University of Southern Indiana

Robert Owen 250th Creative Writing Contest

Celebrating Robert Owen’s 250th Anniversary
Historic New Harmony’s Global Creative Writing Contest

Sponsored by the Working Men's Institute
In Partnership with Indiana Poet Laureate, Matthew Graham

Guest Judge: Matthew Graham – Indiana Poet Laureate


During his 35 years in southern Indiana, Matthew Graham has been a respected and recognized writer, teacher, and advocate for poetry and the arts. Having recently retired from the University of Southern Indiana (USI), he has taught all levels of creative writing, contemporary literature, and worked with multicultural and international students in freshman composition. Among other community service Graham has worked with diverse writing groups such as high school students and community writing groups.

Matthew Graham is the author of four books of poetry, most recently The Geography of Home (Galileo Press, 2018). His work has earned numerous national, regional and local honors and awards, including a Pushcart Prize, an Academy of American Poets Award, two grants from the Indiana Arts Commission, and the Artist of the Year Award from the Arts Council of Southwestern Indiana.

While at USI, Matthew co-founded and co-directed (with Thomas Wilhelmus) The Ropewalk Writers' Retreat, a summer program that brought national and international writers to New Harmony, Indiana for 22 years, and the Ropewalk Visiting Writers Series, which brought prominent fiction and non-fiction writers and poets to the USI campus for free public readings. The list of participating writers includes the present U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo.

Visit his Indiana Poet Laureate site.

First Place (13-17) 
Claudia Esmaela Ghaderpoor, 15

Shrouded in evils
Built upon foundations
Of muck and grime
And casted away into
The mouth of hell,
A forsaken cause.
The land to be called

A vessel for paradise
Taken from hell?
The world shook and reeled
With laughter. They watched
In silent mockery as he dipped
His hands in ambrosia
And steeled his resolve
To forge a land called

Yet the cleanse anticipated
For the land was not one
Immersed in bloodshed.
He took his hands and built
A new foundation, a promise
Of comfort for the troubled
Souls encased in debauchery.
Shunned by the world, here
Lies the flourishing bud called

What makes a savior and
What makes a man? For
One who toiled and strove
For the providence brought
Not by divinity's grace but
By the hands of man.
Who sought to challenge
When all the world gazed
In passive indifference.
Who realized his ventures
Of a land called


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