Featured Falcon: Scholastic Gold Key for Poetry recipient Laura Civillico

Laura Civillico is a freshman in the Humanities program. Last month, she won the Gold Key for poetry in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards. This contest occurs every year and accepts different writing categories like poetry, short stories, and memoir. The Pulse wanted to ask her about her submission. 

How does it feel to win the Gold Key for poetry?

It was pretty surprising! When I entered the contest, I didn’t really expect to win since I knew I’d be competing with juniors and seniors, but I thought it would be a fun way to get my work out there and see if people liked it. I thought I’d get an Honorable Mention at best, so it was an exciting surprise to learn I won a Gold Key!

Was there a specific required theme for your poem?

There was no theme for the contest, but we were encouraged to submit pieces that reflect “our own unique voice.” I think that basically meant that the piece should have some layers of depth to it and be an abstract statement about society.

What is your poem about?

My submission is a collection of two poems about the US immigration system. The first poem is in the style of Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing.” My poem is titled “The Haven and Heaven” and glorifies the safety and kindness of the American immigration system in long, sweeping lines, just like in Whitman’s poem. The second poem is in the style of Langston Hughes’ “I, Too.” Just like “I, Too” was a rebuttal to “I Hear America Singing,” my second poem, “Who America is Not For,” highlights the problems of the immigration system in short, choppy phrases. The two poems are meant to complement and counter each other as the debate over the immigration system wages on.

How long have you been writing?

I’ve been writing for fun since third grade. My first story was a mystery called “Mystery Meets.” It was about a group of girls who solved the mystery of a hidden drawing. Exciting, right?

Does writing come easy to you?

That’s a difficult question. I would say that yes, in general, writing does come fairly easily, but it is because of the years I’ve spent practicing and perfecting my technique and style. I don’t consider myself an expert in the slightest, and I will always have more to learn. Writing is unique in that there is no correct way to do it. Sometimes I’ll spend days agonizing over one scene in my story, or one paragraph in my essay, just looking at each word and thinking about synonyms or better phrases or better reasoning. I marvel at the poems and stories we read in English, with the layered foreshadowing and symbolism seemingly at every turn. One day, I would like to write like that. 

What motivated you to compete?

Honestly, I’m not sure! There are a lot of opportunities in high school to put your work out there, and I think I just wanted to give it a try. I really wanted to see if other people like my work, or if only I do!

How did you learn about this competition?

Ms. Van Yuga told my English class about the competition about a month before the submission deadline. I was super busy at the time, so I tucked it away in my head for “Things to Think About Later.” Then, a week before the submission deadline, I remembered about the competition. I looked through my computer files and sifted through the last year or so of my work. I picked out a few of my favorites and submitted them.

What is the inspiration behind this piece? 

I have several friends who moved to the US recently, and this made me think about how the experience of America is not the same for everyone.