2022 Newman Prize for English Jueju Poetry Winners Announced
The OU Institute for US-China Issues is pleased to announce the results of this year’s Newman Prize for English Jueju contest, with two University of Oklahoma students among the winners. The prize, which celebrates classical Chinese poetry, is held in conjunction with the University of Oklahoma’s Newman Prize for Chinese Literature. Both are sponsored by the Institute for US-China Issues in the David L. Boren College of International Studies.
In this year’s competition, Jacqueline Gibson, a master’s student in international studies at The University of Oklahoma, was awarded the prize for Best English Jueju in Oklahoma. Another OU student, International and Area Studies senior Bradley Quy, received Oklahoma Honorable Mention. The winner of the U.S. high school category is Julia Alvarenga of John Paul II High School in Dallas, Texas; Ella Walker and Eva Talkington (also from John Paul II High School) received honorable mention. This year’s elementary/middle school winner is Emma Lee of Clear Springs School, Eureka Springs, Arkansas. For the adult category, the 2022 winners are Sylas Pelikan of Princeton, New Jersey (winner) and Kressel Housman and Sophie Eisenberg of New York, New York (honorable mention).
In recent years, the Newman Prize for English Jueju has also broadened its reach to international contestants around the world. This year’s international winners are Jeannette Tien-Wei Law of Milan, Italy (Best English Jueju in Europe/United Kingdom) and Maria Sorokina of Smolensk, Russia (Best English Jueju from Other Regions).
Celebrating Classical Chinese Poetry
The goal of the competition is to introduce students and adults to jueju, a traditional form of Chinese poetry that is over 1,500 years old. The jueju has four lines of five or seven characters/monosyllabic words and is widely considered the most beloved and representative form of classical Chinese poetry. This year’s winners included poems written in both unregulated and regulated jueju. Unregulated jueju requires poets to follow the basic rules of composition (a set meter, rhyme scheme, thematic constraints); regulated jueju requires poets to create parallelism of meaning and sound between lines, as well as follow set vowel patterns handed down since the advent of the form.
Since 2013, this prize has been awarded biennially (though it is annual beginning this year), and the competition is open to K-12 students, college students and adults. K-12 teachers, who receive instructional support from Institute for US-China Issues director Jonathan Stalling, are encouraged to teach English jueju in the classroom and submit class poems. Read on for a closer look at this year’s winning poems, and you can stream video of the awards ceremony on YouTube.
In the poems below, Vowel patterns are represented by using grids of alternating white and black squares. White squares represent full vowel sounds called “ping,” while black squares represent clipped/shortened vowel sounds called “ze” which result from monosyllable words ending in unvoiced consonants like /p,t,k,s,f, ch, and sh).
Jeannette Tien-Wei Law (Milan, Italy): “For Those Who Flee”
Jeanette’s entry is based on a translation of a family heirloom poem originally handed down to her in Chinese. Jeannette chose to translate the jueju into a “ze-start seven-word rhyming first line English jueju.”
This striking poem follows the ping/ze pattern perfectly (though she takes advantage of “free positions” in the odd numbered columns) and begins with a couplet replete with semantic parallelism, pairing “swift horse” with “winged ride”; “flee horde” with “comb cliffs”; and the apocryphal “swords wax war” and “fate’s moon door.” The poem’s final couplet speaks to the perilous difficulty of an exodus and the promise of a safe harbor. This is a masterpiece of regulated English jueju.
Maria Sorokina (Smolensk, Russia), "Smolenskoye Poozerye" (translated as “smolensk lakes")
Maria is a faculty member in the department of Computational Mathematics and Cybernetics at Lomonosov Moscow State University. Her jueju is also perfect example of a regulated ze start qijue (seven-word jueju):
While Maria’s poem does not take as much advantage of semantic parallelism in her first couplet, the perfect vowel pattern coupled with the contemplative beauty of the poem’s form and content makes this truly a gem of a poem.
Sylas Pelikan (Princeton, New Jersey): untitled Sylas, a student at Middlebury College in Vermont, submitted a near perfect example of a “ze start qijue” (seven-word jueju). His unique lineation highlights the modular design of jueju:
Yet, when we present the poem alongside the ze-start vowel pattern, we can see a minor error.
Capped peaks young pines soft drifts blow
Light moss stark earth scant ferns grow
Sun fades glance up warm red light
Frost’s bite clings to last faint glow
While there is one “ze” word (“moss”) occupying a position that should have included a “ping” word, the poem otherwise has followed the ping/ze pattern perfectly, and his first couplet is a lovely example of semantic parallelism as “capped peaks” contrasts with “light moss” while, “young pines” contrast beautifully with “stark earth” and finally “soft drifts blow” provides another antithetical parallel resonance with “scant ferns grow.” Yet his poem came out on top because of his attention to poetic details that create a subtle beauty in his imagery. Not green moss but “light moss,” not “green ferns” but “scant ferns” and so on. His turning line directs the reader’s attention to the way the sun fades in shades of red, while we notice how late signs of winter are illuminated by this faint glow. It’s a single moment of distilled experience and reveals something of the essence of the jueju form.
