UCC Mainstream Online

Prizes for poetry

Amy Fair will be judging the contestants’ poems.
Jesse Proctor / Mainstream
Amy Fair will be judging the contestants’ poems.

The Mainstream student newspaper is sponsoring a poetry contest for UCC students which will run the month of April. April is National Poetry Month, designated by the Academy of American Poets. The contest is open to all students meeting contest guidelines, and entries may be emailed to uccmainstream@yahoo.com.  Please see contest rules.

When contemplating writing a poem, Amy Fair, humanities department chair and instructor of Writing and English, offers valuable insights into the realm of poetry.  Fair instructs English 106, Introduction to Literature, which focuses on poetry.  Her class studies the uniqueness of poems and what makes them stand out compared to other forms of literature.  “Poetry depends on figurative language, but it is also often a distillation of feelings and impressions.  The impact of a poem is often due to the economy of language. A person can fit so much communication into such a small space with poetry,” Fair said.

In Fair’s Introduction to Literature class, students are asked to read poetry and observe how a writer communicates to the reader.  Her students write their observations of weekly poem assignments, noting literary devices like metaphor, theme, symbol, images, irony, dialect, jargon and paradox.  Commenting on a poem and reading others’ opinions exposes students to multiple perspectives, “The different readings by different people expand the meaning of the poem exponentially” Fair said.

Students in Fair’s Intro to Literature course study the same poems but express different takes on the poem in class discussion.  This is a unique component of poetry compared to other form of literature, because the reader interprets what’s written personally and individually. Multiple views of a poem’s theme are common. “The wonderful nature of the reader/author relationship is that it is different for each reader.  Anyone can read a poem and find a facet of themselves or their own experiences in that poem or short story, and while interpretations can differ from reader to reader, all of those interpretations are valid,” Fair notes.

Writing of any kind can be challenging, but Fair reveals some ideas concerning how to start writing poetry.  “The first consideration should be to avoid writing a universal poem about love, or hate, or parenting, or anything else. The best beginning is a small detail — like the frayed embroidery on the pocket of the apron your grandmother wore when she baked banana bread. If a poet starts there, with the personal, then the poem that follows will still resonate with readers, but it will also offer images that no other writer could compose,” Fair said.

The desire to communicate is already present for most students, who are corresponding more and faster than any other generation due to technical innovations.  The ability to make a permanent audience connection, through poetry or writing, may be a matter for study.

Contest Rules: Poetry  contest entries must contain content appropriate for a general audience, must be no more than 15 lines and must be submitted to uccmainstream@yahoo.com before April 23, 2013. Winning entries may be published on the student newspaper website. If space permits, entries may also be published in the student newspaper print edition.