Following in the footsteps of writers such as playwright Arthur Miller, poet John Ciardi and “The Big Chill” screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, exceptional student authors of poetry and prose were honored yesterday at the annual Underclassmen Hopwood Awards Ceremony.
Prizes amounting to $23,400 were awarded to University students who excelled in creative writing. The recipients included 12 Hopwood Award winners in addition to undergraduate and graduate students who won other writing awards distributed by the Hopwood Committee.
LSA sophomore Abigail Short won a $700 award for fiction with her story “Weather” in which two computer programmers discover that they can control the weather.
“It”s really cool that the University offers something like this,” Short said. “It”s kind of hard to make money as a writer.”
She said she will put the prize money towards the purchase of a computer.
Rackham student Nate Jones, like all graduate student winners, is studying in the University”s master of fine arts program.
“I”m glad that the MFA program here has such incredible resources. It”s an honor for all of us,” he said.
Jones won $3,400 for two poems, “A Season of Mint” and “Gay Student Dies After Beating in United States” a response to the death of Matthew Shepard, a gay man who was beaten to death in 1998.
The prize money will allow him to take the summer off to write, he said.
Jones gave advice to Hopwood hopefuls and other writers.
“Write with your own voice. Don”t write the way writing has been before. Develop what writing should be in the future,” he said.
Heather McHugh, the featured poet at the ceremony, read several of her own poems, including “A Dearth in the Dreamboat Department” and “Etymological Dirge,” as well as some of her favorite poems by other authors.
McHugh said she enjoys reading her poems to crowds much more than speaking about poetry.
“Asking a poet about poetry is like asking a bird about ornithology,” she said.
A professor at the University of California-Berkeley, McHugh is the author of six books of poetry. She is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.