2016 Sejong Writing Competition

Sijo Winners

First Place Austin Snell
Pewaukee, WI
12th grade, Ms. Elizabeth Jorgensen
Arrowhead High School
Second Place Bella Dalton-Fenkl
Poughkeepsie, NY
12th grade, Ms. Ani Depa
Mapleview Preparatory Homeschool
Third Place Vivian Nguyen
Lakewood, CO
9th grade, Ms. Kari Newell
D'Evelyn Junior/Senior High School
Honorable Mention

Friend of the Pacific Rim Award
Philip Ahn
Denver, CO
9th grade, Mrs. Deb Holland
D'Evelyn Junior/Senior High School
Suzan Kim
Cresskill, NJ
11th grade, Mr. Stephen Kaplan
Bergen County Academies
Dante Kirkman
Palo Alto, CA
8th grade, Ms. Alexandra Gatley
Jordan Middle School
Derek Krueger
Luverne, MN
12th grade, Ms. Amy Sahly
Luverne High School
Katie McFarland
Salado, TX
10th grade, Ms. Terri Seaton
Salado High School
Haley Tedstrom
Golden, CO
9th grade, Mrs. Deb Holland
D'Evelyn Junior/Senior High School
Duncan Vallone
Laredo, TX
11th grade, Ms. Beverly Herrera
J.B. Alexander High School
Abagael Weber
Oconomowoc, WI
11th grade, Ms. Elizabeth Jorgensen
Arrowhead Union High School

Austin Snell

first place

My name is Austin Snell. I am 18-years-old and I attend Arrowhead High School in Hartland, WI. I enjoy playing sports, especially soccer. I don’t play on the school’s team, but I enjoy kicking and shooting the ball. I am a fan of the London soccer team Arsenal F.C. I am a huge car enthusiast. I love motorsport (specifically Formula 1 and Rally) and I would love to race cars in the future. I plan on going to college to learn about automotive engineering because I like the technical nature and the precision of cars. I work well with my hands. I always thought of being a mechanic, since I am passionate about cars, but I don’t really like grime and getting filthy.

I would love to thank my Aunt Eli who passed away after battling cancer. She was the inspiration for my sijo. She was the kindest and most honest person I will ever know. We knew my aunt’s cancer had come back the same year we got our new dog. My mother was in complete despair. We needed something that would help us feel better. To honor my aunt, we wanted to name our dog something close to Eli. We were going to go with Emily but then finally settled on Emma. My aunt saw our new dog on video chats and she said she was the cutest thing she had seen. When my aunt passed away, we decided to give our dog her middle name (Eli) to honor her. She will always be missed.

I learned about this competition from my Creative Writing teacher Ms. Jorgensen. I never heard of this form of poetry and now it’s one of my favorites. I didn’t do this poem to win the competition; instead, I did the poem to express myself through writing. Thank you.

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Bella Dalton-Fenkl

second place

My name is Bella Dalton-Fenkl and I live in the Hudson Valley in New York. I’m homeschooled and I will be attending Vassar College this fall. I’ve loved studying sijo and other Asian poetic forms ever since I read Urban Temple and my favorite poems are ones about personal experiences in nature. Last year, I was lucky to be in an Asian Poetry course at a local university, in which I had to write, among other things, a haiku every day for a month! It definitely strengthened my understanding of poetic forms, including sijo. My English teacher is a wonderful female Buddhist lama, Ani Depa, who has helped me explore my interest in poetry over many years of study.

“The Sanctuary” is a poem that describes Silver Sands beach in Connecticut. On a day trip last year, I was walking by a boardwalk. The sun was setting, and I had seen a baby egret stumbling through the sea. A few minutes later I saw a small tree growing on the beach. The tree had clearly been buffeted by a storm in the past—half of it was missing, but it was still healthy. I was so impressed by these small yet determined living creatures that I was inspired to write this sijo.

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Vivian Nguyen

third place

My name is Vivian Nguyen, I am 15 years old and I was born in Melbourne Australia. I moved to the United States when I was 13 years old and I have experienced so many new and wonderful things, culturally. My future goal in life is to one day be able do something with my life that helps others as a career, and putting others needs before my own. I enjoy playing the piano in my free time, drawing, running, and reading fiction. My personal heroes are Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and my mum.

I heard about this competition from my Eastern Civilizations teacher, Ms. Newell, who encouraged us to write sijo poems and submit them into the competition. As I was writing my sijo poem, I learnt that what you put into a poem shouldn’t be influenced by what others are feeling, but yourself. People our age experience self-confidence issues, and I wrote the sijo poem based on that. Self confidence is what one of my closest friends struggled with and as a result, she developed an eating disorder. The stories she told me of what it felt like, impacted myself, and so I decided to write about it. I’m honored to be chosen for this award and thank-you so much.

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Dante Kirkman

honorable mention

My name is Dante Kirkman and I’m a student, writer, artist and boxer from Palo Alto, California. My creative work expresses my viewpoint and experience as a Black youth coming of age in 21st century America. My work, often on social justice themes, has been published, exhibited and awarded at the state, national and international level.

I am very interested in folklore and poetry, as these traditions figure strongly into the oral traditions of the American Black experience. For example, I have made a documentary on the Black lowrider experience in California, and I have written poetry based on the Harlem Renaissance. As a result, I was very excited to learn about the Sejong project, because it gave me an opportunity to combine these interests in an unexpected way, and explore a new genre of poetry. The fact that Sijo is a poem that is meant as a song really resonates with African-American traditions.

In terms of folklore, Brer Rabbit is the famous character from the folklore tradition of American slavery. So when I had the opportunity to learn about the story of his Korean rabbit counterpart, I was very excited to dig deeper in terms of the significance of these stories. In reflecting on them, it became clear to me that the powerless rabbit, who gets by on his wits, is an important symbol for oppressed or dispossessed people, who still aspire to their rightful place in society. The spirit of the rabbit represents the spirit of everyone who aspires to a better life.

The theme of a better life is a segue to my Sijo poem. My inspiration for the Sijo poem was my grandfather, who grew up in segregated New Orleans during the Great Depression with nothing but his faith in God and a resolve to make a better life. After serving in WWII in the Philippines, he settled in San Francisco and made a life for his young family in Menlo Park, California, on the red-lined Black side, east of the freeway. He worked as a mailman and raised five children, and now I am honoring his legacy as his grandson, and my older brother is the first to go to college.

On a final note, the Sejong Cultural Society has helped me expand my horizons to learn more about Korean culture, and for this I am grateful. I am also working on an environmental justice project sponsored by Samsung, a Korean company, and it is empowering to realize that the world is only as big or distant as we choose to make it.

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