"Project Poet" reaches dramatic conclusion

Release Date: 11/16/2006

English major takes top prize in campus poetry contest

CLARKSVILLE, ARK. (Nov. 16, 2006) – After nearly two months of words flying frantically on the Ozarks campus, one writer was left standing to claim the top prize in “Project Poet.”

Ozarks English major Rachelle Prince won the final round of the campus spoken word poetry contest on November 15, garnering the most votes from contest judges and a nearly packed crowd of students in Ozarks’ black box theatre.

Prince, of Lincoln, Ark., eked out a close victory over second-place finisher and fellow English major Cody Shannon, while Theatre major Annie Mitchell finished third.

Prince, who was awarded a $500 bookstore gift certificate, saw her winning finish as the first step on a literary career.

“This is what I want to (for a living),” said Prince, as she accepted congratulatory wishes from spectators. “Maybe (the win) validates my career choice!”

The brainchild of Ozarks English Professor David Strain, Project Poet gave student poets the opportunity to read their poetry and then have it voted on by faculty judges and a crowd of fellow students, in the same style as numerous reality television programs.

“I swiped it shamelessly,” said Strain. “And it worked!” He pointed out that Project Poet gave students the chance to learn about poetry by actually reading, or performing, their poems, rather than just studying the text.

“Many students learn by doing,” said Strain. “We have a better chance of students (learning poetry), which can be a challenge for some students.” A total of 15 students entered the contest, which gradually eliminated contest participants based on voting.

Each week, contest participants were required to write at least one poem based on a certain theme. A memorable moment came when Prince read her composition “Guinevere in the Grocery Store”, which imagined the tragic heroine of medieval myth as a modern woman trapped in an unhappy marriage.

Prince said she got the idea for the poem partly from the television show “Desperate Housewives.” “I thought it would be interesting to see (Guinevere) as a more aggressive woman, going after a younger man!”

She added that writing poetry for an audience brought its own unique challenges. “The hardest thing is trying to find a balance between what a college student wants (to hear) and what a judge wants,” said Prince. “But no matter what happens, it’s fun!”