Congratulations to Dr. Laurie Lamon (third from right, with the fancy medal), who was installed as Whitworth’s first Amy M. Ryan Chair in the Liberal Arts Endowed Professor at the Sept. 7 convocation!
Congratulations to Dr. Laurie Lamon (third from right, with the fancy medal), who was installed as Whitworth’s first Amy M. Ryan Chair in the Liberal Arts Endowed Professor at the Sept. 7 convocation!
In celebration of Whitworth’s 125th anniversary, students were asked to write a poem of exactly 125 words, including the words “pine,” “cone” and curtain.”
1st Place winner Sandra Tully is from western Washington and is currently a senior at Whitworth. She is an English/writing major and also a Computer Science major.
Guest Judge Arlin Migliazzo had this to say about Tully’s poem, “Perhaps Da Vinci Told Her”: I can envision the master himself nodding appreciatively at the poet’s whimsical but humane explanation for Mona Lisa’s smile that almost isn’t. The reference to da Vinci’s ingenious flying “contraption,” the artist’s care in his desire to hide the “tea stained tinge on her two front teeth” and her damaged incisor cracked “into a thousand tiny triangles” speak to the centuries that separate us from the painting itself. Yet the recognition that she might have wanted “to show a subtle streak of rebellion” and his efforts to coax a real smile out of her as well as his compassion in masking her physical limitations speak to our shared humanness across the years.
Perhaps Da Vinci Told Her
not to smile, still she turned the corners of her mouth
just enough to show a subtle streak of rebellion.
Perhaps he made her laugh,
recounting the time he tested his own contraption;
catapulting into the cold night air,
and waking up shivering and naked in a field
surrounded by cattle beveled, staring,
like the slanting surface of a cone.
Perhaps he would have seen it then,
her two lips parting like horizontal curtains
revealing the fall from a pine tree that
fractured her left incisor into a thousand tiny triangles.
Perhaps he waited for her amusement to fade,
slowly concealing the tea stained tinge of her
two front teeth until all that was left
was the lingering remnant of delight.
2nd Place winner Leah Dassler is a freshman marketing major with a Chinese minor. She hails from Denver, Colorado, where she enjoys hiking, playing tennis, and going on adventures with her family. At Whitworth, you can usually find her having random dance parties with her friends or exploring Spokane. In her spare time, Dassler loves to read and write poetry because poetry often presents truth in its rawest form.
Guest Judge Arlin Migliazzo had this to say about Dassler’s poem, “Navigating Red and Black”: I am drawn into the mystery of this poem–and its puzzling, even disconcerting message for me. Since the author clearly cares for the companion(s?), does the incurred expense “in red and black” refer to a connection (or connections) here at Whitworth? As the debit/credit ledger theme is carried on in other phrases (“numbers corralled between parentheses/To ignite finely-kept balance sheets” and “gypsy tendencies unaccounted for/The ones tensioned between red and black”) is it rather a paean to the necessity of repeated forgiveness in the constant human struggle upward toward authenticity, both for ourselves and for those we most care about? What is the poem urging me to consider in my quest for self-knowledge as that quest both connects me to others and also creates pain for those closest to me? That is the disconcerting part. . .
Navigating Red and Black
In red and black I incurred an expense
You hurdling up over stairs the way you do,
Insisting the summit must be just
Past swirl-bound mist
Can’t you see as I, from the base, do—
The best climbs lack steps entirely.
To make one’s own way
Toward sunlight patches
To uncover souls in places where we thought only fog existed
Along the cone-covered way we wander
To disentangle names
from numbers corralled
To ignite all finely-kept balance sheets
This is the path we are meant to stumble upwards
Side-by-side navigating the misty curtain split in two,
Top to bottom
Seven times forgive
These gypsy tendencies unaccounted for
The ones tensioned between red and black
Congratulations winners! Thanks to everyone who submitted, and to our guest judge, Arlin Migliazzo!
Arlin C. Migliazzo is professor of history at Whitworth University where he has taught since 1983. He received the B.A. from Biola College (1974), his M.A. from Northern Arizona University (1975), and the Ph.D. from Washington State University (1982). His publications include essays and articles on ethnic studies, the Pacific Northwest, colonial South Carolina, church-related higher education, the history of evangelicalism, and comparative democratic development. He has also published some of his poetry in Script, the Whitworth University literary journal.
The Whitworth Founders Day Scholarship is an annual scholarship that recognizes two students with high academic achievement who have made innovative and realistic proposals for strengthening an aspect of Whitworth College. The scholarship was established in 1999 in memory of Whitworth College’s founder, George Whitworth.
