Skip to main content
Skip to main content

RPW Essay Contest

Center for Robert Penn Warren Studies
High School Essay Contest

The Robert Penn Warren Center at Western Kentucky University is pleased to announce an essay competition for high school students in Kentucky and Tennessee (Grades 9 through 12).  The winner of the contest will receive a $200 prize, second place will receive a $100 prize, and third place will receive a $50 prize.  All awardees will be recognized on the Robert Penn Warren Center’s website and receive an invitation to the annual Robert Penn Warren Studies conference in April 2017.  In addition, all awardees will have the option to have their work uploaded to TopScholar, WKU’s online, open-access repository of scholarship and creative works. A PDF version of the contest information can be found here.


Critically analyze “Paradox,” a short poem that Warren published in 1975.  How do poetic devices such as imagery and metaphor contribute to your understanding of meaning in the poem? 


Essays should be 500 to 600 words long, and submitted via email to by March 20, 2017.  Submissions must be in Word (.doc or .docx) or Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format. 


If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Nicolette Bruner at



Running ahead beside the sea,

You turned and flung a smile, like spray.

It glittered like tossed spray in the sunlight.

Yes, well I remember, to this day,

That glittering ambiguity.


I saw, when your foot fulfilled its stride,

How the sand, compressed, burst to silver light,

But when I had reached that aureoled spot

There was only another in further flight:

And bright hair, wind-strung, to tease the sun’s pride.


Yes, far away and long ago,

In another land, on another shore,

That race you won—even as it was lost,

For if I caught you, one moment more,

You had fled my grasp, up and to go


With glowing pace and the smile that mock

Pursuit down whatever shore reflects

Our flickering passage through the years,

As we enact our more complex

Version of Zeno’s paradox.[1]


–Robert Penn Warren, Can I See Arcturus from Where I Stand? (1975)

[1] Note to Students:  Here, Warren refers to Zeno’s paradox of Achilles and the tortoise, in which, having given the tortoise a head start, Achilles can never catch the tortoise so long as they both travel at fixed speeds.

Note: documents in Portable Document Format (PDF) require Adobe Acrobat Reader 5.0 or higher to view,
download Adobe Acrobat Reader.

Note: documents in Excel format (XLS) require Microsoft Viewer,
download excel.

Note: documents in Word format (DOC) require Microsoft Viewer,
download word.

Note: documents in Powerpoint format (PPT) require Microsoft Viewer,
download powerpoint.

Note: documents in Quicktime Movie format [MOV] require Apple Quicktime,
download quicktime.

 Last Modified 3/5/17