Poetry festival showcases student work, alum reading


Samantha Wright

After receiving golden programs with the 10 finalist poems inscribed inside from members of the English Club, people made their way into the Ransdell Hall auditorium for the 2015 Goldenrod Poetry Festival Reading on Tuesday night.

The festival celebrated student work and featured alumnus Saeed Jones, current editor at BuzzFeed and award-winning poet.

Brittany Moster, president of the English Club, welcomed everyone and thanked all those who had helped organize the event, and opened the floor for the finalists to read their poems. All but two of the finalists read, as James Buchanan and Megan Seitz were not in attendance. People applauded after each reading, and frequently laughed out loud at the often humorous poems. 

Sara Ann Alexander, a junior from Glasgow and author of the finalist poem “A Walk After Midnight on Repeat,” said she was thrilled to advance to the finalist round and didn’t feel too nervous about reading her poem aloud.

“I was really excited, and I really only entered to meet Saeed, and I accomplished that,” she said with a laugh. “I felt a surprising amount of calmness, and I enjoyed getting it out there, and it wrote itself, you know, since it was based on something personal that actually happened to me.”

After all the finalists had read, Jerod Hollyfield, advisor for the English Club, introduced Jones, a 2009 WKU graduate.

Jones was Skyping in from his BuzzFeed office in New York City, as was clear from the very visible Empire State Building in the background. He announced that Derek Ellis, of Owenton, won first place in the contest. Jarred Johnson, of Somerset, came in second, and Isiah Fish, of Louisville, in third. All three winners received a certificate and a cash prize.

Jarred Johnson, a junior and author of the second place winning poem “Genealogy,” said he was glad to have placed, and with a personal poem.

“I was very happy, and pretty surprised, as there were other great poems,” he said. “And this one was particularly meaningful and super near to my heart.” 

After announcing the winners, Jones read over a dozen poems from his recent poetry collection, “Prelude to Bruise.” In between each poem, he explained a bit about what inspired the poem and the different elements and references contained inside. “Prelude to Bruise” follows a character, known only as “Boy” throughout out his life. Despite the fiction, some of the poems have been inspired by Jones’s experiences.

“What you see on the page isn’t factual, but it’s the truth,” he said.

After Jones had finished reading, Hollyfield opened the floor to any members of the audience who wanted to ask questions. Several students came up and asked questions, such as what it was like to finally see his poetry collection published, or advice for beginning writers. 

Jones offered the following encouragement for those who are unsure about their writing.


“You only have to know you have something to share,” he said.