Student poets impress in “Peace versus War” contest

Bobby Batyko

Luna Negra, on-campus literary and creative arts magazine, crowned its winners this week in the “Peace versus War” scholarship contest.

The Kent State publication received more submissions than expected, said Zachary Lutz, editor-in-chief of Luna Negra.

The contest officially came to a close on October 31.

“We received over 70 submissions to the contest alone, almost 200 submissions total for general publication,” Lutz said. “It feels very good to have generated such interest.”

Three different scholarship amounts were offered to the first-, second- and third-place finishers.

Alexa Mallernee, senior speech pathology and audiology major, won a $1,000 scholarship for her first-place entry “Picking Battles.”

“I’m very shocked and honored [to have won],” Mallernee said. “Seriously, it’s unbelievable how much genuine talent and passion is in this town.”

Mallernee said her inspiration came from real experiences.

“I saw an exposé on some news program that featured a soldier who had come back from Iraq to his wife and family,” she said. “As humans we need a struggle as well as some glimpse of happiness to recall and remind us that we’re struggling for a reason.”

Michael Lopick, freshman public relations major, won $500 for his second-place entry “The Choice.”

“It’s an honor to know that my work was considered of enough merit to warrant such a wonderful and substantial gift,” he said.

Lopick said everyday battles inspired “The Choice.”

“Thinking of war as an aspect of the human condition made it more relevant to me and made it a conversation I thought I could contribute to,” Lopick said.

Dan Dorman, senior English major, won $250 for his third-place entry “War Poem.”

Roxane Johnson, a Philip Levine Prize-winning poet and author, served as the guest judge for the contest.

“The winning poem is the one that stood out to me. It had all the elements above: a strong, confident voice, careful choice of words and musical language,” she said. “It was very different from a poem I would write, and I always love that.”

John Kusnir, a Vietnam veteran and Kent State alumnus, not only donated the scholarship funding but inspired the contest, Lutz said.

“Kusnir is a poet himself, and has forwarded reassuring, handwritten remarks to myself throughout the run of this contest. I cannot thank him enough for his support,” he said.

Lutz said that while there is no currently scheduled contest, he’s open to the idea of another.

“Something like this scholarship contest has done wonders and will do wonders for Luna Negra,” Lutz said.

Contact Bobby Batyko at [email protected].