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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). We will select three winners, each of whom will receive a prize of $100. 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 on Friday, April 20, 2018. 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.


Critically analyze and give a close reading of "Heart of Autumn,” a short poem that Warren published in 1978. How do poetic devices, such as imagery and metaphor, contribute to your understanding of meaning in the poem? 


Essays should be at least 750 words long, and submitted via email to RPW.Center@wku.edu by April 1, 2018. Submissions must be in Word (.doc or .docx) or Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) format. 


If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Rob Hale at rob.hale@wku.edu.


Heart of Autumn

Wind finds the northwest gap, fall comes.

Today, under gray cloud-scud and over gray

Wind-flicker of forest, in perfect formation, wild geese

Head for a land of warm water, the boom, the lead pellet.


Some crumple in air, fall. Some stagger, recover control,

Then take the last glide for a far glint of water. None

Knows what has happened. Now, today, watching

How tirelessly V upon V arrows the season's logic,


Do I know my own story? At least, they know

When the hour comes for the great wind-beat. Sky-strider,

Star-strider--they rise, and the imperial utterance,

Which cries out for distance, quivers in the wheeling sky.


That much they know, and in their nature know

The path of pathlessness, with all the joy

Of destiny fulfilling its own name.

I have known time and distance, but not why I am here.


Path of logic, path of folly, all

The same--and I stand, my face lifted now skyward,

Hearing the high beat, my arms outstretched in the tingling

Process of transformation, and soon tough legs,


With folded feet, trail in the sounding vacuum of passage,

And my heart is impacted with a fierce impulse

To unwordable utterance--

Toward sunset, at a great height.

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 Last Modified 9/12/18