This year’s winner, Kristin Bertsch said the following about her plans for the next semester:
Congratulations to Dana Stull (’16), the first-prize winner for the 2015 Chapbook contest, and to Annika Bratton (’18) for an Honorable Mention!
Dana (above) describes herself as one who “writes, reads, bakes pies, pickles and preserves, speaks goat, takes names, and is currently developing a stand-up comedy routine.”
Here’s what our guest judge, Daniel Bowman Jr., had to say about Dana’s manuscript, the girl who says nothing:
“I was a bit torn on this decision at first. the girl who says nothing in some ways lacks the range of some other manuscripts—an experimentation with styles, forms, lines and line breaks, and sound necessary as the true voices and chief concerns of young poets begin to emerge.
And yet…the girl who says nothing resounds with a maturity and sense of purpose beyond expectations. It is, quite simply, the one chapbook that haunted me long after I’d read all of them. These terse, focused poems left me no choice but to reckon deeply and personally with this girl who says nothing, and, by extension, with the terrifying distances between how things ought to work and the realities of our world.
The ‘incident reports’ are particularly effective. Told in an alarmingly clinical voice, they remind us how the stories of the most vulnerable are so often mediated—shaped and controlled—by those in power.
In addition, many individual lines reverberate despite the tight spaces of the poems: ‘she is crossing the small bridges/in me.’ Indeed. That image accounts precisely for the way this character, and these poems, get under your skin, how they disturb and finally transcend niceties on the journey toward truth.
The critic R.P. Blackmur wrote of poetry operating at a high level, noting how it ‘not only expresses the matter in hand but adds to the stock of available reality.’ the girl who says nothing has added a rich and subtly textured experience to my own stock of availability reality, and for that I am grateful.”
Annika Bratton (’18) describes herself as “a first year student from Banks, Oregon, right between Portland and the coast. I am double majoring in Peace Studies and English and minoring in Environmental Studies. When I’m not studying or writing poetry, I enjoy dancing, hiking, going to the beach, and attempting to solve social justice issues. I am beyond excited to have received such an honor in this competition.”
On Bratton’s manuscript, Bowman states that “the poems in Becoming radiate with an attractive zeal, physicality, and longing. Though they sometimes risk abstraction, they nonetheless provide a space where joy and pain coexist in a creative tension.
I came to a nearly instant trust in the poet’s voice, which is clear, inventive, vulnerable, by turns earnest and ironic, but never dull or stilted. And the poems are consistently invitational; one becomes less a reader and more a participant: ‘Hold every echo in the cavern of your lungs,’ the poet bids us. The brand of partaking described in Becoming isn’t for the faint of heart—this poet is all in. And so was I.”
Here’s “Jewelry Boxes,” a poem from Becoming:
NerdScholar recently named Dr. Fred Johnson as one of their 40 under 40: Professors Who Inspire. Dr. Johnson receives the award for his masterful teaching and for his dedication to “[carving] out time on the side to guide students through their college and post-college careers.”
It’s an honor well deserved. Congratulations!
For this year’s poetry contest, students were asked to write an abecedarian.
Dr. Richard Strauch, our faculty guest judge, was so taken with the task that he contributed his own verse to the mix:
Abecadarian poems have to
Be among the most
Challenging structures to negotiate, for the
Danger is one of pedantry: how
Easy it is to lose sight of the
Forest of beautiful language for the trees of the rules. Yet
Good poetry acheives both; indeed, Igor Stravinsky’s words
Have equal meaning here: The more I constrain myself, the more
I free myself.
Just as I found myself looking for adherence to rules, so I
Knew a good abecedarian poem would
Let me forget the rules and simply speak to
No poem emerged as one that should be out of contention.
On the other hand, each
Quite individually, in its own voice,
Reaching out to me.
Selecting one winner, or even
Two, proves to be a challenge.
(Uff da, I would say, if I were Norwegian, and not so
Very German, as I am.) Nevertheless, I am always so impressed
With Whitworthians’ work (sextuple-U!):
Yes, literary Pirates trump
Zags any day of the week.
Shannon Ritchie (’15) has won first prize and a $50 gift card to Auntie’s bookstore for her poem “Cloud-Watching.”
Shannon explains: “I’m a junior English writing major/math minor who will be graduating in December. It’s easy to identify me across campus from my hot pink Doc Martens, faded bomber jacket from the 80s, or my flamboyant My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic backpack. Next summer I will attend a Masters in Teaching program with the immediate goal of teaching high school English and possibly mathematics. However, my true aspiration is to eventually become the quirky creative writing teacher of a misunderstood junior college – and own pet seahorses.”
