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2015 Newman Young Writers Awards

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FOUR OKLAHOMA STUDENTS WIN POETRY AWARDS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE       CONTACT: OU Inst. US-China Issues, 405/325-3580

NORMAN, OKLA. – Four Oklahoma students have won 2015 Newman Young Poet’s Awards, a poetry contest held in conjunction with the University of Oklahoma’s Newman Prize for Chinese Literature. They will be honored this Friday March 6 at an awards banquet in OU’s Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art.

The winners are Morgan Brooks, from Midwest City Elementary School, Ahsan Mashruf from Carver Middle School in Tulsa, Lauren Morris from Deer Creek High School in Edmund, and Nicole Emery from the University of Oklahoma, Norman. Each winner will receive a $500 check and a commemorative certificate. 

The four Newman Young Poet’s Award recipients were selected from well over 200 entries from nearly every region of Oklahoma. 

The Newman Prize for Chinese Literature is awarded biennially in recognition of outstanding achievement in prose or poetry that best captures the human condition and is conferred solely on the basis of literary merit. The 2015 Newman Prize will go to Chu T’ien-wen, a Taiwanese fiction writer. Past winners include the Taiwanese poet Yang Mu (2013) and Mainland Chinese novelists Mo Yan and Han Shaogong, who won the 2009 and 2011 Newman Prizes for Chinese Literature. Mo Yan has since been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. 

Beginning in 2013, the Newman Young Poet’s Awards were given to the best Classical Chinese jueju poem written in English following the method invented by Professor Jonathan Stalling at OU. Jeuju is a traditional form of Chinese poetry with four lines of five or seven characters/monosyllabic word lines. In 2013, students composed the five-word version; this year they composed the more challenging seven-word version. The majority of this year’s winners not only followed basic rules of composition (meter, rhyme, and thematic constraint), but also followed rules of parallelism, requiring them to compose their poems both vertically and horizontally at the same time. The winner of the college/adult category accomplished this with tremendous skill. Nicole wrote:

Dark night   dim stars     fresh fog drifts
Gray dusk   pale moon     crisp haze shifts
Clear day    flushed skin   worn thoughts still
Night quits  morn’ breaks  slow hand lifts

If you read the poems horizontally, you will find an exquisite poem that enacts dawn through its rich and evocative imagery. But if you read the poem vertically, you will find the words are composed in columns following the rules of parallelism: “dark” is parallel with “gray” and antiparallel with “clear.” The same is true of the next column: “night” is parallel with “dusk” and anti-parallel with “day” and so on down the line. This pattern represents the ancient Chinese belief that poets should balance the ‘yin and yang’ to restore balance and harmony to the world in every poem. These complex rules make this poetic genre one of the most complicated forms in world literature.  

High school winner Lauren Morris composed a moving verse that instills a powerful image of a wild fire with a delicate choice of words setting in motion the subtle yet frightening power of a Oklahoma grass fire.

sun  glares     wind blows   air stirs leaves
clouds shift   sky  shines    bird cuts breeze
smoke forms  grass burns  homes left bare
land  gone      ash stays       fires won't   cease

Middle school winner Ahsan Mashruf took everyone by surprise with a sophisticated poem marled by a clear use of parallelism and imagery as well as a thematic progression from the natural to the human world:

Bright day    clear   skies    warm light  shines
Warm noon  calm  winds   hot  sun   blinds
Cold  night   fierce shows   breath  like  ice
Red   fire     warms hands   rest  your  mind

Elementary school winner Morgan Brooks struck a deep chord with her evocative poems that bring the reader right into the moment that precedes an oncoming storm. We seem to be right there with her as the storm rolls in and we feel that rush of excitement and awe.

Black comes  night falls   dark blue sky
Grey  clouds    slight lit      see go by
Girls   jump      moist face   strong wind blows
Soft    breeze    lake shines   storm waves high

For more information, please visit the Newman Young Poets Awards homepage. You can also contact:
- Peter Gries, OU Institute for US-China Issues, 405/325-1962
- Jonathan Stalling, OU English Department and Chinese Literature Today, 405/325- 6973