Cal Poly English Major Wins Academy of American Poets Prize

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. — English major Katherine Flitsch of San Luis Obispo, California, recently won Cal Poly’s Academy of American Poets Contest for her poem “Howl for the Piedly Pious,” which investigates faith in 21st century America through a poem inspired by Allen Ginsberg’s poem, “Howl.”

Flitsch will receive a $100 award from the Academy of American Poets, and her poem will be considered for the $1,000 Aliki Perroti and Seth Frank Most Promising Young Poet Award

Katherine Flitsch“‘Howl for the Piedly Pious’ pays homage to Ginsberg in its lines and rhythms but shapes its own significance as an exploration of faith in the 21st century,” said poet Rebecca Morgan Frank, who judged this year’s contest. “It digs into the realities of examining faith while living as a human in this world, streaming services and all. A standout in sound and sense, the poem builds complexity of thought through song.”

Cal Poly English major Kavya Makam of Cayucos, California, received first honorable mention in the contest for “Men of Andhra Pradesh,” which will be included in the 2019 edition of Byzantium, Cal Poly’s award-winning literary journal. Frank was taken by the poem’s “distinctive voice and its fine manipulation of syntax, with its author’s control of command and question used to keep the poem’s tone complex as the poem develops. The poet deftly guides us through an imagined world of reversal of gender norms and restrictions.”

Second honorable mention went to English major Vanya Truong of Pacific Grove, California, for her poem “my hands take things apart.”

“I returned to this poem again and again,” Frank said, “in appreciation of the control of the lines, the way they gradually roll out that masterful simile as it evolves into the larger conceit of the poem — one which reflects the central emotion and action. A beautifully crafted poem.”

Frank is the author of three collections, most recently “Sometimes We’re All Living in a Foreign Country.” Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Guernica, Orion and elsewhere. She is co-founder and editor of the literary magazine Memorious, and she is the Spring 2019 Distinguished Visiting Writer at Bowling Green State University.

The Cal Poly English Department and the Academy of American Poets, which is a longstanding advocate for the art of poetry and is located in New York City, sponsor the annual contest, which was first held at Cal Poly in 1988. The winning poem will appear on the Cal Poly English Department website and on the University and College Poetry Prize page of

Photo information: English major Katherine Flitsch, of San Luis Obispo, California.

Contact: Mira Rosenthal

May 21, 2019

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