pen writing on a piece of paper

The University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Department of English recognized creative writing students with awards and scholarships.

UH Mānoa graduate student Micah Lau’s poem “Free Skate” is based on Olympic figure skaters Yuna Kim—an international sensation—and a lesser-known Canadian pairs team Jessica Dubé and Bryce Davison.

head shot of Micah Lau
Micah Lau

“Focalized through a narrator who visits Bucheon, South Korea, where both Kim Yuna and the narrator’s host were born, the poem explores what it means to submit oneself to elegance and danger, with or without a partner,” Lau said.

Lau won The Academy of American Poets Prize, which recognizes the best poem on any subject. He won $100 and a one-year Academy of American Poets membership.

“I was surprised,” Lau said. “The poem was written a while ago, and I decided to submit it to the contest at the last minute. Though I’ve been focusing on writing fiction in the graduate program, I’ll definitely return to poetry when it feels right.”

One judge wrote “Competitive figure skating is the initial conceit that defines the tension between performance, intimacy and pain. Readers are roped into the question: ‘what heart does not want, in some sinister way, to leave marks on the other?’ The poet of ‘Free Skate’ held me most as a reader, thinker and writer.”

The Patsy Sumie Saiki Award

UH Mānoa’s Briana Uu took first place for The Patsy Sumie Saiki Award and a $1,000 prize. The award recognizes the best short story that reflects the history, cultures or traditions of Hawaiʻi. Uu’s winning piece is “Old Spider Man.”

“With lyrical clarity, well-placed humor and detailed metaphors, ‘Old Spider Man’ is a delightful coming-of-age story about three brothers who navigate place, boyhood and community amidst fear, shame and imagination,” one of the judges commented.

Second place and $250 went to UH Mānoa’s Ashley Insong for “A Spoonful of Home,” and third place and $100 went to UH Hilo’s Alexander Coley for “The Haole Who Never Knew Fear (And Then Got Scared at a Farmers’ Market).”

The Stephen C. & William H. Stryker Award for Fiction

The winner of The Stephen C. & William H. Stryker Award for Fiction and $500 is UH Mānoa graduate student Christina Lee for “A Lesson in Grief.” The award recognizes the best short story on any subject.

“I was very encouraged about the amount and quality of the submissions we received during the pandemic,” said Craig Santos Perez, UH Mānoa associate professor and interim creative writing director. “It showed me the resiliency and ongoing passion for writing.”

Other awards presented:

Myrle Clark Awards

  • Allison Tomooka
  • Isabella Pasa
  • Emily Jane O’Callaghan
  • Heather French
  • Kyoungmin Kim
  • Eva Campney
  • Samuel St. John
  • Pohaikealoha Duarte
  • Shannon Velligas
  • Camryn Miller
  • Kamryn Curammeng

Hemingway Awards

  • Shannon Velligas
  • Camryn Miller

The Young Writers of Hawaiʻi Scholarship

  • Micah Lau
  • Isabella Pasa

Grace K. J. Abernethy Scholarship

  • Hillary Stratton

—By Marc Arakaki