By Aimee DeGroat, Staff Writer
Bethany Wicks, a freshman at UMF, was recently honored as a winner of the Henry Braun Memorial Prize. This contest was instituted in May by Joan Braun, wife of late poet Henry Braun to honor Henry Braun’s work. Of the many entrants received, Braun chose two winning entries and three honorable mentions.
Wicks’ poems are unique in that they combine poetry and art in a way that Wicks described in an email as “different from the average submission.” The specific style of poetry that Wicks excels in is called “found poetry”, which is when words are pulled from other pieces of text to make its own unique poem. “I love ‘found poetry’ because when I make a poem I’ll make some sort of design around it so I’m combining art and writing,” said Wicks.
Wicks has been writing since middle school when she started writing short stories about her stuffed animals. “I was mad they couldn’t talk to me in real life,” said Wicks. “After that I started writing kids stories and from there it evolved into what I do today.”
Despite Wicks’ skill and passion for writing, she had never considered pursuing creative writing in college until she went on a tour at UMF.
“I came here and the admissions lady told me about the creative writing program,” said Wicks. “I was so excited because I had finally found my place.”
Wicks’ preferred writing genre is fiction and nonfiction. “I really love the writing styles of John Green,” said Wicks. “[Also] the poems of Dr. Seuss, and the plot lines from James Dashner.”
Wicks said that she started writing poetry because she has been trying new things since she came to UMF, one of these things was submitting her poetry into the Henry Braun Memorial Poetry Contest. “Jeff Thomson, one of the poetry professors, send out an email to all the BFA majors to let us know about the contest. I figured why not submit to everything I possibly can?” said Wicks. The first person Wicks called about winning the prize was her older sister Danielle who, Wicks says, is her “biggest supporter.”
Joan Braun said that it’s painful for her that her husband’s beautiful mind and voice will be no more. “Of course, his poems continue on the page,” said Braun in an email interview. “But there will be no more new ones. And that lively, on the spot way he could retrieve and share just the right, helpful quote or analogy from the tradition will also be no more.”
Wicks found poetry reflects Braun’s ability to retrieve just the right quote because she circles words and text from old books to form her poems and then surrounds them with her one-of-a-kind artwork. According to Braun, Wicks’ poems had “that special something” that made them stand out above other entrants. “He loved teaching and sharing and listening to what his students had to say. And I wanted to somehow preserve that tradition by founding the Prize.” said Braun.
When Braun was establishing the prize, she said that she wanted to encourage young people who were starting out in poetry, so she set an age limit of 18-35. After she chose the finalists, Braun sent them a list of questions to enlarge her knowledge of them. “I knew nothing about them but the words on the page when I made the selection, but found out later that their teachers and the poets they themselves found formative, were ones I also admired,” said Braun. “I was delighted by their answers.” Braun said that she hopes to continue the tradition of the contest for as long as she can.