By Julia Snyder, senior English and communication major from Murrysville, Pa.
LATROBE, PA — 2019 Saint Vincent College graduate Bridget Fertal has been awarded the Allen Ginsberg Fellowship to attend Naropa University's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics starting in the fall of 2020. She will earn an MFA in Creative Writing in the school’s residency program.
As a fellow, Fertal will receive full funding (tuition and fees), an additional $5,000 scholarship, as well as a $3,000 stipend as compensation for duties performed as a requirement of the fellowship. Fellowship recipients are trained in pedagogy and have an opportunity to teach college-level writing or work in the writing center.
Fertal said she credits her liberal arts education at Saint Vincent for the graduate and fellowship opportunities she has now.
“As an English major, I read dozens of books each semester, mostly in my English classes,” Fertal said, “but also in philosophy, history, theology and other classes. The depth of knowledge to which I was exposed through reading was crucial to my becoming so drawn to poetry and poetics. Each course brought a new meaning to the next, and each new philosophy, theory, movement, story and poem I studied amassed into a foundation on which to write.”
As a student, Fertal joined the staff of The Review, Saint Vincent’s student-run newspaper, and the staff of Generation, the college’s student-run literary magazine. She quickly rose through the ranks of both publications, serving as the editor-in-chief of The Review for two years and leading Generation in the same position for one year. She also worked as an intern at Eulalia Books, a small press publisher of poetry in translation housed at Saint Vincent.
“Some of my fondest memories from college are being huddled together with a small group of students designing a literary magazine, sewing chapbooks, planning the next newspaper, reading poetry—small, fervent moments of learning,” Fertal said.
A self-described shy individual, Fertal said Saint Vincent faculty helped her develop confidence in her abilities. “I often struggled to speak up in discussion-based class settings and sharing my writing with my peers in workshops was a challenge,” Fertal said. “I think my professors can attest that I grew more confident as each semester passed. My professors challenged me, and I in turn challenged myself.”
Michelle Gil-Montero, associate professor of English, saw Fertal’s talent evolve in creative writing workshops.
“I will never forget the semester in Poetry Workshop when her sometimes laconic lyrics exploded into long horizontal lines with a whole new range of sonic textures,” Gil-Montero, who is also the editor for Eulalia Books, said. “Since that moment, she has been unafraid to play with new forms (laundry lists, dictionaries, mini-essays) and methods (research-poem, collage, epistolary).”
Originally hailing from Lititz, Pennsylvania, Fertal has made Pittsburgh her home. Since graduating from Saint Vincent, she has worked at Fishes & Loaves, a nonprofit food services provider in the Hazelwood neighborhood of Pittsburgh, through the Americorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program. Fertal also still works with Eulalia Books, now as the managing editor.
“Looking back, it's hard to believe how greatly Saint Vincent and the English department nurtured my growth, giving me the insight, tenacity, and passion to push myself both in college and now as I pursue an MFA,” Fertal said. “Just as Saint Vincent gave me a passionate group of people with whom to work, I look forward to the similar sense of community and personalized learning that Naropa University offers.”
Gil-Montero joins Fertal in seeing a bright future: “Bridget is a poet who reads well and often, absorbs influence, restlessly experiments and revises; for these reasons, she is poised to grow immensely throughout her career.”