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Robert Clayton Casto Poetry Prize: The First Time My Writing Has Ever Won Something!

I am now an ~accomplished~ writer! This is the first award my work has ever earned!

long and sappy post ahead: cw for mention of abuse & trauma.

Two poems won the Robert Clayton Casto Poetry Prize: “When was the last time I thanked my mother” and “My Queer.” This year off school gave me a lot of time to just. . . think. I gave space to work on my own mental health, heal from trauma that I never really gave myself time to heal from, and grapple with my sexual/romantic orientation. One thing I spent time on was trying to define my “queerness.” “My Queer” is a collection of experiences and my feelings about them. It’s an exploratory poem trying to find what “My queer” is and it ultimately doesn’t come up with an answer. It will take more time for me to settle on my identity. Currently, my queer simply “wants to talk”

“When was the last time I thanked my mother” I wrote after I had a great conversation with my mom, Rachel Neil , and I was feeling really grateful for her. My mom had a hard time growing up, was abused by multiple people in her life, and has Borderline Personality Disorder. She was always open about these things with me growing up. When I suffered abuse by someone I felt very scared to share it with her because I thought it would hurt her too much, and I felt sort of guilty for doing that to her when she tried so hard to protect me (I know I didn’t do that to her and I’m not at fault for what happened to me but I still felt that guilt and fear). So that poem comes from when I finally told her some of my experiences and she thankfully reacted really well and that conversation had me reflecting on a lot of our relationship.

I was writing before I came to STU but I wasn’t writing poetry. In my first and second years I would say that poetry wasn’t for me. In fact, I remember being nervous to take a poetry course with Kathy Mac because I didn’t think I was any good at writing poetry — but that’s exactly why I should have taken the course. Then I was able to take my senior project with Andrew Titus and he taught me to not be attached to the left hand side of the page and to get gritty and creative. I owe so much to the profs at STU for the improvement in my writing, especially in poetry.

After actively working on my ~craft~ for 7 years I have now made an approx. total of $730 on my writing, all in 2020 and 2021

So. Take THAT hundreds of people who told me I'd never make money as a writer. HA!

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