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First Person

Award-Winning Poetry

Anna Carson Dewitt

This May, Anna Carson Dewitt received the Myra Sklarew Award in Poetry for her thesis in creative writing, a poetry collection titled "The Mountain is a Good Mother."

I came to AU to get some help figuring out how to harness my creativity and gain some discipline in my writing process," says Carson Dewitt. "I was so lucky to get help in accomplishing that. Between wonderful guided readings and lots of good workshop time, my writing really expanded."

Carson Dewitt, who has worked as a birth doula in the United States and in Honduras, is teaching creative writing to gifted teenagers in Kansas.

Named after Professor Emerita Myra Sklarew, the award is given by the MFA faculty each year to the graduating MFA students with the most original prose and poetry theses.

Below, Carson Dewitt shares "The Sunset Way," a poem from her thesis.



In the village there is a thicket punctuated
with small, fat birds. The tips of their wings tucked under cozily,
their beaks tipped into their chest-ruffs, they'll regard you
as you pass by. They love to stay quiet in the jacaranda leaves.
They keep to themselves. Their eyes flash gold.

They are there when the children pass by on the way to school
each morning, and again on the way back from siesta
every afternoon, trailing packets of crisps. The birds could fly.
They know how. But they stay, haunch to haunch, keeping their council.
They do not worry a worm between their jaws. They do not
stir the air with a wing. They are small. Just tan and still.

In the early evening, when the children are called in
from the streets, they are drawn
past the birds without knowing why they must go home
by that route. One last glimpse, chalk white and brown
between the whippish branches, before night
drains the color out of everything.

When it grows dark they depend on the birds,
imagine them into the night and they are there.
Seeing the outlined leaves against the paler sky, everything
the same color of steel, they are sure of the birds, furled
into themselves in the jacaranda, considering
sleep. Their small breathing animates the darkness.

We have not wondered what the birds eat. We are not concerned
with how they tend their eggs, nor do we speak of them amongst
ourselves. Even as we regard them, something more striking
draws us away: the sun dipping behind the mountains,
wild orange. That lurid pool of magenta petals
 the jacaranda throws off each winter. Once distracted, 
we do not look back to make sure the birds are still there.
They do not surprise us.