Third-year student wins inaugural poetry award

Award winner Natalia Pack with Writing Centre manager Emmy Misser and WLU English prof James Weldon. (Photo courtesy of Dan Roberts).

Award winner Natalia Pack with Writing Centre manager Emmy Misser and WLU English prof James Weldon. (Photo courtesy of Dan Roberts).

On Friday, April 5, Natalia Pack was invited to the WLU Writing Centre to receive the Weldon and Misser Poetry Award. A third-year student majoring in English and minoring in history, Pack is the first recipient of the award.

James Weldon, associate professor of English, and Emmy Misser, manager of the Writing Centre, created the award this year and attended the presentation to award Pack a certificate and monetary prize. Though both Weldon and Misser are retiring this year, the award will continue to be given out annually.

Weldon and Misser explained that the award is a combination of two of their interests: writing and poetry.

“I wanted to have it involved in poetry because I think in our culture it’s so marginalized,” Weldon said. “I think that’s because people are trained, unfortunately, to think that poetry is…a frill in terms of human values. And of course I don’t think that’s true.”

Misser echoed Weldon’s thoughts, noting that many students are pushed through the university system which emphasises careers and monetary value. According to Misser, there is not much talk about what impact the things students study have on their lives, intellectually and emotionally.

“The amazing thing about poetry and writing is that it connects the mind with the emotions,” she said. She explained that students can write a paper applying theory, but it will not have much effect on them.

“But the minute you really invest yourself in something, then it touches you and that becomes an almost magical moment where poetry and writing intersect,” she continued. “I think I want very much to promote students who study for those reasons.”

As such, Weldon and Misser decided to set up the award, asking professors teaching poetry classes to submit what they thought were the best of their students’ papers. The students were required to be senior undergraduate students who had written on the topic of poetry. Papers were then read and discussed by Bruce Wyse and Tanis MacDonald, who selected Pack’s paper.

“I had kind of forgotten about that essay,” said Pack. “But I was very pleased and happy to know that I had won.”

As Pack is also a tutor at the Writing Centre, Misser commented she was pleased one of tutors had won the award.

“I think it’s a really great award to have at the university,” said Pack. “There aren’t a lot of poetry classes here. I think poetry needs to be appreciated more in university and students should have the chance to learn more about it.”

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