Apocalyptic, Urbane, Insightful

Professor Timothy Keane, Keziah Tutu, Rey Harris, Abner Valenzuela, Irina K. Groushevaia, Christina Rodriguez, Enzo Scavone, Jason Kocsis. Not shown: Kyle Fraser

Professor Timothy Keane, Keziah Tutu, Rey Harris, Abner Valenzuela, Irina K. Groushevaia, Christina Rodriguez, Enzo Scavone, Jason Kocsis. Not shown: Kyle Fraser
May 9, 2014

The 10th annual English Department Faculty Writing Awards were recently held in Richard Harris Terrace on the BMCC main campus. Eight student writers received awards for their writing, two students presented a musical interlude, and renown novelist and poet Jeffrey Renard Allen delivered keynote remarks.

Jeffrey Renard Allen’s latest novel is The Song of the Shank, from Graywolf Press. He is also the author of Rails Under my Back, which won the Chicago Tribune’s Heartland prize for fiction. He authored two collections of poetry; Stella Places and Harbors and Spirits, and holds the position of Associate Professor of English at Queens College, CUNY.

BMCC Professor of English Timothy Keane introduced Allen, who described himself as the first person in his family to attend college.

“As a kid, I wrote for fun, and it always came naturally to me,” he said, adding that “writing is paradoxical; the stuff that is most interesting is often unplanned … as hard as writing is for me, when I’m not writing, I’m miserable.”

In closing, he read an excerpt from his novel The Song of the Shank, which is based on the musical genius and historical figure Thomas Greene Wiggins, a nineteenth-century slave who performed under the name “Blind Tom.”

Meeting challenges

Professor Adele Kudish presented the First Prize of $250 for Memoir to student Abner Valenzuela. “The committee was taken by the thoughtfulness and humor of his piece about his family,” she said.

Kyle Fraser was presented with First Prize, $250 by Professor Page Delano for his essay which “brought up a new way of reading,” she said, of the well known 19th-century short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman.

Professor Cheryl Fish presented the Honorable Mention award of $50 to Irina K. Groushevaia for her essay about the movie Mildred Pierce and another from Romania; both focusing on “sacrificial mothers hiding behind a mask,” as Groushevaia put it, thanking her professors for their support and sharing that “I grew up in Russia, went to high school in Russia and writing in English has been a challenge.”

Musical Interlude

In the middle of the award program, the audience was treated to two musical performances.

Tenor De Long Le sang “Some Enchanted Evening,” a show tune from the 1949 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific.

Kishawn Francis, baritone, sang the 18th-century aria now attributed to Tommaso Giordani, “Caro Mio Ben.”

Music Professor Christine Free accompanied each singer on piano, and both she and Professor Eugenia Yau guided their performance.

From urban settings to Victorian times

BMCC Writing Center Director Jason Schneiderman presented the First Prize in Poetry, $250, to Jason Kocsis, praising his work for its “urban settings and urbane wit.”

Award winner Keziah Tutu is “always curious and deeply insightful in class, and the same qualities come through in her poetry,” said Professor Elizabeth Berlinger as she presented her with the $50 Honorable Mention prize in Poetry.

Professor Berlinger also presented an Honorable Mention in Fiction award of $50 to Rey Harris, who read from, as he put it, “an post-apocalyptic story about the struggle to learn faith and God.”

Professor Adele Kudish presented Enzo Scavone with the First Prize of $250 in Fiction, and he read from one of his subway stories, thanking his professors for their support.

Last of all, English Professor Carlos Hernandez presented an Honorable Mention award of $50 to Christina Rodriguez for her story featuring a young female protagonist in Victorian London and inspired by the Alice Sebold novel, The Lovely Bones.

Generous support

The Faculty Writing Awards were made possible by the efforts of many people including members of the Writing and Literature Committee: Professors Elizabeth Berlinger, Trisha Brade, Page Delano, Cheryl J. Fish, Carlos Hernandez, Timothy Keane, Adele Kudish and Jason Schneiderman.

Donors who contributed to the awards included W.W. Norton, Inc.; Thomas Ching, Cheryl J. Fish, John Gallagher, Doris Hart, Joyce Hart, Diane Simmons and Lara Stapleton.

The 10th Annual English Department Faculty Awards were offered in memory of English department Professors Laurence Berkley and Sheila Klass.

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  • 10th Annual English Department Faculty Writing Awards provide cash prizes to gifted student writers
  • Novelist and poet Jeffrey Renard Allen delivers keynote remarks
  • He also reads from his new novel, The Song of the Shank

share this story »