SU creative writing students win Atlantic Monthly awards
SU creative writing students win Atlantic Monthly awardsApril 12, 2005Roxanna Carpenterrocarpen@syr.edu
Creativity, a cherished attribute of student writing, is what makes the cut in The Atlantic Monthly’s annual student writing competition. And Syracuse University students have been named winners or finalists in this competition for several years running.
This year, Courtney Queeney and Immy Wallenfels, graduate students in SU’s creative writing program in The College of Arts and Sciences, carry on the winning tradition. Queeney and Wallenfels, both of Syracuse, entered several poems each in the magazine’s annual student writing contest. Queeney’s “Ghazal of the Ungotten” placed third. Honorable mention went to Wallenfels for her poem “To Tashunkewitko (Crazy Horse) Concerning Red Iron.” Both students are third-year poets at SU, working toward master of fine arts degrees in creative writing and poetry in May. Both have been writing since they were young.
Queeney describes herself as a “huge bookworm,” reading extensively and writing since she was a little kid. “I read walking across the street, in class under my desk, at four in the morning,” she says. And she counted herself fortunate “to have a father who bought me all kinds of irreverent literature when I was young, like Kurt Vonnegut and Hunter S. Thompson, to balance out the Laura Ingalls Wilder I found on my own.”
Similarly, Wallenfels took up writing at a young age. “I started writing poetry at nine,” she says. “In my early 20s, I wrote a handful of breakthrough poems, one of them later published in The Classical Outlook.” She pursued writing because she wanted to create more of what she liked to read. In addition to poetry, Wallenfels also writes fiction and drama.
A University Fellow, Queeney has been writing poetry seriously since her junior year in college, when she participated in a poetry workshop with Lucille Clifton, poet and visiting professor at Duke University, during Queeney’s undergraduate years. Clifton brought in a poem by Sharon Olds “that took the top of my head off; it was the first time I’d read anything, in any genre, that I felt was speaking directly to me,” says Queeney, “I’ve been possessed ever since.”
Queeney doesn’t lay claim to a wide array of creativity beyond poetry, lamenting she doesn’t “have enough time to read and write as it is.” She does admit, however, to a love for travel. She studied a semester in England at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford University, as an undergraduate and lived a year in the Dominican Republic and a summer in Argentina before coming to SU. Ultimately, though, she says, “All I really need to be happy is a library, a computer, and someone to talk to about books.”
Before enrolling in SU’s graduate creative writing program, Queeney attended Duke University, graduating magna cum laude in 2000 with high honors in English; Wallenfels completed a master’s degree in literary criticism and a bachelor’s degree in English at the SUNY College at Oswego. At SU, Queeney and Wallenfels have worked together in a small poetry workshop, writing, critiquing the work of others in the group and revising their own. They also work closely with thesis advisors. For Queeney, it’s Mary Karr, University Professor of English Literature. Brooks Haxton, professor of English, advises Wallenfels.
The poetry submitted to The Atlantic Monthly contest had to be original, unpublished work. Queeney’s “Ungotten” is a ghazal, a Persian form “written in rhyming couplets. It is generally erotic and often includes the poet’s name in the last couplet,” Queeney says. She notes that her winning poem had actually been rejected by other publications.
Wallenfels’ poem, “Crazy Horse” brought her honorable mention, which she considers “a great honor for me.” She said, “The Atlantic Monthly contest draws entries from across the nation, including the best writing programs in the country.” Queeney’s win netted her a $250 award; Wallenfels received a one-year subscription to The Atlantic Monthly. Formal announcement of the student contest winners is expected in the May 2005 issue.
This year, the annual contest in The Atlantic Monthly pulled in a pool of nearly 2,000 entrants, according to Karr. Says Queeney, “I never would have won any prize for any poem without the attention and inspiration I’ve gotten from my teachers here as well as the other students in my program.”