January 29, 2004

Poetry contest honors memory of graduate student

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- An annual poetry contest jointly sponsored by Southern Illinois University Carbondale's English department and its Women's Studies Program has a new name, honoring the memory of a 26-year-old graduate student in SIUC's creative writing program.

Roxana Rivera, who earned a bachelor's degree in women's studies and English in 2002 from California State University, Long Beach, died in November when the car she was driving skidded off a country road.

"She was vibrant, curious, smart, sassy -- everything you'd want in a person, poet, friend and student," said SIUC poet Allison E. Joseph, who served as Rivera's mentor.

"Even though she was here only a short time, we are all still missing her. We thought it would be a fitting memorial to rename the Women's History Month contest for her."

Undergraduate and graduate poets from SIUC may enter as many as three poems in the Roxana Rivera Memorial Poetry Contest. Poems should address the theme "Women's Rights, Women's Rites."

"It's a play on words, but it doesn't exclude men," Joseph said. "We've had men who have been contest winners in the past."

There is no entry fee. Poems, each on a separate piece of paper, along with cover letters that include the contestants' names, local and e-mail addresses, phone numbers, poem titles and academic status (undergraduate or graduate student) must be sent to Joseph at the English department (mail code 4503) by Friday, March 19.

Winners in both undergraduate and graduate divisions will receive $50 gift certificates for first-place entries, $30 certificates for second place and $20 certificates for third place at an awards ceremony set for Wednesday, March 31, at a time and place to be announced later. Contest judge Mary Jo Bang, who teaches poetry at Washington University in St. Louis, will take part in the ceremony.

Enhancing students' ability to express themselves clearly and creatively is among the goals of Southern at 150, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.