This fall, we created the Poetry for Life Scholarship, which was open to applicants of any college major or intended major. It’s just one of the ways we want to emphasize our commitment to Poetry for Life.
In the end, we chose a winner and two finalists—and it was a hard choice between these top three applicants. Each student was asked to submit four original poems of any length and two brief statements about their poetry journey and their poetry writing process. We wanted to get a clear picture of how poetry fits in the lives of these students and where they might go with it in the future.
One of the two finalists is Dylan Mathews, a college freshman who lives in Lyons, Colorado, and is studying Music and Creative Writing at Front Range Community College in Longmont, Colorado. All students who applied received free gifts, and as a finalist Dylan additionally received a print copy of How to Read a Poem and a surprise check for $25.
Says Dylan about the Poetry for Life Scholarship, “It was timely. I had been writing poems for creative writing class and they were ready to go. I also needed to pay for tuition, and the scholarship was a good place to start applying. ”
As to his favorite poets, he notes five and says this about each:
Walt Whitman: In a way, he reinvented poetry for the new world he lived in. Not just as the father of free verse, but because he had seen a wide range of life in America, and wrote about all of it, which inspired future poets perhaps more than anybody of his generation.
Lew Welch: I’m often drawn to the lesser known figures of a historical movement. Lew has been all but lost on history, but he was a man who largely helped bridge the gap between the 1950’s beat generation and the 1960’s hippies.
Shel Silverstein: Shel did two things to poetry I admire. He updated rhyming verse poetry from the now archaic “classical” poets to the twentieth century, and he helped turn satire into a more sophisticated and meaningful art form.
Marty McConnell: She has a style for the modern day that is provocative but is deep and meaningful, and doesn’t alienate audiences for being too over the top. Second, her delivery of spoken word poetry is nothing short of masterful.
Gary Snyder: I’ve lived a large part of my life outdoors. Gary Snyder’s poems of living close to the earth have always been ones I could relate to.
To the question of favorite poems of all time, Dylan offered three: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge; The Perfect High, by Shel Silverstein ; and A Supermarket in California, by Allen Ginsberg.
Dylan’s go-to writing snack and drink partly made us go to the dictionary (not the chocolate part, silly): dark chocolate and peppermint tea. Occasionally a sip of absinthe.
His poems were chosen as one of the finalist entries for their imagery, heart, and grit. Here is one of the shorter poems we enjoyed from Dylan:
O, under open white sky,
I’ll watch the grey kaleidoscope
dusting and swirling, like the hope
of a white winter, cold and dry.
The icy sharp bite brings a slow
cutting blow, where the birds no longer fly.
Steaming cider and hot tea;
The people walking glance, and pass
by the windows, huddled like cats,
Shivering and grinning. Pleased.
Nothing but barren trees and dead grass
on the corner of Pennsylvania and Thirteenth.
Lit log-piled hearth fire,
I see a shadow tango in the firelight.
I feel an ember smolder with delight,
And hear the long-lost plucking of a lyre
who echoes; breaking through the sight
of a cracked, and trans dimensional mirror.
We wish Dylan a continued life with poetry and hope to hear some of his music someday.
Your support makes it possible to extend the generosity of programs like the Poetry for Life Scholarship. Meet the supporters who helped make this scholarship possible for the 2014-2015 year: