“Hello, Kidney Disease” earned Rebekka Paulsen first place in Highline College’s 2016 Student Poetry Contest.

Paulsen was one of 60 writers who submitted 113 poems during the contest, which is a prelude to Highline’s fourth annual celebration of National Poetry Month in April. (See Poetry Month Event Schedule for details).

“When writing the poem I was inspired by my father’s coming to terms with his hereditary kidney disease,” said Paulsen, who is in her second year at Highline College as a Running Start student. She noted that her father is living with 10 percent kidney function while awaiting a second transplant.

“My father is a courageous man who has worked hard to delay the progression of kidney disease. While he knew at a young age that he had anomalies in his kidney function, it did not begin to impact his life until I was in upper elementary.”

Born and raised in south King County, Paulsen will graduate from Highline in June, earning simultaneously her associate degree and high school diploma. In the fall, she will attend Anderson University in Anderson, Indiana, where she will study dance performance, English and French. Her goal is to become a dance instructor and author/poet. Winning the contest earned the 18-year-old a $125 cash prize.

“The judges were very moved by ‘Hello, Kidney Disease;’ its knockout punch caught us off guard as the speaker addresses the illness which curtails her father’s life. The poet’s skills are most evident in the controlled voice and final epic leap,” said Susan Rich, who serves on the Poetry Month committee and is a Highline faculty member and published poet herself. (Why does poetry matter? Read Rich’s take below.).

Second place, with a prize of $100, went to Kelvin Hernandez of SeaTac for his poem “The Truth of the Bicycle.”

Hello, Kidney Disease by Rebekka Paulsen

Rebekka Paulsen’s winning entry, “Hello, Kidney Disease”

Third place and $75 went to Tatyana Byrd of Burien for “Golden Beauties.”

Honorable mention, along with a cash prize of $25, went to seven students (listed in alphabetical order):

  • Shari Douglass, Auburn: “Sandra Speaks”
  • Kim Huynh, Auburn: “Where I’m From”
  • Braxton James: “Young Hood Struggle”
  • Sam McCullough, Des Moines: “Grandpa Ed”
  • Vivian Ngo, SeaTac: “When Will I Have My Own Final Draft?”
  • Harper S. Villani, Federal Way: “Numb”
  • Yelena Voronin, Normandy Park: “L’hiver”

The contest required students to submit poems that were no more than 20 lines and could fit onto an 8 1/2-by-11-inch piece of paper. The winning poems will be displayed as broadsides April 7–May 31 in the Highline Library Exhibits and Art Gallery.

Loosely defined as single sheets of paper printed on one side, broadsides were the most diverse form of brief, single-occasion publishing before the Civil War. Although broadsides were first introduced in England, they became a prime means of communication in the United States, often posted in the town square. Later, Harlem Renaissance, Concrete and Beat writers claimed the broadside as a below-the-radar way to get their words out onto the streets.

Highline will honor contest winners and finalists with a reception and poetry reading April 12, 1:30 p.m., in the Library Exhibits and Art Gallery. The students’ poems will be on display alongside those of published poets Rick Barot and Claudia Castro Luna, both of whom will give readings during the month-long celebration. All events are free and open to the public.

Questions?
Susan Rich: (206) 592-3253, srich@highline.edu
Deborah Moore: (206) 592-3518, dmoore@highline.edu

Poetry Month Event Schedule

Poetry Month events are free and open to the public. All events will be held on Highline’s main campus. The Library Exhibits and Art Gallery (Building 25, 4th floor) is open Monday–Friday, 7 a.m.–9 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.–4 p.m.; and Sunday, 2–9 p.m.

Poetry Exhibit
April 7–May 31
Highline Library Exhibits and Art Gallery

Poetry Open Mic
April 8, 1:30–2:30 p.m.
Writing Center: Building 26, room 319

Poetry Reading and Reception for Student Contest Winners and Finalists
April 12, 1:30–3 p.m.
Library Exhibits and Art Gallery: Building 25, 4th floor

Spoken Word Workshop and Open Mic Presented by Scribe
April 13, 11 a.m.–2 p.m.
Highline Student Union: Building 8, Mt. Constance room

Leija Farr, Seattle Youth Poet Laureate: Poetry Reading
April 14, 12:30–1:30 p.m.
Highline Student Union: Building 8, Intercultural Center

Claudia Castro Luna: Poetry Reading and Writing Workshop
April 20, 11 a.m.–1:15 p.m.
Highline Student Union: Building 8, Mt. Constance room

Rick Barot: Poetry Reading and Writing Workshop
April 26, 11 a.m.–1:15 p.m.
Highline Student Union: Building 8, Mt. Constance room
(Presented in conjunction with Unity Through Diversity Week)

Why Poetry Matters

by Susan Rich

“A tough life needs a tough language—and that is what poetry is.
That is what literature offers—a language powerful enough to say how it is.
It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.”

Jeanette Winterson, poet and writer

Susan Rich

Susan Rich

During April, poetry celebrations will be everywhere on campus, from the new Highline Student Art Gallery featuring “Poetic Visions” to featured poet and Pacific Lutheran University professor, Rick Barot, who will teach a workshop and read from his award-winning collection, “Chord.” But do students need a month of poetry? Highline students are busy people, what does poetry have to offer them?

One student new to Highline, recently arrived from the Democratic Republic of Congo, told me that poetry is his hobby—he fell in love with words at a young age but has only just started writing poems in English.

“I’d lost my confidence,” he said, “poetry is helping me get it back.”

Another student who attended last year’s broadside exhibit in the Highline Library was so moved by what she saw that she volunteered to work on this year’s National Poetry Month events.

“This is something I want to be part of,” she offered.

In creative writing classrooms, at campus open mic events, and in private journals, students investigate their lives through image and sound, syntax and sense. Poetry offers all of us a strong anchor for the wild emotions that course through our days.

“Poetry is news that stays news,” the poet Ezra Pound once said. It also promotes literacy and fosters community. Poetry requires a deep listening and offers students a more expansive worldview. We know each other better once we’ve shared our work.

Susan Rich teaches creative writing and film studies at Highline College. She is the author of four books of poetry; “Cloud Pharmacy” (White Pine Press, 2014) is her most recent collection.