Bruce Guernsey, a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Eastern Illinois University, was the judge for the 2016 Lowell-Grabill Creative Writing contest. Guernsey held a Master Class for finalists where he read and discussed the poems of Abraham Lincoln.
Before presenting the awards, Guernsey, a prolific poet and writer himself, gave a reading of poems from From Rain, his selected poems from 1970-2010. Guernsey’s poetry is observational and experiential, much of it serving as a way to work out his thoughts and ideas on what he’s seen, heard, and encountered.
“Much of my motivation for writing poems to begin with …came from wanting to do so during the Vietnam War. One of my students came back in a body bag, and I needed some way to express my feelings and emotions, and I turned to poetry…never in the world would I have thought that I’d write poetry, but I tried,” said Guernsey.
After the reading, Guernsey commended the finalists on their excellent work and creative talents.
“I had a great experience reading your work. This is the best collection of stuff I’ve read as a judge,” said Guernsey, going on to explain that he had added an Honorable Mention award in order to recognize even more works by the student writers.
Another addition to the Lowell-Grabill Awards ceremony this year was the presentation of the Brett Foster Prize in Poetry, an award sponsored by Guernsey in memory of the late Dr. Brett Foster, former English department faculty and Wheaton’s Poet in Residence who passed away in November 2015. Guernsey, a good friend of Foster’s, presented the award to Namrata Geisinger, ’16, for her poem “To Dr. Foster, Yours Fondly.”
The winners of the Lowell-Grabill Awards were as follows:
- First: Emma Sargent, “The Bicycle”
- Second: Lydia Nelson, “The Border”
- Third: Ciera Horton, “The Oven Bird Problem”
- Honorable Mention: Rebecca Fox, “A Brief History of Heartbreak”
- First: Emma Sargent, “Birthing Season”
- Second: ChinHsin Esther Kao, “Things I Can’t Explain”
- Third: Aseye Agamah, “Body Study”
- Honorable Mention: Hunter Hambrick, “On Magic Tricks”
- First: Shyanne Figueroa Bennet, “What Is Left”
- Second: Anna Claire Gall, “In the Field”
- Third: Joshua Moreno, “The Educated, The Wise”