Courtesy photo of Mónica García

Creative Writing announces 2021 winner of Rodriguez, Lyon awards

By

Kristen LaRue-Sandler and Justin Petropoulos

The Creative Writing Program in the Department of English announced the winner of two of its annual contests for 2021-2022, the Mabelle A. Lyon Poetry Award and the Aleida Rodriguez Memorial Award in Creative Writing. Graduate student Mónica García is the winner of both honors.

A writer from Kankakee, IL, García received their BA in Creative Writing from Northwestern University. Their work orbits around themes of queerness, family, grief, and sleep-talking/-walking as forms of vocalizing and processing what is done unto the body. They were a guest poet at The Poetry Foundation’s Open Door Series in 2017, and their poems have appeared in Voicemail Poems, The Acentos Review, Helicon Literary & Arts Magazine, and elsewhere. They are currently an MFA candidate at ASU.

Mabelle A. Lyon Poetry Award

García’s poem "The Watching" was selected for the 2021 Mabelle A. Lyon Poetry Award. Lyon judge Michael Torres wrote this:

I am drawn to poems that explore complicated family dynamics, and I deeply admire “The Watching” for how those dynamics carry the speaker back to the edges of childhood, before womanhood, before the body becomes a sexualized thing. On a narrative level, I found myself moved by how this poem leapt formally and thematically across images of both innocence and its aftermath, water and all it can offer and obscure. The lines in “The Watching” feel both inevitably true and startling, surprising the reader with the “needless to say” by saying it, by naming it openly.

Other finalists for this year's Lyon award were Xu Li for the poem “mei / guo,” Julian Delacruz for the poem "A Portrait of Icarus," and Lindsay Saya for the poem "191347." 

The award’s namesake, Mabelle A. Lyon, published more than 1,000 poems in commercial and literary magazines and anthologies. She founded the first public library in Goodyear, Arizona and co-founded the Arizona Poetry Society, serving as the first president. After she died, friends and family of Lyon made a memorial gift to establish the Mabelle A. Lyon Poetry Award at ASU in honor of her love of poetry. A prize of $300 and a public reading with the Lyon Award judge is given to an ASU undergraduate or graduate creative writing student each year for a single poem of any length.

Aleida Rodriguez Memorial Award in Creative Writing

"In the Line of Fire" by García was selected for the 2021 Aleida Rodriguez Memorial Award in Creative Writing. One of the award judges wrote this:

“In the Line of Fire” begins where it has to, which is a moment of peak intensity. The poem’s strength is how it sustains that moment and even surprises us. The phrase “pulled from your bones” will stay in my memory for a long time – it is the last of many lines here that assert our relation to others as the core of our identity. Many poets liken consciousness to water (and not just poets, in Western culture, everyone from the pre-Socratics onward) but what if it’s more like fire? A terrifying but resonant intuition that this poem has in its own bones.

Other finalists for this year's Rodriguez award were Julian Delacruz for the poem "Pompeii Revisited" and Avery Meinen for the poem "Notes to and from Myself at Seven." One of the award judges wrote this about Delacruz's poem:

This poem’s lush commitment to detail means a reader remembers not in narrative moments but in images themselves. In every remembered detail of desire, all other details are implied. The poem, in its best lines, is able to move past transgression into a new aesthetic all its own, in which the continuing erotic life lives and moves underneath all of our other lives (I’m thinking about Schulyer’s “Morning of the Poem,” or Ariana Reines’ The Sand Book).

One of the award judges wrote this about Meinen's poem: 

The poem is appealingly upfront about its Romanticism – looking back at the child’s consciousness, trying to see what “opened” when the world of nature opened up. This straightforwardness allows the poem to concentrate on language rather than on content (a brave thing, right now, when content feels so large) and it is language that makes the poem memorable – the play of elemental absolutes (child, love, time) and more specific, erratic details, and these enable the last line, which is as childlike as it is aspirational: “A flock of nows in your hair.”

The Rodriguez award—created in honor of Aleida Rodriguez, who died of breast cancer in 2012—provides financial support for ASU graduate students who want to pursue a career in creative writing. One annual award is given to a selected MFA in Creative Writing student. Awards alternate by year: in fall 2020, the recipient was a fiction writer.

Garcia will be recognized for these awards at a Department of English ceremony later in spring 2022.

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