Morgan Cain Grim of Floyd, Va., a senior majoring in interdisciplinary studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, won first prize for her poem "Topless" in the competition for the university's Steger Award for undergraduate poetry.

Cain Grim, whose gripping poem on mountain top mining is published at the end of this story, was recognized by University Distinguished Professor Nikki Giovanni and Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger, the award’s benefactor.

Last fall, students at Virginia Tech were invited to submit a poem about “the future” and compete for “The Steger.” The award, now in its third year, carries a $1,000 prize, the highest amount for an undergraduate poetry award in the nation. The second place prize of $500 went to Hayley Dodd of Warrenton, Va., a junior majoring in English, for “Metastasize.” Rachel Edelstein of Phoenix, Md., a senior majoring in biochemistry, won the $300 third place award with “New Jersey 1996.”

The student authors read their work publicly at a celebration event, along with offerings from faculty members in the English department’s creative writing program.

The competition was administered by Giovanni, an internationally recognized poet and member of the English faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences; and judged by a committee of faculty and staff from various disciplines at the university. In addition to the monetary award, a small statue made by local jeweler Faith Capone, was inscribed and presented to the winner.

Honorable mentions were also awarded to

  • “The Certainty of the Future” by Mandy Atkinson of Manassas, Va., a freshman majoring in English;
  • “Memo from Yesteryears” by Caty Gordon of Centreville, Va., a sophomore majoring in English;
  • “Strange Place” by Evan Henderson of Purcellville, Va., a freshman majoring in business in the Pamplin College of Business;
  • “Graduation” by Jacqueline Lamb of Reston, Va., a senior majoring in psychology and Spanish;
  • “unfinished projects” Hannah Pierce of Radford, Va., a junior majoring in music and English;
  • “The Whirling Dance” by Katherine Swett of Burke, Va., a senior majoring in mathematics and English; and
  • “Walking Below Anne's Secret Annex” by Joselyn Takacs of Virginia Beach, Va., a senior majoring in English.

“We encourage undergraduates to explore poetry and poems in all their aspects,” said Giovanni. Giovanni also announced that Aileen Murphy, the assistant director of creative writing at Virginia Tech and the co-director of the Southwest Virginia Writing Project, will be director of the Steger Awards. Murphy, who also writes poetry, will be reading from her new book “There Will Be Cats” at the Volume II bookstore on Wednesday, May 6 at 7 p.m.

  • Listen to Cain Grim's "Topless."