Julia Alvarenga (Dallas, Texas): untitled
Julia is a student at Jean Paul II High School in Dallas, and her poem is another amazing example of a regulated ze start qijue (seven-word jueju):
Again we can see an excellent example of semantic parallelism in the first couplet with the unit “raw night” paired with “pale moon”; “dim clouds” paired with “snow drifts”; and the three-word units “cold mists flow” paired with “sweet winds blow.” Julia’s second couplet introduces a human feeling of rest, setting up a reflection on the importance of grounding ourselves at home and in time.
Emma Lee (Eureka Springs, Arkansas): untitled Emma is 10 years old and a student at Clear Spring School. Her unregulated jueju offers up a couplet of antithetical imagery painting a picture of nature’s unpredictable weather followed by a gentle suggestion that if we take time to soak it up, we will not fail to notice the sun when it is shining on us from blue skies.
Warm rain cold draft big bee flies
Soft sleet iced breeze life is wise
Lie down be calm soak it up
Come see the sun in blue skies
Jacqueline Gibson (Norman, Oklahoma): untitled Jacqueline is an OU master’s student in international studies whose perfectly regulated “ping start qijue, (seven-word jueju) delves into the global warming crisis yet ends on a note of hope.
While other regulated jueju submitted this year may have presented more subtle human feelings or more beautiful natural imagery, Jacqueline’s poem was unique in the way she employed semantic parallelism between the units of the first two lines to draw a sharp and alarming sense of interconnected causality driving the global warming catastrophe. She pairs “peaks melt” with “coal burns” and “fresh streams gone” with “thirst halts spawn.” After drawing her reader’s attention to ecological causes and effects she “turns” the poem in line three to gird the reader by maintaining our need for hope to motivate change. The jueju is a versatile form and is built upon an ecological foundation that seeks to reveal the permeable line between humanity and nature, and this year’s Oklahoma winner is being recognized for her efforts to bring these traditional elements to bear upon current ecological issues.
Bradley Quy (Norman, Oklahoma): untitled Bradley is a senior international & area studies major at OU. His poem follows the pattern of a “ze-start qijue (seven-word jueju). His first line introduces semantic parallelism between “new sun” and “soft light” and lighter resonances elsewhere. Bradley’s poem emerges as truly excellent jueju in part due to his powerful third line which follows the rule of “turning” as he uses it to introduce human feelings and concepts by instructing his reader to “raise head, breathe deep, free aged heart” only to close the poem: “Look up to see hope’s not gone.”
Sophie Eisenberg (New York, New York): untitled Sophie, a student at Middlebury College in Vermont, received honorable mention for her “ze start qijue” (seven-word jueju).
Sophie’s poem also follows the vowel pattern perfectly, but she includes truly exciting parallel units in her first couplet like “stark peak” with “bare tree” and “cloud bends” with “light slants.” Both of these mysteriously cast greater attention to aspects like height and the subtle shifts in light, while “strong storms” and “wild wind” create an airtight parallel structure.
Kressel Housman (New York, New York): untitled Kressel received an honorable mention for her stunningly original unregulated qijue (seven-word jueju):
Thick peels hide pit of true core
Each husk holds seed to build more
So too our souls They’re deep in
Mere flesh cloaks spark but deeds soar
Kressel’s unregulated jueju explores the Jewish teaching that the soul is the inner spark of all humans and that our bodies are but their shells, while her metaphor of fruit and seed originates from the Kabbala. As the poem has been previously published in a novel written by the poet, it could not be considered for this year’s prize, but it clearly demonstrates that Kressel will be a jueju poet to look out for in 2023!
Ella Walker (Dallas, Texas): untitled Ella, a student at John Paul II High School, received honorable mention for her “ze start seven-word rhyming first line English jujeu,” which nearly perfectly follows the prescribed vowel pattern (only “clear” and “vast” were in the wrong ping/ze order at the end of the second line). It also includes strong semantic parallelism with the unit “fresh mist” paired with “strong breeze”; “soft ground” contrasted with “harsh cliff”; and “dawn lights” against a “clear vast sea.”
Eva Talkington (Dallas, Texas): untitled Eva is a student at John Paul II High School. Her honorable mention poem is a powerful example of a “ping start seven-word rhyming first line English Jueju.” The poem’s lines not only follow the ping/ze vowel pattern almost perfectly, but it also includes a couplet with some very nice parallel units, like “cold stream flows” and “free fish goes,” and more subtle ones like “warm bridge” paired with “soft moss” and “smooth rocks” with “light hum.” The last of these is not conventionally parallel, but by turning from touch to hearing, the poet creates a truly multi-sensory experience of the stream. Eva’s lovely turning line introduces nuanced details like the wet hem of pants after wading in a stream, and the “wry swift thoughts” that come to mirror the stream.
We congratulate these poets of all ages on their achievements! This year’s competition produced beautiful work and proved one of the toughest yet for judging. The Newman Prize for English Jueju contest winners received $500 and a certificate signed by OU President Harroz. They also had the opportunity to present their award-winning poems for an online awards ceremony, which you can stream on the OU College of International Studies YouTube channel.
To learn more about English Jueju poetry and the Newman Prize for English Jueju, including upcoming contests, visit the website for the Institute for US-China Issues or contact Jonathan Stalling at firstname.lastname@example.org.