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K-State Today

April 30, 2018

Lydia de Wolf named Sullivan Poetry Award winner

Submitted by Chris Shumway

Lydia de Wolf, doctoral student in mathematics, has been named the 2018 Sullivan Poetry Award Winner for her poem, "Solzhenitsyn."

The contest, which is open to all K-State students, received 43 entries this year from graduate and undergraduate students in the colleges of Agriculture; Architecture, Planning & Design; Arts and Sciences; Business Administration; Education; Engineering; and Human Ecology.

"We were delighted to get a high number of entries for the contest," said Amit Chakrabarti, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "The submissions reflected a wide range of interests and writing styles, and showcased high levels of creativity and artistic expression."

The Sullivan Poetry Award, now in its fifth year, is supported through a gift by an alumnus who, while not a formal writer himself, enjoys writing poetry and supporting creative accomplishments of students.

De Wolf received her bachelor’s degree in math from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. She also studied applied math at Stony Brook University on Long Island.

"I used to write a lot of fiction, but have devoted most of my energies to math for years. I entered the contest on a whim because I had been reflecting on the culture shock of moving back to the Midwest after living in New York," said de Wolf, when asked about her interest in writing. "I entered my poem because I felt that it reflected my thoughts and hopes for the way my generation interacts with the world, namely, as discerning but compassionate human beings."

de Wolf will receive a $2,000 prize for her winning submission:


We arrive here, new and union,
and like Alexandr when he stood in the sun,
a free man,
and found he spoke a different language,
our tongues are tangled.
Through my eyes and through your eyes
the pictures
the music
the words
the colors
are not the same.
Why the disconnect, darling?
Are the glasses rose-colored or better befitting a name like blinders?
Is there a prescription,
dear humanity,
that can let me see what you see?
Ought I?
If you are wrong elsewhere, can I trust your word at all?

Destined to doubt each other,
deny your guilt,
depend on your comfort zone to keep you safe.
Why are our frequencies so far apart, dearest?
What keeps me from standing on your side?
Examine your grounds for the disconnect to discover.
Do you do what you do
for a reason
or admirable?
If not…
Are there reasons in favor of putting on another’s spectacles?

Purposely for fear, will you refuse?
Close your eyes to the creations colliding outside of your cultural collection.
The unknown makes you uncomfortable,
afraid of what you may find.
That some low subversive influence might seep
into your fertile mind,
there find root,
corrupting your so carefully guarded virtue.
Why, dearest?
Is it because you do not know what you know
and you do not know why you know it?
Handed to you on a platter,
your 99 theses
by your resident theocrats, and they once told you
not to look a gift horse in the mouth.
And so, darling, you shy away for fear of being bitten.
You feel but do not understand your aversion.
The unexamined life will never knock you down.
No good can be ensconced in the bad.
Darling, make no decision based on fear.
There is not footing for your foundation.

"The price of cowardice will only be evil;
we shall reap courage and victory only when we dare to make sacrifices."

Lay down your guard
your walls
your condemnation
for you will get nothing but a blindfold and a flinch at every human touch.

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