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Selected Poems from the 2023 Poetry Jam

For this month's Poetry Jam, we invited BYU students to submit original poetry inspired by the artwork of Maynard Dixon. We are delighted to share selected the words of selected finalists here!


"Endless Joruney" by Heidi Hansen, Political Science - Inspired by "The Lonesome Journey"

Step after step 'cross the desert I go,
Down the ravines where the water once flowed,

Pulling my wagon I trek through the sand,
I look for a home in this barren land.

No matter the bleakness, beauty is found,
Out in the hills, where no one's around.

The red cliffs, they soar to heaven above,
In the blue of the sky and the clouds, I've found love.

Sage provides shade from the sweltering sun,
But none for me til the journey is done.

Lonesome roads called me and begged me to move,
My prospects, they said, could always improve.

I've found this is true, on the pathway so hard,
The remnants of travelers hope lay charred,

But I will be different, I know that with faith,
I will not remain on the trail, a wraith.

I know I'll pull through, exploring and free,
Sailing alone on this desolate sea.

When I reach the end, the journey goes on,
Always chasing the horizon, the dawn.

Now I am here on this journey so long,
To finally reach the place I belong.


"The Road to Somewhere" by Dorie Cameron, Art - Inspired by "No Place to Go"

Behind me is one future,
My birthplace, my bed
But I haven’t glanced back for some time
So it may have already gone,
Caught up by the wind and swept to California.
Taking the next step would be a regression, though I still don’t know
What lies in the West.
My shoes want out.
I am chased by shame and dishonor,
Disappointment and failure
And empty bellies.
I think at night of empty, grasping
Grasping hands, small hands.
Before me is a “maybe”
That might lead to a warm bed.


"Second Semester Senior Seeks a Home" by Alysha Rummier, Public Relations - Inspired by "No Place to Go"

Breathe in deep
Rest for a moment
Against a worn fence
Keeping me in,
Keeping me out,
I have come all this way
Climbing over these hills
The shadows growing deeper
I no longer remember why I am walking
If I keep moving it does not matter
What I carry or
Where I wander.

Breathe out long
And the wind moves soft
I followed the lines of the grass
Running from the shadows
My shoulders hunch
Struggling to remember
For what purpose I set out
To be educated by the trees
To be schooled at the knees of a mountain
To learn from the annals of its history
And yet I resist the urge
walk where others lead.

Breathe in deep
The air is salty
Breathe out long
The way has taught me
I belong as a stranger
And though I wandered
Up this hill in the hope
the top would make the way clear
I know now how to roam
And perhaps tomorrow
With no end looming near
I will know which way is home.


"Roadsided" by Dylan Stuflick, English Teaching - Inspired by "Roadside"

The sun has long since set,
Still my feet tread on, the trail bends through
Brush and rock and sorrow and pain.
Still I cannot see where it does end.

The Sky’s blue skin looks rough and worn;
Still it spreads and never ends.
An empty place, not new not old
Still it calls and hopes to be.

I see a fire there that makes the darkness darker.
Still it burns though I have no light.
I took a break, no longer will my journey be.
Still the night remains, untroubled by my sight.


"Sketch for Campo Santo" by Amalie Staples, Anthropology - Inspired by the painting of the same name

A weathered, honest man works in the sun, blazing
To burn his hair ruddy as the shrubs underfoot and lacquer
His eyes the same blue as the shadow on the distant hills,
Shirt made from the sun-bleached flowers of old wreaths
Hanging heavy with the reverence of outliving.
Every day he pushes the stones impossibly slow
Every day his hands meet the warm white crosses
And even warmer splintered crosses
On their ivory-and-dust foundations, cradles of
People who came before him, searching for a home.
He straightens the monuments inch by inch, a gardener
Of futile, calloused hope written into his hands that are
Cultivating the forest of silent and shaped saplings
Alongside their wooden nailed siblings — crucifixes
With the bodies already in the fine hard-packed soil below.
He takes a break, wipes the salt and silt from his brow
His sleeve comes away stained the color of the arid air
Smelling of dry tinder-twigs and solace breezed over the hills:
He straightens the graves so his own will be straight.
The autumn comes late, when the crosses are crooked again
And the man lies under a distant, stoic marker that in shadow
Is the same color of his eyes, turned to heaven in a prayer.


"A Holy Field" by Abbi Peo, Psychology - Inspired by "Sketch for Campo Santo"

Who wants to be buried at Westminster Abbey?
Dickens, Darwin, Newton–already
immortal in words, theories,
formulas–can't rest
with thousands of visitors a day!

I chose here.
Stain glass
is too pretentious
for me.

I like my crooked cross,
my few neighbors.

Visitors are scarce,
except the old woman
who gives wreaths.
No gawking, just stillness.
She ponders about me,
I wonder about her.

She will die
and forget, but
I never feel fear.
Distant mountains,
rusted sand, warm brush,
the occasional bird:
holy life
will always
remember me.


"Summer Thunderstorm at Home" by Reagan Lyman, Sociology - Inspired by "Merging of Spring and Winter"

I stand, hat in hand
Face tilted up toward the sky
As the thunderhead rolls over the foothills

I'm smaller than they are, I grasp only now,
As their shadows lengthen above me
And the wind makes playthings of my hair

Their greens fade to reds fade to browns
Fade to blacks
The trees paint colors in the wind

I breathe in, the smell of dust, the smell of life
And the first drop spatters to the earth
And I am momentarily entirely alive


"The Forgotten Men (After Maynard Dixon)" by Alixa Brobbey, Law - Inspired by "Forgotten Man"*

*This poem has been accepted for publication in a literary journal with exclusive publication rights