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Runyan rules as Project Poet breaks attendance record

September 26, 2012
By cnp
Posted in Student Events

In its seventh season, "Project Poet!" seems to have taken on a life of its own. For the third week in a row, the poetry competition has blasted its attendance record as 182 audience members crammed the Black Box theatre Tuesday night to hear 10 poets recite their responses to the latest challenge.

Faced with the task of writing two poems this week, one about a color and the other a lullaby, the remaining competitors brought their best for the record setting crowd.

In the end, Rikki Runyan, a senior English and art major from McGehee, Ark, took first place and immunity for week four as the field was narrowed to eight remaining poets. Immunity was particularly coveted this week as the next challenge is the infamous Winter Formal round, a "Project Poet!" tradition.

In this next challenge, contestants are asked to write three poems with strict poetic forms: a haiku, a limerick, and villanelle.

The final poet who remains in print after the final challenge will be awarded the coveted title of Poet Laureate of the Spadra Valley, along with $750 in prize money. The top five finishers will all receive prize money, generously donated by University President Dr. Rick Niece and First Lady Sherée.

"Project Poet" began in 2006 as the brainchild of Ozarks’ Professor of English Dr. David 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


There is One Man, - present to all particular men only partially, or through one faculty; and … you must take the whole society to find the whole man. --- Emerson

When the yellow chill of fear creeps up your spine, I shiver.
When the soft flesh of your infants rots in the yellow sun, my heart breaks.
When unknown eyes glare yellow in the dark of night, I am frightened with you.
When power lusts and takes from you the yellow glow of innocence, I feel the shame.
My heart is your heart, dear world, other me.

But poor humanity, you do not need my tears.
You need a goddess clad in the yellow gold of victory and triumph, Her enemies’ entrails oozing yellow at her feet.
But yellow bile floods my heart and swallows my courage, And these tears of cowardice are poor tribute to your suffering.

Can a single part save the whole? No . . . But it can serve, and must.
I will work until my hands are tanned yellow from the long days of labor in your troubled fields; I will sooth your weary and comfort your broken, until my yellow bones are bleached by the sun.
And not man, but men will rise courageous, not weak yellowed but shining golden, Parts joined and the whole realized in a glorious shimmering dawn of humanity.

"A Lullaby"

Let’s pretend that you found God, weary, forsaken, forgotten.  A small, emaciated form crumpled and folded into a wilted cardboard box on a dirty street corner, and it’s whimpering, sobbing.  What would you do?  What would you say to it?  Maybe, you would sing a lullaby--to God.

You, from which we all depart,
The place from which our beings came,
Whole to which we all are part,
We fight so hard to get away,
That one soul within each heart,
You, from which we all depart.

Would we might remove all trace
Of that pure truth within us all;
Spirits robbed and souls debased,
We ignore the compulsory call.
Fleeing from omniscient grace,
Would we might remove all trace.

Wayward though our steps may be,
Truth our souls will ever seek,
So cry not sweet forgotten one.
Their hearts will burn; their hearts return.

How often do we each forget
To cast our thoughts outside ourselves?
Life comes not without a debt;
Seek not to take but rather help.
In each heart one spirits met.
How often do we each forget?

Wayward though our steps may be,
Truth our souls will ever seek,
So cry not sweet forgotten one.
Their hearts will burn; their hearts, as one, return.

Copyright 2012 by Rikki Runyan