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Literature Contest

The English department at Western Kentucky University is pleased to announce our fifth annual Literature Essay Contest. Students should visit the links on the right to complete an application and submit a 500-750-word essay (MLA style; pdf format) based on the prompt below. The English department will invite finalists, their teachers, and family to campus for a reception and ceremony on March 26th where they will be recognized.

The winners will receive scholarships if they choose to major or minor in English at WKU and cash prizes whether or not they attend WKU. First Place: $500 Scholarship and $150 cash; Second Place: $300 Scholarship and $100 cash; Third Place: $200 Scholarship. Essays are due March 4.

Prompt: The following poem, “When I Try to Say I'm Sorry to Those Who Are Suffering,” is by WKU English professor Trish Lindsey Jaggers, originally published in the journal, The Red Penguin Review. Read the poem carefully and consider how this poem might compare to any current events.

Write a well-organized, 500-750-word essay that discusses the comparisons made in the poem to any recent events which involved suffering. Discuss what poetic devices are being used to make these comparisons. Consider how the poem’s comparisons could represent the details of the current event you chose. Be sure to analyze how these comparisons affect the meaning of the poem as a whole.


When I Try to Say I'm Sorry to Those Who Are Suffering

Trish Lindsey Jaggers

Published in Kentucky Monthly, 2022


In my head, the word has a certain ring to it,

like bells in the distance, like church

getting ready to start

somewhere, a silver slice through

the clean, blue air,


rather, more like a clap of thunder

against a cloudless sky

where I question whether I heard

it at all, but still, I go in, close the windows

and wait for the opening up,

for a storm to hit, hope

the wind spares the oak tree, old as Egypt,

the swing untwisting itself

on the lower branch,

the swing-path

earth worn through

to the bone of root

where I once fell,


like a bird, I let go,

went singing flat through the rain

and broke my arm,

and I could hear it happen,

though I couldn't say a word,

and that hurt so much

it should have bled,

it should have bled.







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 Last Modified 2/3/22