Four undergraduate recipients of annual prizes awarded by the Stadler Center for Poetry shared their work at the annual student reading on April 21 in Bucknell Hall.
The Cadigan Prizes for Younger Writers were awarded to Daniel Barnum-Swett ’17 and Lauren Hudson ’18 for poetry and Jordan Walker ’17 and Leslie Markevitch ’18 for prose. Emily Pursel ’20 received an honorable mention in poetry and Celina Antonellis ’18 and Emily Ryan ’18 received honorable mentions in prose.
The Julia Fonville Smithson Memorial Prizes were awarded to Jackson Pierce-Felker ’18 and Jackie Nicoletti ’18.
The reading featured Barnum-Swett, Hudson, Walker, and Pierce-Felker, as Markevitch and Nicoletti are currently studying abroad. Each student was introduced by Visiting Assistant Professor of English and Acting Director of the Stadler Center for Poetry Katie Hays, who read the judges’ reviews of the students’ work and a brief biography of each student.
Hudson, a creative writing and French double major, began the student readings with her untitled sequence of poetry, which was generated in an ecopoetics course and considered interactions of the self in nature and landscape.
“When I found out that I was a finalist for this year’s Cadigan prize, I was in disbelief,” Hudson said. “Reading was also surreal. I did not write that piece anticipating having to read it to anyone, much less to so many people, so I was nervous leading up to it but I am grateful to have had the opportunity to share my work.”
Pierce-Felker, a creative writing and psychology double major, is working to write what he describes as “spacey self-help poems” and his reading included ideas of emotion, memory, experience, and human relationships.
“Man, I honestly was so bewildered to have won the prize. It doesn’t feel totally real, like it hasn’t really sunk in yet. Really I’m just incredibly honored and flattered. I owe everything to the professors and people at the Stadler Center‚” Pierce-Felker said. “Were it not for them, I’d be very unhappy in a crappy major. This feeds my soul. And I never would have discovered it without their help.”
Walker, a political science and creative writing double major, read her nonfiction essay titled “The Black Pearl,” which examines intersections of history and race as an outside observer at an annual bike festival at Myrtle Beach.
“Thursday was the first time I did a reading, and I liked that I had a little more control in how the audience was perceiving each moment of the nonfiction. I didn’t realize how reading something out loud to others is a completely different experience from giving someone a piece of writing to privately read by themselves,” Walker said. “It has definitely encouraged me to find different ways to keep writing after I graduate.”
Barnum-Swett, a film and media studies major with a minor in translation studies, sees poetry as a way to respond to and comment on traditions using subjects such as nature, history, progress, memory, and social and personal psychology.
“I think a lot of my writing works to queer, pass through, and react to that fact, the presence of that history. I try to speak to and through that broken system in ways that deconstruct and subvert it, that try to use its failings to move forward,” Barnum-Swett said.
The readers enjoyed the atmosphere of the hall and appreciated the crowd that came to support their writing.
“Bucknell Hall is a really august space pretty much built for the singular purpose of preaching/reading to a crowd, so it’s a good vibe being there … lots of folks came out and everyone was super receptive,” Barnum-Swett said. “Each of the other readers was awesome and had incredible work! It’s nice to read like that, with that mix of subjects and styles that may seem different or wide-ranging all in context with each other for an hour.”
The Cadigan Prizes for Younger Writers recognize outstanding works of poetry and prose submitted by University students and are selected by authors published in the University’s West Branch literary journal. Poetry selections were judged by Gina France, associate professor of English at Knox College, with prose pieces judged by Katherine Haake, professor of English at California State University, Northbridge.
The Julia Fonville Smithson Memorial Prizes are named in honor of Julia Smithson ’76 and the winning manuscripts are selected by a committee of faculty from the creative writing program and department of English.
“Receiving the Cadigan is a big honor for me. Gina Franco, who judged this year’s poetry, is a writer whose work I love and respect. In that situation, it’s a privilege to know that this person is even reading your writing, nevermind liking it and choosing it!” Barnum-Swett said.