At Westover School: Student Receives Accolades for Poem

Monroe resident Emily Benoit, a member of Westover School’s Class of 2020, was recognized this spring in the 39th annual Thornton Wilder Writing Competition, when she was awarded second prize in the poetry category for her submission, “it feels like flames.”

MIDDLEBURY — Emily Benoit, a member of Westover School’s Class of 2020 from Monroe, “is a real seeker and is thus an adventurous poet,” said English teacher Tom Juvan, who works with students in his Craft of Poetry elective.

“What is remarkable about Emily as a writer is her endless willingness to try new things,” Mr. Juvan said. “She is deeply committed to poetry and clearly is always reading and discovering new forms and styles of writing.”

For her efforts, Emily was recognized this spring in the 39th annual Thornton Wilder Writing Competition, when she was awarded second prize in the poetry category for her submission, “it feels like flames.”

The competition was established by the Friends of the Hamden Library to honor Wilder, a long-time Hamden resident and Pulitzer Prize-winning author and playwright. 

Open to high school students enrolled in New Haven County public, private and parochial schools, the competition accepts entries in the form of short stories, poetry, scripts, one-act plays or selections from longer works.

As part of her second-place award, Emily received a cash prize of $300.

“Student poets very often have not only a distinctive voice, but a characteristic mode or style,” Mr. Juvan said. “They often recognize this themselves, and at a certain point decide they need to try something new; alternately, I will sometimes challenge them to try something new when they seem to be writing the same style of poem over and over again.

“But Emily is always trying new things,” he said, “whether it be a prose poem, dividing a poem into linked sections or experimenting with shape and typography.

“At the same time, Emily’s experiments are not arid formal exercises but are driven by passionate emotions that inhabit an experience and question it, straining at its limits and the limits of being able to fully grasp it in language.

“‘it feels like flames’ is thus the perfect representation of her work,” he said, “even if it isn’t cast in the same ‘mold’ of her other poems. 

“Inhabiting a specific moment, the speaker’s mind spirals out through a variety of memories and associations that are equally ready to toy with absurdities or to aspire to the creative power of God — or of a poet.”

This spring, Emily also received an Honorable Mention in the 2020 Alliance for Young Artists and Writers’ Regional Scholastic Poetry Awards competition for her entry of five poems: “Before the Last Set,” “Waltz the Way Home,” “August Night in Downtown Madison,” “it feels like flames,” and “words too far to whisper.”

In 2019 she was a finalist in Hill-stead Museum’s Student Poetry Competition for her submission of three poems: “Before the Last Set,” “Waltz the Way Home,” and “August Night in Downtown Madison.”

During this spring’s Orchard Awards Ceremony at Westover, Emily was presented with the Marion Griswold Lantern Award for Literacy Excellence.

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