Award Winners

Student Poetry Award - 2024

Matt Flores


My Life to Live

In the end, waking up in the middle of the night I
am my grandfather as he gave me my first driving lesson. Needed
but the dream of my mother lying. In bed was a small baby, someone
along mostly empty access roads is a highway to who
this unknown child was kicking. At her side is wildly gone

speed in south Texas. Limits on the road reminding
me, I was the dream – seated on a plush chair my
definitely too high for such a lesson. What
yells at the baby to stop – some babies hate me with an eye
so slowly accelerating across asphalt. In this land came

our both at the same time for
surrounding dense and thorned trees. Now what
happened is we’re going faster in a Ranger, for I
told him nothing. He told me to turn into a parking lot then came
and read Lacan the next morning for

different co-ops in the town. Giant corn mills please
French philosophers alongside new wave – move me
as corrugated metals do in midday sun glare more
and I wonder what pretentiousness is then –
I didn’t know how much to depress the “I”

like education, I know, makes me relate wants.
He reached over and took the wheel easily.
Stretched a leg across to where my thirst is
family wanted to hurt his self. What I
both witness and am accomplice to, in the beginning.


Claire Schwartz on Matt Flores

These poems leap and burrow, convening as they cross—domestic particulars, vivid landscapes, astral ethics, citational networks, and “the dead specifically.” Here is a poet who knows that sonic capacity punctures the restrictions of meaning, that meaning is restless, that thought is manifold. Here is a poet who torques syntax, shaking the dust from sedimented orders and letting loose the latent possibilities too often concealed by the relentless insistences of the here and now. In these lines, the sentence is made other than a drive toward inevitable conclusion. Parts of speech jostle as the calcified myth of assuredness yields to the uncertainty’s wild potential: “beside a brown glow from this body.” “having melt.” “borders on another life.” “deduce it then to the left of her head.” What is here, these poems remind, might, otherwise arranged (which is to say, too, otherwise read) point us out from the strictly scripted forms of relation that secure current positions. The world to come is all around—no less “bees and beetles and small skulls” decorating a table cloth than “somber trials in rural Texas,” no less a photograph from a cousin’s communion than the “muzzled epidemics of binaries.” Time, then, is not what marches forward, but what accumulates and gathers: a grandfather’s handwritten Bible verse, the reassertion of worn wisdom, “a honed attention to charred tiles.” What we make of it is the future. Stay attentive, these poems caution; not all rearrangements are betterings.

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Matt Flores is from South Texas and received their MFA from Arizona State. They have received fellowships and residencies from the Mellon Foundation, Vermont Studio Center, Center for Imagination in the Borderlands, and the Virginia G. Piper Center. Their published work can be found in Gulf Coast, Defunkt Magazine, and Houston Arts Alliance.