MIDWEST CITY 1ST GRADER, MOORE 8TH GRADER, OKC 11TH GRADER, AND TULSA UNDERGRADUATE WIN 2013 NEWMAN YOUNG POET’S AWARDS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: OU Inst. for US-China Issues, 405/325-3580
NORMAN, OK – Four Oklahoma K-16 students have been chosen as the winners of the 2013 Newman Young Poet’s Awards. They are 1) Donovan Helterbrand, a 1st grader at East Side Elementary in Midwest City, 2) Aaliyah Elders, an 8th grader at Highland East Junior High in Moore, 3) Casey Cai, an 11th grader at the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics in Oklahoma City, and 4) Spencer McCoy, an undergraduate at the University of Tulsa.
The Four winners will each receive a $500 check and a commemorative certificate at an awards banquet at OU this Thursday evening, March 7. The event will be hosted by the OU Institute for US-China Issues.
The K-16 poetry contest was held in conjunction with the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature, which 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 2013 Newman Prize will go to Yang Mu, a Taiwanese poet famous for his integration of classical and modern Chinese and western poetic influences. Mainland Chinese novelists Mo Yan and Han Shaogong won the 2009 and 2011 Newman Prizes for Chinese Literature respectively. Mo Yan has since been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
To honor Yang Mu’s poetry, this year’s Newman Young Poet’s Awards were given to the best Classical Chinese jueju style poem written in English. Jueju is a rich and complex art form that has been composed for nearly two millennia. The method of writing jueju in English is just over a decade and a half old, however. It was created by Dr. Jonathan Stalling at UC Berkeley in 1997 at the request of the poet June Jordan, who, once having heard Chinese poetry sung aloud, “wanted to hear its music in English.” Stalling formulated a way to compose English verse following all the rules and regulations the form required of Chinese writers. Over the years, he has taught the form as a way of sharing classical Chinese poetics with his American college students and with others in outreach programs—from homeless shelters and prisons to middle schools and writers colonies. This is the first time, however, that jueju have been composed by so many students across such a broad range of ages. There were nearly 350 submissions from every region of Oklahoma.
Donovan Helterbrand, a first grader from East Side Elementary in Midwest City, was the Elementary school winner:
At night cold rain falls Mouse runs big brown halls Mouse stops huge black door He’s scared dark tail tall
His poem immediately jumped out as a contender from the beginning. Not only did it follow all the poetic requirements of syllable counts and rhymes, but it also managed to use the form to impart a stirringly atmospheric narrative, both adorable and ominous in perfect measures. Note the sensitive setting of the scene in the first line followed by evocative images like “huge black door” and “dark tail tall” that signal a small drama unfolding just out of view.
Aaliyah Elders, an 8th grader from Highland East Junior High in Moore, was the Middle School winner:
crisp air frost filled breeze sleet gleams ice cloaked trees fierce winds strength takes lives flakes fall snow fills seas
Her poem effortlessly sailed past all the required rules and regulations, and included arresting images such as “ice cloaked trees,” followed by a turn in her third line toward a near apocalyptic yet beautiful image of a world where “snow fills seas.”
The High School category was the most competitive. Not only were there plenty of well written verse, but more than a dozen young poets tried their hand at the “level two difficulty” form, which requires strict parallelism for all words in the first three lines, requiring them to compose the poems vertically and horizontally at the same time. Many did accomplish this feat, but it was the more basic form that came out on top. Casey Cai, an 11th grader from OKC’s Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics won:
Dark fog low gray air Dawn gleams teal sea glare Light rain clear blue sky Look up dusk swirls there
Casey’s poem was one of three in this category that seemed to be Chinese written in English. Of all the winners, hers was the best example of thematic progression. It begins in the pre-light morning, shifting to dawn, then to afternoon, and finally to a stirring twilight moment – all within a line that grammatically evokes the ending of China’s most famous jueju, Li Bai’s poem “Night Thoughts,” which ends: “looking down, I miss my old home.”
Finally, the college winner, Spencer McCoy, offered the most original use of the form:
Sparks drift glints new dew Fire flies warm breath blew Cold walks close fresh bloom Ice burns glare eyed blue
Spencer utilizes the inherent collage-like nature of the form to illuminate striking world combinations where drifting sparks “glint new dew.” But there was something about this poem’s final line that made it stand out above the others: “Ice Burns, glare eyed blue.” Here the poet fuses the Chinese rhythm and imagery of the form with that perennial western poetic device of metaphor remaking ice into an eye so blue it becomes ice again.
For more information, please visit the Newman Young Poet’s Prize homepage. You can also contact:
- Peter Gries, The University of Oklahoma, 405/325-1962.
- Jonathan Stalling, The University of Oklahoma, 405/325-6973.
If you like word games, poetry, or both, try your hand at this year’s Newman Young Writers Award sponsored by the Institute for US-China Issues at the University of Oklahoma.
This year four $500 prizes will be awarded to Oklahoma K-16 studentsor classes (Elementary, Middle, High School, and college). The winning English language poems must follow the rules of Classical Chinese Poetry. The competition only runs for one month so do not delay (January 25 - February 25, 2013). Winners will be invited to the University of Oklahoma to receive their $500 award at the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature awards banquet on March 7, 2013.
In addition to the Newman Prize for Chinese Literature, every two years the Institute for US-China Issues sponsors the Newman Young Writers Award. In years past Oklahoma high school students have written both fiction and creative non-fiction in ways inspired by the first two winners of the Newman Prize (Mo Yan, who is also this year’s Nobel Prize winner for Literature, and Han Shaogong). This year the prize will be awarded to the Taiwanese poet Yang Mu. To honor his work (which fuses classical and modern elements), this year’s Newman Young Writers Award will be awarded to the best Classical Chinese poems written in English following the rules that make Chinese poetry such a rich and complex art form.
This year we will also be awarding four prizes, for elementary, middle, high school, and college students respectively. Submissions can be composed by individual students or collectively by whole classes. Due to the many cultural, artistic, and linguistic elements that enrich this complex form of poetry, we encourage not only English and Chinese classes to participate, but also social studies, history, art, music, drama, as well as AP classes among others. If a collectively written poem is selected as the winner, the class will receive the money instead of an individual student. In either case, 20 words = $500.
Professor Jonathan Stalling's instructional video below will lead teachers (and ambitious students) through the basic elements of the most famous genre of Classical Chinese poetry, the “jueju.” Professor Stalling is the creator of this genre of English poetry, and will judge the submissions. In addition to the video, the PDF files below the video can be downloaded and printed out for use in the classroom (or at home).