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For the second consecutive year, Stephen Chiger ’01 won the top prize in Lafayette’s Jean Corrie Poetry Competition, an annual contest open to first-year students, sophomores, and juniors. Chiger’s winning poem is titled “Two Thousand Years.”

“I came to Lafayette College with the intention of focusing largely on creative fiction,” says Chiger, an English major and computer science minor. “However, I quickly found myself involved with a number of other projects, most overwhelmingly the newspaper. The contest was a driver for a creative passion that I sometimes fear is not getting the attention it deserves. Moreover, I love writing poetry, so the contest provided good motivation for me to bring my work up to a suitable level for submission.

“Poetry is beautiful because it is one of the few forms of writing where you are expected to break the rules,” he continues. “It challenges you to think in different ways, and to remember why you’re thinking in the first place.”

As part of Lafayette’s celebration of National Poetry Month, Chiger will read “Two Thousand Years” at the Jean Corrie Poetry Reading and Ice Cream Social April 29, as will two winners of honorable mention, Jorge Izquierdo ’02 of Riverside, Conn., and Andrew Platt ’01 of West Chester, Pa., and two poets who served as judges of the contest, Beth Seetch and Jan Selving.

Seetch is a lecturer in English at Lafayette and coordinator of the College Writing Program. Selving is an instructor at East Stroudsburg University.

Seetch says, “The entries were of especially high quality this year, an historical perspective that my continuing role as co-judge allows me to see.

“Stephen Chiger’s work stands out for its confidence and control of surface elements despite the poems’ complexity,” she continues. “‘Two Thousand Years’ displays a kind of fearlessness in its language. It is unafraid to capture a cliché and then use a line-turn to put it to work in a new way; the poem’s play with sound devices leads to seriously resonant imagery.”

Chiger’s mentor is Lee Upton. An accomplished poet, Upton is a professor of English and the first faculty member at Lafayette to hold the title writer-in-residence.

“Stephen’s poetry is witty and unpredictable,” she says. “He knows how to project strong irony in a memorable way.”

Chiger says, “Professor Upton is wonderful. Her counsel has been invaluable in helping me develop my skills as a creative writer. She has given me constructive and critical advice on my writing, both in the classroom and outside of it.”

Chiger, who plans to incorporate writing into his career goals, is happy with his experience at Lafayette.

“A large challenge has been finding time for the different things I want to do. Lafayette is a great college because it provides so many opportunities for individual advancement and achievement,” he says. “This college will stand or fall not only on the merits of administrative efforts but on the ability of our student body to adapt, create, and think critically, as individuals and as a whole. That ability, I believe, underlies the implied mission statement of any worthwhile liberal arts college.

“Writing poetry isn’t difficult, but writing good poetry is. I do not yet consider myself to be a good poet, but I hope someday I will be,” he continues. “I think the largest reward I can hope for is being able to go to sleep at night knowing that I’ve developed and stuck to my principles.”

Another Side of Stephen: He is news editor of the student newspaper, The Lafayette; is on the editorial staff of The Marquis, the College’s annual magazine of poetry, prose, photography and artwork; and is on the movie committee of Lafayette Activities Forum.

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