Dr. Strauch had this to say about Ritchie’s poem: “I was intrigued by the two poems that used the abecedarian form to evoke childhood – the ABCs are so elemental (and elementary), and the pairing of form and content seems a brilliant wedding. What I loved about ‘Cloud-watching’ was that a set of lines that seemed at first contrived held the key for me: Is ‘simply existing’ an illusion? I can look back to an idyllic childhood and see the extent to which my life, too, was defined by order, rules, structure – and at the same time, this is the tension of the abecedarian poem. The language is evocative (I don’t know why, but it put me in the mind of Samuel Barber’s Knoxville 1915), and as the poem called me to remember my own childhood, it also invited me to re-examine it.”
Away meant simply existing
between happiness and myself.
Coloring outside of the lines I
daily sketched freedom into my routine,
earning a name for my construction.
Fridays brought kite flying in the
garden. Watching patterns
hurry away from grounded life,
I always felt completely
justified in my desire to be.
Kenton lived three houses down
Lincoln Drive. We would pick
marionberries together under each
new moon celebrating adolescence,
optimism our only language.
Pies required precision, intentional
quietness. Windows cracked, scent
reached to the outdoors inviting
seasons to stay. Baking meant
that neighbors may stop to say hello.
Under umbrellas we defied the
varying seasons. Resisting any
warnings I reminded Kenton:
x-rays had shown that all
young people were missing, like
zoo animals, the will to be.
Dana Stull (’16) won second prize and a $20 Auntie’s gift card for her poem “Brittlebush.” Dana explains: “I write (poems and comics) and read (everything) and make pies (my favorite being rhubarb).”
Of her poem, Strauch said, “Psalm 119 is, of course, one of the more famous abecedarian forms, though that is lost in translation. What would an abecedarian psalm in English look like? What if David were living in the American southwest? There is a beautiful trajectory to this poem, a sense of advent, a quality of light triumphing over darkness. An empty dance gives way to an excess of joy. This was a poem upon which I found myself meditating much as I would a psalm, and which drew me in by the way that the language of confession and praise engaged all of the senses.”
All of it—the quiet
bloom that stuns,
calls me out of this empty
dance. I stood there, asked
everyone. A quiet
flight, the space between
I asked; demanded
love, held blind in
me. I stood there, gave
overwhelmed, my hands
pressed with morning—
quilted in a strange
rescue. He breathes,
tremor of ground
underneath my feet. Gives
voice to me, this
excess of joy, called out
EL major Erin Kreycik (’15) received an honorable mention for her poem “On Being Trapped In the Royal Court Theatre.” Strauch claimed, “This poem really intrigued me. It may be due to my discipline, but I found this poem to be one of the most musical in quality – reading it aloud enlivened it more to me that simply reading it on the page. There were several turns of phrase that caught both my ear and my imagination: ‘a thousand things that ran lapping down the aisles like dark light’; ‘rows of handkerchief voices’; ‘No-sleep Xanax churchhood.’ This is a poem whose meaning is not readily apparent, and yet I have the feeling that, as with a great piece of music, the longer I live with it, the more it speaks to me.”
On Being Trapped In the Royal Court Theatre
boards, like blue. Like creak—
creak. Carpetless. Slow.
Don’t ask what it is, or why. It. All.
Every face. You, too.
First this. You call this a face?
Go out. Come back in again.
Hush. Hush. Listen. Don’t stop.
Jesus Christ this spotlight never stops. And your voice
knocked over a thousand things that ran
lapping down the aisles like dark light.
Mother. Ghost of your child-self –
nave, altar, His arm, His gushing heart.
O holy holy. Under and over.
Piss in the bedpan she won’t have emptied – not
Roaring up the aisles, you a tiger’s wraith, prowling
shroud. You the woman in white. Soon.
Too soon. Not yet. Up. Down.
Voices, rows of handkerchief voices. You jump
when they call you woman. No-sleep
Xanax churchhood, head a prayer-book, how many shoes?
You hated carpet. Had to hear them. Step. Not. Step. Yet.
Zone of fracture. Till the lights go out.
Thanks to Annie Stillar, Thom Caraway, and Laurie Lamon for their help with the contest. And high-fives to Dr. Strauch.
Richard Strauch is professor of music and Director of the Whitworth Wind Symphony. In addition, he teaches music history and applied low brass, and is second trombonist in the Spokane Symphony. His area of research is the impact of religiosity on the aesthetic and reception of late 19th century music. He holds degrees from Wheaton College and Yale University, and is in his 17th year of teaching at Whitworth. He is married to a poet, and has three children who are also poets.
