May 14, 2020 — The iconic American poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti — and member of the Mount Hermon Class of 1937 — inspires writers around the world. Julia Fedoruk ’22 is one of them. The NMH English department recently selected her as the winner of the school’s third annual Ferlinghetti Poetry Contest for her poem “The Mind is a Wonderful Place.”
“This poem, unassuming on the surface, trusts itself enough to open with Madonna and close with global pandemic,” said English teacher M.K. Brake, one of the judges of the contest that is held each April during National Poetry Month. The contest honors Ferlinghetti, one of NMH’s most accomplished alumni writers, who earned acclaim for his social activism and support of other writers as well his own poetry.
English Department Chair John Corrigan said he was pleased by the quality and quantity of contest submissions. “It’s thrilling to see so many students choose to make the literary arts a part of their lives,” he said.
For the contest, students were invited to write their own poems in the spirit of Ferlinghetti’s work. Fedoruk emulated “The World is a Beautiful Place,” and said that reading this poem during the coronavirus pandemic and quarantine emphasized “how disconnected we all are in this unique moment.”
“That’s why I made my poem about the mind, because, without the world to distract us, we can no longer escape our minds,” she said.
Brake said Fedoruk’s poem “captures Ferlinghetti’s balance of the mundane and the extraordinary with acute sophistication. The ego is dissected, revealing the poignant disharmony in what it means to be alive, right here, right now.”
Fedoruk said that while creative writing has always been a part of her life — she finished her first short story in second grade — she considered poetry to be one of her weaknesses as a writer. A creative writing class she took last year with English teacher Mark Koyama gave her more confidence. “His advice about key details and including all of the senses helped me communicate what was in my mind in a way that was more accessible to readers.”
The Ferlinghetti Poetry Contest also recognized two runners-up: Ayleen Cameron ’20, for the poem “Statue,” and Olisaelloka Tasie-Amadi ’20, for the poem “Blue Killer, Black Homicide.”
Read the winning poem, and the poem by Ferlinghetti that inspired it.