Posted on: April 14, 2022 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Graphic by Sarah Schudt

By Emma Gomez, Arts & Entertainment Editor

Moraine Valley poets let their talent show through the power of their voices and original poetry during the second annual MV Poetry Contest & Virtual Coffeehouse event on Wednesday. 

The contest took place in honor of National Poetry Month, which was started by the Academy of National Poets in 1966 as a way to showcase poets’ talent and creativity and give them their rightful place in society. The Coffeehouse, which took place via WebEx, gave poets the opportunity to read their submissions live on camera, and some writers read additional pieces they had created.

“Poetry plays such an important role in our culture and in our lives,” said communications and journalism instructor Lisa Couch, who emceed and helped organize the event.

The event was sponsored by a trio of Moraine organizations: The Glacier student newspaper, the library, and the communications department, with one judge representing each to decide the winners. Poet and literature professor Carey Millsap-Spears, who read some of her own poems to start the event, represented the communications department. The other judges were librarian Alicia Diaz and Glacier editor-in-chief Mariah Trujillo.

Four awards were given: Grand Prize, Runner-Up, Best Performance and Student Choice.

Wren Theriault reads their poem “A Day Doesn’t Go By,” which won Grand Prize

Grand Prize went to the best overall submission. Wren Theriault won for “A Day Doesn’t Go By,” which one judge praised for the “sonic nature of the poem.” Another judge said that it was “clever, bitter, and sobering,” and that it captured “the haunting memory of a violent act through the eyes of the victim.”

Theriault, who was unable to attend the Coffeehouse due to work obligations, found out about the win later.

“I’m a little surprised,” Theriault said. “I kind of submitted my piece without thinking too much into it after one of my professors posted a link on our Canvas. It was like a ‘why not?’ moment.”

Runner-Up went to the submission the judges deemed second best overall, Farheen Dogar’s “A Modern Sufi Muse.” One judge called it “playful, charming, and oh-so-relatable.” Another judge liked “the images and the dream sequence,” saying the transition from dream to wakefulness stood out. 

“I feel really honored by getting runner-up,” Dogar said. “I also feel blessed that the poem I wrote was understood in the context I used.”

Best Performance went to the poet with the best flow, delivery, audio quality and emphasis. Nick Stulga took home that prize for his poem “Omnia,” which was a self-reflection on perfectionism and trying to be someone you’re not for someone else.

Farheen Dogar reading her poem ‘A Modern Sufi Muse,” which won Grand Prize Runner Up

“I didn’t expect my performance to be the best or the most captivating,” Stulga said. “There were a lot of other really good performances, so it was a really tough pick.”

Deana Elhit won the Student Choice Award with “My Beloved Palestine,” a poem about the #FreePalestine conflict that took place last summer. This award, which was new this year, was determined during the live event through an anonymous poll of those attending.

“I was overjoyed,” Elhit said. “This poem is very personal to me as it dives into the the feeling of being a Palestinian in the diaspora, as we are exiled from our right of return as refugees.”

Other finalists for the Student Choice Award, in addition to those by Theriault, Dogar, and Stulga, were Zoey Whitlow’s “me the sun and the moon” and Bayan Ahmad’s “Forget Your Name.”

Millsap-Spears said that “the poems were very good” and that she “appreciated the students sharing them with all of us.” 

The event didn’t go without a hitch, however. Troy Swanson, the event moderator and Moraine library department chair, had difficulties getting some of the audio to work. He instead had to play some of the poems from a phone through his microphone. Elhit ended up speaking her poem through a phone call to Swanson due to audio difficulties on her end.

“Good thing that we’re recording this so we can look back and remember these moments when we’re back to face-to-face and it’s much easier,” Swanson said.

Couch said she hopes next year to be able to hold the event in person “so we can socialize, hear some live music along with the poetry, and actually enjoy some coffee and treats together!”

Nick Stulga reading his poem “Omnia,” which won Best Performance

Between poetry readings, poets shared where they got their inspiration. Stulga shared that he gets his inspiration while working out at the gym, mostly while doing cardio or in between sets. Dogar gets inspired from random things she sees during the day such as an autumn leaf that led her to write about it.

“All the poets did a very good job,” Stulga said. “But I think Wren’s poem is really the one that stuck with me the most.”

Theriault started writing poetry in middle school but didn’t start taking it seriously until high school. Theriault also did music for some years, which led to writing becoming an outlet for self-expression.

“It lets you almost have this out-of-body experience where you can write about something closely related but not address it completely,” Theriault said. “What I learned though is that it’s not entirely healthy to be ignoring your problems, duh.”

Dogar also started writing poetry during high school. She shared that writing is a way to express her emotions. To her and the other poets, poetry is the final key to help unlock their identities.

“Poetry to me is part of my psyche,” Dogar said.