Easton High School student Lilian Smith was announced the Grand Prize winner at the 31st Annual DeSales University High School Poetry Festival held Thursday and Friday, November 5 and 6, in the DeSales University Center.
Smith was honored for her poem “The cat at the window,” selected by contest judge and local poet Paul Martin as the best poem of the more than 200 entered in the annual writing competition. As grand prize awardee, Smith wins a four-year tuition-free scholarship to the University if she decides to attend DeSales upon graduation from high school. The prize is one of the largest offered in poetry at any level nationwide.
Approximately 225 regional high school students and teachers attended the Festival Friday. Students heard a reading and conversation on poetry from Festival Keynote Poet Daniel Donaghy, then took part in poetry workshops conducted by regional writers and poets, including Dr. Stephen Myers, poet and Festival Director, and novelist and Humanities Department Chair Juilene Osborne-McKnight. The event concluded with a one-hour open mic poetry reading in which the gathered students took part.
In addition to Smith, other student honorees included Saria Rosenhaj of Abington Friends School, who won the Carol Ann Robertson Prize for her poem “Plum.” Honorable mention winners included Lucia Finney, also of Abington Friends School, Alex McCue and Cameron McColgan, both of Southern Lehigh High School, and Lily Sobrinski of Stroudsburg High School.
Donaghy, professor of English at Eastern Connecticut State University, kicked off the Festival Thursday night with a public reading for the campus and general community. Born and brought up in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, Donaghy graduated from Kutztown University, He went on to complete his MFA in poetry at Cornell University, studying under A.R. Ammons, and afterwards began his teaching career at Allendale-Columbia High School, Rochester, New York. He then earned a Ph.D. in English from the University of Rochester and subsequently began teaching Creative Writing at East Connecticut State University, where he is now a full professor of English.
Donaghy is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Start With the Trouble and Streetfighting and two poetry chapbooks. His poems have been published in many of America's best literary journals including Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, River Styx, and Tar River Poetry. He has received artist grants from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism and the Constance Saltonstall Foundation.
Other distinguished poets who have served as Keynote Poet over the years include Hayden Carruth, Galway Kinnell, Thomas Lux, Paul Muldoon, and Sonia Sanchez. Last year’s Keynote Poet, Ross Gay, is currently one of five nominees for the National Book Award for Poetry. His book is entitled Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude.
The annual Poetry Festival is regularly supported by the offices of Academic Affairs, Enrollment Services, and Student Life; the Division of Liberal Arts and Social Science, and the Humanities Department.
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