First Prize in Poetry
goes to Charlotte Van Schaack’s “Self knowledge is negative space,’ which moved me for its transparency about the coming of age experience in an age where we must unlearn our bodies as currency and discover our true selves amid epic social scrutiny”…Shiany Salazar, 2024 WWPH Pride Judge

Self knowledge is negative space

It’s not the celebration I care for

so much as the crowd. I want swaddling

as if the infantile queer I am naturally

deserves coddling and a stable childhood.

Progressives like a bassonett make me think

I am well adjusted, three years in the world.

There’s nothing special to being

part of DC’s five percent, or what seems

to be half my college, or all

my friends. I’ve never done poppers

or bought a vibrator, but if I did

I am sure it would die on me

or go as untouched. There is not enough

ecstasy to capsize my displacement.

Before I was closeted,

I wondered what kind of people I’d kiss

in college. If I’d lean deeply

with tongue at crowded parties.

I like girls, and I’ve come to terms

that I like boys, and everyone is beautiful.

I still don’t know who to talk to

about all these things.

So many poets have already

laid claim to the sun and moon and stars.

Maybe Jupiter will care to lend

her deep crying storm to catch my words.

I didn’t really want a taste of anyone,

just to be known by them in my want

for companionship. My body

must learn against its training and

against again.

Charlotte Van Schaack hails from Greensboro, North Carolina, and now has spent the last three years in Washington, D.C. while studying Creative Writing and Education at American University. They have previously been published in AmLit Magazine and are an Inner Loop writer-in-residence at Woodlawn and Pope-Leighy Houses.

Runner-up in Poetry...”With wit and precision, Eli’s ‘ARS POETICA FOR THE GAY BITCHES WITH TOO MANY TOTE BAGS,’ speaks to the unconventional sensuality and romance we observe in everyday life and ‘things,’ which is especially heightened when we are in love.” — Shiany Salazar, 2024 WWPH Pride Contest judge


Eli V. Rahm is a queer writer from Virginia. Their work is featured or forthcoming in Door is a Jar, Passages North, The Cortland Review, The Academy of American Poets, among others. They also have a cat named Bagel. You can find them at www.elisaurus.carrd.co

First Prize in Prose — “For its intimate contemplation and exploration of identity through the lens of childhood wonder and the support of familial love, the first prize in prose goes to ‘Daisy Jane and the Sun,’ by Eric House.”- Shiany Salazar, 2024 WWPH Pride Contest Judge

Daisy Jane and the Sun

It took my niece, Daisy Jane, only three years from the day she was born to tell me she wasn’t a boy. One day, she kicked off her blue sneakers to try on my sister’s pink heels, and I thought, it’s starting now. My mother pulled out a bin of old photographs and found one of me from the early 1990s, the same age, drenched in a white lace dress, grinning as if I were a gift. 

“He looks just like you did!” my family said to me. They were right, in a way: Daisy Jane’s twinkle was my own, like I had taken a star from the sky and placed it in her eye like a contact lens. Take this; you’ll need it to see

By age five, she was drawing monsters, as some kids do, except she pointed to hers and said, “That’s me when I was a boy.” I knew exactly what she meant. My own monster hid in the usual spots—up in the attic, under the bed, back in the closet—for years, only showing itself when it was hungry to devour me, and often I let it. When my father found it, he fed it with scriptures about love, the righteous kind. 

Then he’d swing me around the yard by my hands like I was a planet orbiting the sun, connected at an arm’s length that felt like light years but holding on tightly so I wouldn’t let go and float away. I had to eventually, but the thing about the sun is that it knows it will implode one day, so it learns to say sorry. 

I’m sorry about that big ball of gas. It’s all I knew at the time. I thought I was so certain about what was out there and what the rules were. 

That’s okay; I don’t know much of anything myself. 

What I do know is that for now, Daisy Jane doesn’t need me to tell her how this universe began just yet. That the kiss her uncle gives his husband is a constellation of cosmic forces involving starry collisions, swirling galaxies, and the occasional black hole of despair. That sometimes it feels like we’re all drifting through time without oxygen.  

That it all happens to align one day as long as you keep your eyes to the stars, but somehow, I think she may already know that. She knows a lot of things. 

Now, I watch my father toss her up into the air like she’s his sunbeam. Whatever is out there in space doesn’t love brighter than this, not even when it all began. 

Look how far that is from where we started. 

Eric House (He/Him/His) has lived and worked as a full-time writer and editor at non-profits in Washington, DC, since 2017. He resides in Eckington with his fiancé and their chatty 5-year-old quarantine tabby Frankie.

Congratulations to our runner-up prize-winner in prose Alexandra Shandrenko, whose winning work will be published in an upcoming issue of WWPH Writes.

About our judge: Shiany Salazar is a rising senior at American University studying Literature and Education Studies with a concentration in Creative Writing. At the American University, Shiany was a Core Leader for a Creative Writing course within the Department of Literature where she led student poetry, fiction, and nonfiction workshops and supported the development of student’s literary technical skills. Outside of the classroom, Shiany enjoys knitting, exploring DC’s coffee scene, and watching her favorite musicals on repeat. She is our WWPH Fellow for summer 2024. Our WWPH Fellowship program will open for 2025 application later this fall. Please find out more about this paid opportunity, made possible by a generous grant from Dr. Jean Feldman, here.


JOIN US at an AGUAS/WATERS event! In July, Miguel Avero will be traveling to Washington, DC for readings at Politics & Prose (July 12 at the main store); The Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore (Happy Hour on Saturday, July 13), and at the Writer’s Center (on Sunday, July 14). Please join us! More information here.

SUBMIT to WWPH Writes. We are reading now for our WINTER, 2025 issues. We are eager for new voices! We are an inclusive, writer-driven community and want to see your poetry and prose (1,000 words or less). Free to submit. Send us your work via our Submittable link here. Insider news: our annual TINY POEMS special summer issues are returning. Submissions are open! O, send us your TINY ODE (six lines or less)! Insider news: our manuscript contests will be on hiatus until September 1, 2025. We will seek submissions to AMERICA’S FUTURE, a new anthology of prose and poetry, which will celebrate our 50th anniversary year. Any writer connected to DC, Maryland, or Virginia can submit (no residency requirement for anthology). Submissions open in September.