieved without the poet's choice and manipulation of language, which is always intuitive and surprising, creating word by word a group of poems that moves and enlightens.