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April 11 , 2003

Contestants Named for Eightieth Glascock Poetry Competition

Photo: Fred LeBlanc

Olivia Bustion '03

It was during an in-class writing assignment in the third grade that Olivia Bustion '03 first heard her poetic muse. Although it would be many years before she would find a name for her inspiration—"daimon," the Greek word for "inner voice"—Bustion instinctively knew that she must listen and respond. Her work impressed her third-grade peers, who gathered to read over her shoulder. More recently, Bustion's poetry has attracted the attention of faculty and students at Mount Holyoke, who selected the English major to compete in the eightieth annual Kathryn Irene Glascock Intercollegiate Poetry Competition April 25–26.

"Olivia's work is impressive, very impressive," says Associate Professor of Economics James Hartley, who taught Bustion The Great Books of Western Civilization three years ago and remains a mentor to her still. "The substance is intellectually provocative; Olivia is brilliant and well-read, and it shows in the arguments she makes in her work. Her arguments make the reader think. Her poetry is also musically sophisticated. She puts this ability to great use by making the sound of each poem amplify the argument of the poem. In short, Olivia is placing herself directly in the current of Western poetry, building on what has gone on before."

O Matins on a Rough Hill
Olivia Bustion '03

'…O Proserpina,
For the flowers now that,
frighted, thou let'st fall
From Dis's wagon!'
Shakespeare: The Winter's Tale
After rootlets cleave to the live
Clay, and light on frost becomes light
On pools, and the sun and the rain
Knit bright and wet, and their weavings
Cover the ivy where we kneel;
After violets bruise the hill,
Routing winter ghost and shadow,
And light fills the wet daffodil,
Vital flower, fragile prayer
Caught in the bowl of the blossom;
We praise and guard the glad flower,
A blossom of blessing, winter
Is over. We carry the last
Of our sorrowing in the first
March urn: yellow bud,
Temple Gold.

Bustion will join student poets from Amherst College, Connecticut College, Cornell University, George Washington University, and Haverford College in a public reading Friday, April 25, at 8 pm in Gamble Auditorium and will be judged by poets Wyatt Prunty, Rhina Espaillat, and Rachel Wetzsteon. The poet-judges will announce the 2003 Glascock winner after a reading of their own work on Saturday, April 26, at 10:30 am in the library's Stimson Room. They will also participate in a "Life and Letters" conversation Friday at 3 pm in the Stimson Room.

"I sit down to write with only a vague conception of what I will say, but with a clear knowledge of the pattern of the words by which I will say it," says Bustion, who likes the way poetry lets her "weave ideas and language and imagery into lovely patterns." "By the time I have finished writing, I am aware of a pattern not just in the words but in the argument of the poem, an argument whose subtleties I did not consciously prepare before I sat down to write. In the end, I learn something from the poem I have written. Thus, I regard the experience of writing poetry, at least in part, as a conversation—a conversation with my daimon."

After graduating this spring, Bustion hopes to pursue a doctorate and a teaching career, but she plans to continue writing poetry throughout her life. "I feel called to say a few things, which I know I can best say in poetry," she says.

Since 1923, the Kathryn Irene Glascock Poetry Prize Contest has been bringing undergraduate poets into contact with renowned poets. Judges have included W. H. Auden, May Sarton, Elizabeth Bishop, Louise Bogan, Robert Frost, John Crowe Ransom, Denise Levertov, William Carlos Williams, Adrienne Rich, and Derek Walcott. It has also launched the careers of some of the twentieth century's most celebrated poets. Sylvia Plath, Donald Hall, James Merrill, Kenneth Koch, Katha Pollitt, and Gjertrud Schnackenberg were all Glascock winners.

About the 2003 Judges
Wyatt Prunty teaches in the English Department at the University of the South, directs the annual Sewanee Writers' Conference, and edits the Sewanee Writers' Series books published by Johns Hopkins University Press. He is author of a critical book, Fallen from the Symboled World: Precedents for the New Formalism (Oxford University Press, 1990), and six collections of poetry, including Unarmed and Dangerous: New and Selected Poems (Johns Hopkins University Press 1999).

Rhina Espaillat writes poetry, in Spanish and English, for numerous journals and anthologies, and is the author of three collections: Lapsing to Grace (Bennett & Kitchel, 1992); Where Horizons Go (New Odyssey Press, 1998), winner of the 1998 T. S. Eliot Prize; and Rehearsing Absence (University of Evansville Press, 2001), winner of the Richard Wilbur Award. Espaillat is also a past winner of the Howard Nemerov Award and the Sparrow Sonnet Award. She has recently been awarded the National Poetry Book Award and the Stanzas Prize for collections to be published as Playing at Stillness and The Shadow I Dress In.

Rachel Wetzsteon is the author of two books of poems: The Other Stars (Penguin, 1994), which was selected for the National Poetry Series, and Home and Away (Penguin, 1998). She has received an Ingram Merrill grant, and is currently an assistant professor of English at Iona College in New Rochelle, New York.


MHC Students Earn Honorable Mention

The Glascock Committee awarded honorable mentions to two MHC seniors this year: Shannon Winston-Dolan and Kelly Kealy.

Winston-Dolan, who has been taking creative writing classes and joining writing camps and groups since fifth grade, calls poetry a "process of self-examination and renewal" that helps her better understand herself and the world around her. "Journalism is something I really enjoy," says Winston-Dolan, who has written articles for the MHC News and the Chicago Tribune Magazine. "But, I have to admit, my loyalty is to poetry."

Kealy, coeditor with Winston-Dolan of the literary magazine Verbosity, can't remember a time that she didn't write creatively. "Writing poetry is an important part of how I come to understand my personal experience," she says. "It's a form of meditation; by concentrating on how to best represent a particular idea or emotion in language, I'm able to make connections that are suggested not just by my own ideas and emotions but by the language itself." Kealy is considering a career as a reviewer, editor, or travel writer but says that writing poetry will always be part of her life.


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