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    Gonzaga students win Parkmont Poetry Contest

    James White ’24, Chris Settle ’25, and Mr. Joseph Ross at the Parkmont Poetry Festival Reading (Photo courtesy of Settle)

    Poetry is a very important part of life for many students and faculty at Gonzaga, especially for those in the Creative Writing Poetry class and Poets & Writers, and it is not often that they receive recognition for their work. The annual Parkmont Poetry Contest is one of those chances students have to receive that recognition.

    Every year Mr. Joe Ross, creative writing poetry class teacher, assigns his students to submit two works of poetry to the contest.

    “I encourage our poets to submit their poems to the Parkmont Poetry Contest because the contest is rigorous. I know they receive many good poems from other high school poets. The contest is run and judged by local D.C. and Maryland poets so I know they will select good poems as winners. Also, they host a beautiful poetry reading for all the winning poets and that’s a great event,” Mr. Ross said.

    The contest, which started in 1982 is sponsored by the Parkmont School in Washington, D.C.’s 16th Street Heights neighborhood. The contest is open to students in middle school and high school from public and private schools throughout the District. Out of the hundreds of poems the contest receives every year, there are only 40 winners: 20 middle school poets and 20 high school poets.

    This year Gonzaga had two students in that select few: James White ‘24 for his poem “Every Sunday” and Chris Settle ‘25 for his poem “Failures.” While the poems were recognized with the same award, they both were unique from each other and the other winners in their writing and inspiration.

    “My poem [“Every Sunday”] is about a mentor, especially when it comes to mentoring someone, especially when it comes to an instrument and kind of that progression of an older mentor,” White said.

    White’s poem features progression and rising throughout life, but Settle’s focuses on the hardships it throws at a person.

    “It [“Failures”] was really about struggles in life and the challenges you face. The poem starts out really depressing at the beginning. It’s an overview of the challenges and things you’ve gone through in life and how you kind of feel like a failure afterwards. Towards the end, that’s when ‘it’s a chance for rebirth, to rise again.’ That last line kind of uplifts you to never quit and to keep going,” Settle said.

    In addition to their contest entries being unique, White and Settle also have had different experiences in writing poetry as well as different writing styles.

    “James and Chris are very different poets, but they are both excellent in their own ways. James writes poems that come right out of his own life and experience. His poems are authentic and brave. He uses language that surprises and moves his readers. He’s been writing poetry for a while and has really become one of our strongest poets in several years. Chris is newer to poetry and writes poems that use more rhyme and rhythm than some poets. He also writes poems directly from his own experience. His poems are real and honest,” Mr. Ross said.

    White and Settle are not only appreciated by Mr. Ross and the Parkmont judges but also by their peers.

    “They’re both talented poets. James has been writing a little longer than Chris, but Chris has definitely grown as a poet over the past couple of years. I really encouraged him to join our creative writing poetry class, and he’s really grown through that class. James was already a strong poet anyways. I feel like they put out really good work. James’ poem was really important because he writes about his feelings and he is really good at that,” said friend and classmate of White and Settle, Julian Washington ‘24.

    Other than White and Settle, six other Gonzaga students were finalists in the contest: Ephram Mersha ‘24, Hayden Soderman ‘24, Malcolm McKenzie ‘24, Cody Hobson ‘24, Anthony Genovese ‘24 and Tomas Vick ‘24. Even though they did not win, being a finalist is still a significant accomplishment.

    “Just knowing that not only the Gonzaga community, but also of everyone else who was submitting to that contest, knowing that my work is appreciated and looked at as something that could win that kind of contest where there’s so many people submitting work. I think it just pushes me to work harder with my work, so possibly entering more competitions like that,” said Vick on what it meant to be named a finalist for his poem “A Molasses Brown.”

    For being named winners in the contest, White and Settle, along with the other winners were invited to read their poems at the Parkmont Poetry Festival Reading (Settle Reading: 25:47-27:00; White Reading: 1:24:20-1:25:53) last month on April 27. In addition to the reading, White and Settle’s poems will be published in a book, which the Parkmont Poetry Festival makes every year, and a gift card.

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