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Seventh annual DeClercq prize poets to be honored April 16


Serene Vannoy, left, Lauren Galvin, and Heidi Torkelson-Varian took top honors in the 2012 DeClercq Poetry Contest.  

  • March 14, 2012

Serene Vannoy, a senior majoring in the creative writing option of English at Cal State East Bay, has taken first place in the annual Helen “Jackie” DeClercq Poetry Contest for her entry titled “Useless.”

Vannoy, as well as second prize recipient Lauren Galvin and third prize recipient Heidi Torkelson-Varian, will read their winning poems at 7 p.m. Monday, April 16 in the Biella Room of the University Library on the Hayward Campus of Cal State East Bay, 25800 Carlos Bee Blvd. The Distinguished Writers Program, including readings by internationally-known poet Lorna Dee Cervantes, will be presented by the English Department in celebration of National Poetry Month.

The contest issues awards of $250, $100, and $50 for the three top entries, while also recognizing honorable mention poetry. All CSUEB students were eligible to enter.

“Poetry is alive and well at Cal State East Bay," said Susan Gubernat, professor of English and contest supervisor. "We received 179 pages of poetry from students across the university vying for the DeClercq award. We five judges are convinced that, beyond the winners, there are also so many wonderful poets on campus, poets you will pass daily on your trips back and forth to classes or to the bookstore or the science lab or to the library. 

“While the DeClercq prize honors the winners, it also honors all those who hear the call of the heart that poetry represents, a call much needed today,” she said.

Vannoy’s entry stems from a near-death experience in 1990 following a diagnosis of thyroid cancer two years earlier. Galvin, a junior in liberal studies with a minor in human development, wrote, “Mixing Paint,” she said to preserve the memory and history of her family. Torkelson-Varian, a first year graduate student in the creative writing option of English, wrote her poem, “Jeep Guy,” as a class assignment when Gubernat directed students to observe an object and consider what it brings to mind. 

Honorable mentions went to Christopher Dizon, a junior in English, for "Dad's Birds, Mom's Bees," and to Sara Courter, a senior in English, for, "I Dropped By During Lunch."

Dizon’s entry deals with the awkwardness of public speaking, while Courter’s poem captures the essence of her elderly grandparents.

Judges were Kathy and John DeClercq, family members of the late, long-time CSUEB employee Jackie DeClercq, whose bequest has funded the award; Stephen Gutierrez, professor of English and head of the creative writing program; Aline Soules, a university librarian, and Gubernat. Gutierrez, Soules and Gubernat are published authors.

The winning poems will be published in “Occam’s Razor,” the English Department’s literary magazine, which is due out in late-spring.

While poems of any subject were eligible, the emphasis was on those celebrating aspects of family life.

CSUEB welcomes persons with disabilities and will provide reasonable accommodation upon request. Please notify event sponsor in advance at (510) 885-3151 if accommodation is needed. Campus parking is $2 per hour at meters or in pay lots. 

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