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Freshman Holifield takes top prize in Project Poet

October 17, 2012
By cnp
Posted in Student Events

The seventh season of Project Poet has broken attendance records nearly every week, and the final episode did not disappoint. A record 187 audience members watched as Will Holifield, a freshman music major from Rogers, Ark., won a first-place check of $750 and the title of Poet Laureate of the Spadra Valley.

Tuesday night, the remaining five contests presented three poems about "what matters." This final task may have seemed simple, but it created a real test for the remaining poets. For this challenge, contestants were free to choose their topics and their styles. The goal was less about mastering a form and more about connecting with the audience on a deeper, universal level.

After hearing all five contestants, the three judges and the audience members, acting as the fourth judge, chose Holifield as the winner. One of his winning poems is below.

Thanks to the generosity of University president Dr. Rick Niece and First Lady Sherée, all five final contestants won prize money. Along with Holifield, Rikki Runyan, English major from McGehee, Ark., came in second, and Nathan Miller, education major from Mesquite, Texas, rounded out the top three. Stephen Kennedy, theatre major from Bella Vista, Ark., secured fourth place, and Jacqueline Jurcik, accounting major from Dover, Ark., came in fifth.

Project Poet co-creator Dr. David Strain, chair of the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts, offered campus wide thanks upon announcing the winners.

"Heart-felt thanks to all who participated in season seven: to the 17 students who took the risk of entering; to Rick and Sherée Niece, who not only donated the rewards for all that risk-taking but who were also there for each risk taken; to Dr. Brian Hardman, who made sure each episode came off smoothly and who entertained us so gracefully each night; to all our colleagues who judged the five challenges; to Debbie Eldridge, who gathered and prepared the poems for the judges; and, finally, to everyone who came, whether for the poetry, the music, the community, or all of the above," Strain said.

Project Poet began in 2006 as the brainchild of Strain and his former colleague, Dr. Kendrick Prewitt. The competition challenges students to draw on their creative writing skills and their wit, and is open to students from any program on campus.

For more information about the competition, including details about each challenge and a list of the winning poets for each week, see


"Cogito Ergo Sum"
Copyright 2012 by Will Holifield

What I would give for a breath of air
For a kiss on the cheek
For the touch of a hand

Perched atop Mount Sinai
The city below the mountain is ablaze with activity--it is
Morning I watch the busily burdened bustle of Shalem, as the priests,
As well as the pick-pockets, "open shop"

Compared to my brothers and sisters down there, I am
I am
And it is
taking a terrible toll on me

As Dawn comes, the
Sky unfolds into a tapestry of a hundred thousand colors
Father only could see black and white
Punishing us if we spoke differently, He always
Hated when we talked back

So by perpetual shackles I am
Watching men harm one another, doom themselves At first I was shocked Then confused Now I am Only saddened but Through the darkness of few I see happiness of many and More to come They are So beautiful and
Fragmented and
Messy and wonderfully
Perfectly imperfect
They are.

A single dove lands
on a branch and she sings
such beautiful song,

I beckon her, come
closer, little dear, do not be
Afraid, my friend
she lifts her wings to fly toward me, then right
Through me as everything always does

Looking, peering down into the valley once Again, there is so much beauty in life Twisting and turning, we are all intertwined I shout, no one hears

I exist, don’t I?
I mean, I am
Me, right?
Xipetotec . . .
Lucifer, Satan, Devil 

I would rather suffer than live as a ghost Any longer I would rather die than feel so alone Time is a fleeting thing In a temporary realm And that is precisely the beauty of it because

In a place without time, everything can last forever
Which means that nothing does

So by infinite chains I am
Trapped--with only the fruit of thought for company Why? Because I ask questions? Because I feel? Because I hurt? Because I fall in love?

If only I could be among them
But they were
always Father’s favorites

What I would give for the smell of perfume For a kiss on the lips For the warmth of a hug

To be a mortal, just for one day