Ferlinghetti Essay Contest Winners Announced

Nov. 26, 2018 — Two students’ descriptions of the natural world surrounding NMH’s scenic campus have won them prizes in NMH’s first Ferlinghetti Essay Contest.

Junior Ayleen Cameron’s “Connecticut River” took the top prize of $100. Angie Tran ’20 was first runner-up, winning $50 for “Nature’s Waltz.” In the photo, Cameron is flanked by Corrigan and Tran.

Each entrant was asked to read “The Forest and the Lake” — an essay that Beat Poet pioneer and 1937 NMH graduate Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote while an NMH student — and compose a short prose work inspired by his descriptions of nature at NMH. 

English department chair John Corrigan, who launched the contest and served as judge, said all the students’ descriptions of campus were thoughtful and inspiring. 

Read the winning student essays, and Ferlinghetti’s.

He said Cameron’s work stood out for its subtlety and “nuanced sense of place, narrative, and emotion.” Cameron, who won the Ferlinghetti poetry contest in 2017, seems to feel a literary kinship with Ferlinghetti’s style. “There are a few qualities that appear naturally in my writing which are similar to Ferlinghetti’s,” she says. “Namely, I try to include pithy, descriptive statements which capture a lot of ideas in fewer words.”

Still, writing prose about nature doesn’t come naturally to her. “I don’t normally write descriptive essays, so I definitely challenged myself with this,” she admits. Cameron described trying to emulate Ferlinghetti’s ability to “write the scenery to be dramatic as well as descriptive.”

“I have definitely taken more risks as a writer since I came to NMH,” Cameron says. “Learning about different viewpoints and styles of writing through iconic American works has taught me the beauty in telling a story with a message. In addition to the classes, my English teachers at NMH have provided great support in all of my creative writing endeavors.”

Tran says that her NMH classes — especially Humanities I, American Literature, and World Literature — have “expanded my knowledge of literature immensely and drove me to explore literary works on my own.” Doing so, she says, helped her “develop a strong passion for writing and reading.”