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JUNIOR WINS RAGAN POETRY PRIZE AT SAINT VINCENT COLLEGE

Public Relations
Posted: Wednesday Mar 21, 2012

March 22, 2011

Angela Delfine, a junior English major from Pittsburgh (15227), has won first place and a $500 cash prize in the 16th annual Ragan Poetry Competition at Saint Vincent College.

The award will be presented by Michelle Gil-Montero, assistant professor of English at Saint Vincent College, and College President Br. Norman Hipps, O.S.B., at the Spring Honors Convocation in Saint Vincent Basilica on Wednesday, April 25.

Ms. Delfine will read her poem, “You Live,” at a program on the Saint Vincent campus on Monday, March 26 at 7 p.m. in the Fred M. Rogers Center. Admission is free and open to the public.

Poet Kevin Pilkington, who served as judge for this year’s competition and who will also read at the March 26 event, wrote: “The poem begins with the comforting, familiar phrase ‘Once upon a time,’ then quickly turns towards the struggle between the unrealistic perception of the American dream and its reality. The first or second generation, in this case, Irish Catholic, speaker offers a clear narrative in the examination of family and pursuit of understanding one's place in the world. It is a world of low expectations, minimum wage and violence. The speaker challenges the popular assumption of the past until a more contemporary realistic version emerges. In the end, this is a poem about poetic inspiration: what inspires the poet no matter how uninspiring his or her environment may be. No wonder this powerful poem concludes with the following two lines: ‘I could create a distorted perception of this life. And so, I will’.”

Mr. Pilkington is a member of the writing faculty at Sarah Lawrence College. He is the author of six collections of poetry, most recently The Unemployed Man Who Became a Tree (Black Lawrence Press, 2011). His poetry has appeared in many anthologies including: Birthday Poems: A Celebration, Western Wind, and Contemporary Poetry of New England. His poems and reviews have appeared in numerous magazines including: Poetry, Ploughshares, Iowa Review, Boston Review, Yankee, Hayden’s Ferry, Columbia, North American Review, and others. A novel entitled Summer Shares is just out from Arche Books.

Other Ragan Poetry winners who will read include Angela Gartner, a senior English major from Pittsburgh (15289), second place for her poem, “Red Stained Horse;” and Tucker Perkins, a junior English major from Greensburg, third place for his poem, “Bacon.”

Established to recognize and encourage student writing of poetry, the Ragan Poetry Prize competition is made possible by a gift from Dr. James Ragan, a 1966 graduate of Saint Vincent College who also was honored by Saint Vincent in 1990 with the conferral of an honorary doctoral degree. Dr. Ragan is the former Director of the University of Southern California’s Graduate Professional Writing Program and Professor of Poetry at the University of Oklahoma. Dr. Ragan’s poetry has been awarded the Emerson Poetry Prize, the Gertrude Claytor Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, and has been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, two Pushcart Prizes, the Walt Whitman Center Book Award and the PEN Center West Poetry Prize. A Fulbright Senior Lecturer to China and Yugoslavia, he has read his work extensively in Asia and Central and Eastern Europe, including the Moscow International Poetry Forum of 1985 and 1990.

Here is Ms. Delfine’s winning poem:

You Live

Once upon a time
you live your average, ordinary,
lower-middle class
life,

and then you die.

You sing over birthday cakes,
work minimum-wage, retail jobs,
and occasionally get a college degree.

You find your significant other at age 25
(if you’re lucky),
have an old-fashioned,
Irish-Catholic-church-hall wedding,
and pop out one-to-two kids
within the next two years.

You eat,
breathe,
and sleep

average, white-Americanism,

with your alcoholic family
and fondness of fake-Asian cuisine.

And yet, it doesn’t always feel average.

When you walk away
from your inner-city life

to be the first
in your immediate family
to get a college degree.

When your best friend is shot in the head
five times
at the age of 21.

When you first realize that you were placed

on this
damned earth

to do more than
steam macchiatos till 11-o-clock
on a Friday night.

I could write a novel
about
the average-American life.
About broken families
and being alone
and running away.

Running away

from the inner walls of the
filthy city.

I could create a distorted perception of this life.
And so, I will.
 

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PR2012-151