Earlier this month, the English and Drama Student Society held their second coffeehouse of the year and announced the winners of their annual poetry contest. The coffeehouse, held in UTM’s Faculty Club, brought together a variety of performers and offered the audience an evening of music, food, and (of course) poetry.
The night began with the handing out of the awards for this year’s poetry contest. As Stephanie Vega, the host of the coffeehouse and president of EDSS, explained, approximately 160 entries were narrowed down to the top 20. Then, the contest came down to a public vote on Facebook, in which the winners were selected.
All of the winners were in attendance, and they each read their winning work to the crowd. First place went to Marina Ajhert for her poem “Where is Home”. The moving poem spoke to Ajhert’s Yugoslavian heritage and was charged with phrases from her native language. Stephanie Hayward’s “Untitled” came in second, while Luke Sawczak’s “Baptize” and Alex Tkachuk’s “Twelve Finches Standing on a Burning Wire” tied for third. The poems presented diverse outlooks, and watching the poets deliver their work offered even more insight into the texts.
The event also featured several student performances. Vega pulled triple duty at the coffeehouse; besides hosting, she shared some of her own writing and performed Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On”. Other EDSS executives also shared their writing, including Chris Laliberte, who read an excerpt from the “future fantasy” book he is writing for an independent study credit. Another author who read was Katherine Nader, who shared a passage from her published novel, The Deadly Mark. Nader will host a novel-writing workshop on February 28 for those interested in learning more about writing and publishing their own novels.
One of the highlights of the night came from Erin Foley, who performed a couple of spoken word pieces. “Confessions of a Hostess” was a hilarious indictment of the clueless and obnoxious customers she has encountered in her two years working as a restaurant hostess. “I don’t suggest it,” she said of her experience. “But it makes for good poetry.”
Other student performers offered a more musical take on things. Hayward proved to be multitalented when she covered Sugarland’s “Stay”, playing acoustic guitar and offered a strong, yearning vocal on the country tune. Caspian Sawczak also played guitar, performing a dynamic original song called “City on a Hill”. His intricate guitar flourishes and catchy melody made “City on a Hill” instantly memorable; it was another of the night’s highlights.
The coffeehouse provided a welcome opportunity for UTM students to showcase their writing and for student performers to share their craft. According to Vega, EDSS will publish an anthology of the top 30 or 40 poems from the contest entries.