Hearty congratulations to Rowanne Fairchild (’14) and Kaitlin Schmidt (’14), the winners of this year’s chapbook contest.
Rowanne Fairchild (’14) won for her fiction manuscript “Refraction.” Guest judge Esther Lee called “Refraction” “a poignant story about a narrator whose empathy for a childhood friend serves as a reminder to us: that to honor those who have been traumatized requires a refusal to forget them.”
Rowanne is a graduating senior from Whitworth’s English department. “Refraction” is her first published manuscript. An avid traveler, she draws inspiration for her writing from the places she experiences and people she encounters. She enjoys telling stories, and loves being able to communicate with an audience through writing.
You can read an excerpt of “Refraction” below. Rowanne wins the $100 prize and she’ll be the featured reader at the Script reading on May 9. Thom Caraway & Co. will design and print a small run of her chapbook.
Big cheers also to Kaitlin Schmidt (’14), this year’s runner-up.
Of Kaitlin’s poetry collection, “After Babel,” Esther Lee said, “These poems feel like tiny leaves in your palms. Their meditative power begins to accumulate and reveals an intimate address and vulnerable questioning by the speaker.”
Kaitlin says, “I grew up as a quiet person who read all the time, and somehow became an extroverted person who talks all the time. This combination leads to being very open about inward thinking, which is what I explore in my writing. This manuscript deals with how much communication is strangled in any relationship, which I hope comes across as ironic considering I am trying to communicate something to you, the reader.”
You can catch more of Kaitlin’s poems at a reading on Sunday, March 30, at Jones Radiator.
Thanks also to the 2014 guest judge, Esther Lee.
Esther Lee has written Spit, winner of the Elixir Press Poetry Prize (2011) and her chapbook, Blank Missives (Trafficker Press, 2007). Her poems and articles have appeared or are forthcoming in Lantern Review, Ploughshares, Verse Daily, Salt Hill, Good Foot, Swink, Hyphen, Born Magazine, and elsewhere. A Kundiman fellow, she received her M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Indiana University where she served as Editor-in-Chief for Indiana Review. She has been awarded the Elinor Benedict Poetry Prize and Utah Writer’s Contest Award for Poetry (selected by Brenda Shaughnessy), Snowcroft Prize (selected by Susan Steinberg), as well as twice-nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She recently received her Ph.D. in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Utah. She began teaching as an Assistant Professor at Agnes Scott College in the Fall 2013.
And now, the samples! Here’s a look at Rowanne’s “Refraction”:
I traced my way back from the crossroads after school and managed to find the house without much difficulty. I stood on the edge of the road and watched the piece of glass flash in the sunlight. After several moments I crossed the ditch and made my way back until I was crouched by the wire mesh. With a cautious hand I tugged on the screen, but was still startled when the boy unfurled from the shadows under the porch.
“Hi,” I whispered. I lowered myself to sit cross-legged.
He looked at me and gurgled.
“What’s your name? Do you have a name?” When he didn’t answer I remembered the story I’d learned in Sunday school last weekend, about a boy who was made a slave and then became a prince. “Can I call you Joseph? I’m Jacob.”
Joseph’s eyes were blank and he stretched his arms out towards me. He was wearing my socks on his hands, and had his thumb jammed through the hole where my big toe used to fit.
“Yeah, those are socks, they usually go on your feet.” He inched towards me and I saw he wore a thin t-shirt and a pair of tattered pants. Grime was ground into the fabric. His clothes hung from his emaciated frame and trembled as he shivered. His feet were bare. His hair was so filthy I couldn’t tell what color it was.
“I’m ten. How old are you?”
Joseph’s face was empty, blank. Like Mama’s garden before she planted daffodils in the fall. He looked maybe eight or nine. He made a noise in the back of his throat and tried to push a socked hand through the mesh towards my lunch pail.
I unscrewed the cap and pulled out a crust that was left over from my lunch. “Is this what you want?” I extended it towards him and suddenly the sock came off, he snatched it with dirty fingers, stuffed it past cracked lips.
He gulped and then looked at me as if waiting for more. He reminded me of the stray mutt I used to feed scraps to when he would follow me home from school. He went mad from a coon fight three days before Dad was drafted, and Dad had to shoot the dog from our back porch.
I felt heavy, like a rock that was being shoved into motion and yet still wouldn’t move. “Sorry, that’s all I have.”
And enjoy this poem from Kaitlin’s “After Babel”:
We fishtail apart across ice,
careening legs and arms cut
up with each other’s words.
