The winner of the English & Honors Award in Creative Writingr is chosen each year by a panel of Villanova faculty and Philadelphia area.
The award for 2016 goes to Marianne Donley and Holly Blakley. Two poems by each appear below their biographical notes.
Marianne Donley is a sophomore English and Chemistry double major from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her hobbies reading comic books, listening to the Hamilton cast album on repeat, and staying up until the early hours of the morning writing poetry and lab reports. If she’s not in the library or the chemistry labs, Marianne can probably be found with the Villanova Band, where she’s a saxophone player and pep band director. She witnessed Kris Jenkins’ historic three-ball first hand and still doesn’t entirely believe it happened. Marianne would like to thank her amazingly supportive parents for reading her bedtime stories and being her first editors, and Catherine Staples for her encouragement, insight, and friendship. She would also like to apologize to her middle school math teachers for reading under her desk during their classes.
Holly Blakley is a 21 year old female student from Long Island, New York, who has studied nursing and Spanish during her undergraduate career at Villanova. She describes writing as “one of her first loves” and a hobby that has excited and enriched her life since she was little. She loves poetry in particular because it allows her to “re-see” and encounter the ordinary, and also dabble with the pliability and playfulness of language. While the Villanova nursing curriculum does not leave much room for additional courses, Blakley says she has always found it important to make time for the things that give her life, namely prayer, writing, and music. She is particularly inspired by poets such as Sarah Kay, Phil Kaye, and Derrick Brown who are well known in the world of spoken-word poetry. The first writing course she took at Villanova was “The Writing of Poetry” with Dr. Lisa Sewell during the spring semester of Blakley’s senior year. Sewell has served as a source of guidance and encouragement for Blakley’s growth as a writer. After graduation, Blakely will be serving as a nurse and full-time volunteer in Houston, TX at Casa Juan Diego, a hospitality house for immigrants and refugees operating in the spirit of the Catholic Worker Movement. She hopes to write for their newspaper and continue her work as a poet-nurse-disciple.
Two poems by Marianne Donley
Allegro Con Brio
My grandfather drove a Yellow truck.
He used to talk about the days when, exhausted,
He pulled into small town truck stops
And grabbed a cup of coffee and a shower.
A stopover, an hour or so, then on the road again,
A road like the slightly curving line of a bird’s wing.
The woman at the table holds the bird up to me,
Points out the distance between wingtip and shoulder.
A chord, she says, like in mathematics, but I
Can only see the lines on a staff, strung up,
Pulled out between the tune’s start and end
Like a net between two trees. Notes caught,
Tail down, low, like a cardinal entangled,
Bright red notes, a paintbrush dipped in blood
Flashing furiously across a page of sheet music.
The cardinal’s beak snaps a staccato, chomps
At an imaginary bit. The woman’s hands relax,
The grip falls loose. He doesn’t realize, she says,
Doesn’t know he’s free, and he doesn’t, until,
Like a racehorse out of the gate, he leaps and flies
Out of the stopover point of her palm. I hear
In the distance, catbirds screeching, and another
I do not know, that sounds like a record scratch,
Sped up to match the cardinal’s speed. It raced
Through the air, down the road, allegro con brio.
Dedication of St. Bavo’s, Haarlem
It was holy before sanctification:
Crisp white columns and wispy pastel
Tiled floor of slightest blush, palest green,
Sandy tans just darker than ivory.
Not one inch blemished—even yet unpainted.
Not given the time for imperfection,
Free of any original sin
Yet baptized all the same.
With no mice to amuse them
In chase and evasion, the dogs
Touched snouts or trotted by
Their masters; men in wide, black hats,
Austere but costly coats. Statesmen
With their wives, sporting dresses
Dyed as deeply as priests’ vestments,
Striding through the vast, cavernous hall
With the ease and privilege of owners—
For indeed, they were the Master’s children.
Their coins laid the marble, carved the wood
That gilded the nave’s ceiling with heavenly geometry.
Latticed glass, stained with dainty translucence
Held in the emptiness, without pew, without organ,
Sacramental altar and tabernacle absent;
Their future dominion guarded by heaven’s gates.
Whispers of first prayers burrowed into the stone,
Promises of hymns hung in the air, and rose
Up into the arches, to the tower taller than any other—
The last great church all Haarlem could be proud of.
Two poems by Holly Blakley
When you were little,
I’d stand outside your bedroom door
wondering who you’d become,
who you already were.
At that age, it was me you wanted
to tuck the covers under your chin.
not your mother.
You were nine
the first time you asked why
the coffee stained my teeth purple.
One hand on the mug,
One on the wheel
It’s my driving juice, honey, I’d joke.
you never laughed,
but kept your eyes on cars passing by.
One night I dumped your mother’s clothes into the hall, beating the walls of our oversized house.
Your sister cried.
Your brother told me to Shut the hell up and go back to sleep.
in your Yankees tee, with bleary eyes
you looked at me from the doorway
wondering who I’d become,
who I already was.
How many years does it take a child to know her father?
You and I ask ourselves the same question.
We share the corner seat on the bus,
wheels floating above the ground.
Snow has turned the evening sky white
Maybe this is strange, but these hands
haven’t been held for so long.
His thumb paints
invisible circles on my palm.
gently he treads the surface
of skin, veins, knuckle hills
and toothpick bones.
I am a map he holds upside down
I am braille he wasn’t taught to read.
He leads me off the bus and says let’s walk home.
Snow has turned to sleet and I am scared my boots will fill with rain,
too heavy for carrying me.
The front door creaks open
the hallway is unlit
I don’t know
if this is my house or his—
I just know it isn’t ours.