Alum wins Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize for poetry
Elly Bookman '09, who graduated from the Hill with a major in English and a concentration in creative writing, won the first annual Stanley Kunitz Memorial Prize for poetry this summer. Bookman's poem is featured on the back cover of the September/October issue of the American Poetry Review.
"Every once in a while you write something that you weren't expecting to write and it's a great feeling," Bookman said of her award-winning poem, "Another Thing I'd Rather Not Know About Myself."
Bookman and her father were driving from Oregon to their home in Atlanta when she found out that she won the prize. Winning "was very exciting," particularly because it was the "first time [she'd] won anything and the first time [she'd] been published," Bookman said. So really, it was a "day of firsts."
During her senior year of college, Bookman applied for the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) Writing Program at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Greensboro. She deferred her acceptance and spent the past year living in Eugene, OR. There, Bookman worked in a bookstore that offered frequent poetry readings and spent her free time working on her own poetry. "I definitely made a point to write every day," she said.
Bookman is currently in her sixth week of the elite two-year MFA program at UNC, to which only five poets are accepted each year. "The community is a really important part of the program," she said. "There are other students and alumni that you can share your work with and who are able to help you with revisions. And that's something that will really last beyond the program."
Although her idea for the poem had been "incubating" for a while, Bookman's moment of inspiration occurred when she was "sitting in [a] coffee shop and this weird couple came in and they were having a business meeting about their dinner party," she said. "And it was kind of annoying at first, but I just took what they were doing and wrote about it; it all took shape right there."
With this achievement under her belt, Bookman still plans to keep writing every day. As for advice that she offers to aspiring writers: "I guess I'd have to say that you just have to let go of your expectations. Teach yourself how to work on your own and trust that what you're producing is good, and the things that you want to do will work out and become possible at the right time."