I try to get to you with language
but malfunction use my hands
to sort out the air but slaughter it
like a nightmare try to pick up
a mouse but squeeze too hard
apart. There are so many things
I want you to know.
We know you’re working hard on your chapbook contest entries (due Friday, Feb 7, by the way).
Now you have another chance to achieve fame (and a $50 gift card to Auntie’s Bookstore) in our third annual poetry contest. You’ll be leaning on the 26 letters of the alphabet to produce an abecedarian. The contest is open to all current Whitworth students.
Thanks to Dr. Richard Strauch for serving as our guest judge and to Jessica Weber (’14) for designing the rad poster.
As an assignment for EL 331W Southern Renaissance, Meredith Friesen, senior English major and current Westminster Round president, submitted her recitation of “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson to the 2013 Norton Anthology Student Recitation Contest.
Meredith’s submission has been chosen as one of the top three finalists! The public and the panel of Norton editors will decide the winner, which means she needs your votes to win.
Vote for Meredith here! Deadline for voting is Dec. 8th.
The winner will receive a $200 Barnes & Noble gift card and will have his or her name featured on the acknowledgements page of a Norton Anthology.
Image from here.
In his poem, “The Tables Turned,” William Wordsworth famously charges his reader, “Up! Up! my Friend, and quit your books:/or surely you’ll grow double.” This may be music to the ears of homework-weary students, but I don’t think Wordsworth intended for us to toss our books in the dumpster and give up reading altogether. Rather, he invites us to seek a balance between reading about the world and experiencing it first-hand. He beckons us to “Come forth into the light of things,/Let Nature be your teacher.” This is good advice as we head into the thick of the semester with midterm papers and exams piling up like fall leaves.
Several weeks ago on Community Building Day, a group of dozen or more students and faculty from the departments of English, theology, and world languages did just this. We set aside our classes and books to work in the Westminster Garden. Under the direction of Leonard Oakland, we raked, weeded, pruned, and planted daffodil bulbs together. (I think that Wordsworth would have given us the thumbs up on our bulb choice, don’t you?) We got our hands dirty, talked about books and classes, and learned (as Wordsworth’s poem explains) that Nature “has a world of ready wealth,/Our minds and hearts to bless.”
For me, digging in a homely daffodil bulb is an inherently hopeful activity. To plant bulbs, or any seed for that matter, we enact a tangible metaphor of faith, particularly the act of faith that is teaching. Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”(KJV). Teachers rarely know what students take away from their lessons, but we have faith in the educational relationship, the works we teach, and the students themselves.
Later that day, we headed back our classes but the garden still glowed in the afternoon sunlight. We—and the garden—were blessed by our time together in Nature’s classroom. These community events are part of what makes learning and working around Westminster such a pleasure. Whitworth’s “education of mind and heart” (oddly presaged in Wordsworth’s poem) spills out into the garden and beyond.
If you have been around Westminster Hall, you may have noticed that the garden is particularly exuberant this fall. Purple asters, black-eyed Susan, Russian Sage, and feather reed grass crowd around the basalt columns and tumble onto the sidewalk. In part, this is a result of rather pungent doses of compost last spring, but it is also due to the faithful labors of senior (?) English major John Hope, who spent much of his summer working and reading in the Westminster Garden. Most afternoons, I would find John weeding or watering or reading in the shade of the weeping cherry trees. (As you can see in this accompanying photo, the garden is a good place to grow beards and flowers.)
Speaking of gardens and poets and beards, we have been celebrating Thom Caraway’s nomination as Spokane’s first poet laureate this week. (For more information, see the Spokes-person Review’s article about Thom on the front page of the “Northwest” section.) No one deserves this recognition more. Thom has been a tireless poet, teacher, and community advocate at Whitworth and in his beloved West Central neighborhood. He is thoroughly planted in Spokane, not only because he is a longtime resident, but also through his role as the board president at Project H.O.P.E., a local nonprofit dedicated to improving the West Central neighborhood. Project H.O.P.E. provides job training for at-risk youth through teaching them to garden, market, and sell vegetables grown on Riverfront Farm, an urban farm expanding to eight empty lots in West Central.
Thom’s achievement is good news for all of us and a reminder of what it means to walk your talk. Another beloved Whitworth poet, Laurie Lamon says, “For this honor to come to Thom speaks volumes for the service, teaching, and mentoring he has done, so much of it quietly, and all of it with the heart, mind and soul of a poet who has served first and foremost his community and students.” Join us in congratulating Thom, or better yet, send him a note.
In the meantime, live in hope and remember Wordsworth’s advice to glory in the days of fall: “Come forth, and bring with you a heart / That watches and receives.