Poems about Loss, Masculinity and Fatherhood Win Student $62,900
The four years that Washington College (MD) senior Alexander R. Vidiani spent honing his writing skills finally paid off—to the tune of $62,900.
On May 15, Vidiani took home the annual Sophie Kerr Prize, the largest undergraduate literary prize in the country, for his portfolio of poetry. His work focused on topics of loss, masculinity, fatherhood and the way language connects us to one another.
Vidiani says he was inspired in part by the work of Nick Flynn, a poet and memoirist who visited the college in 2012, when Vidiani was just a freshman. Flynn’s debut poetry collection, Some Ether, tackled tough issues, like family trauma and relationships, inspiring Vidiani to try writing about weightier subjects himself.
“He had an incredible ear for the music of poetry, he just needed to learn how to be disciplined about doing the work,” says Jehanne Dubrow, a poet who directs the Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College. “Once we talked about how talented he was and where he could take that talent, he became one of our most dedicated students. He will revise a poem 100 times or more if needed. He’s the finest student poet I’ve had the pleasure to work with in my seven years here at the college.”
Vidiani’s major in English with a minor in creative writing made him a natural fit to serve as the poetry editor of the school’s literary magazine, The Collegian, and as an intern with the poetry editor of Summerset Review. In addition, two of his poems have been accepted for respected poetry publications, Cleaver Magazine and Juked. Vidiani was awarded a teaching assistantship at the University of Maryland, where he’ll enroll in the fall to work toward his Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry.
Since 1968, the Sophie Kerr Prize has been given to the Washington College senior who demonstrates the greatest literary ability and promise, as decided by the English Department faculty. The money for the prize comes thanks to a large endowment from its namesake, who died in 1965. She bequeathed much of her estate to the college with the stipulation that half its income would be set aside for the winning writer each year. More than $1.5 million has been given away since the prize’s inaugural year, with amounts ranging from $9,000 in 1968 to $69,000 in 2009. Many of the winners have gone on to publish their work and establish careers in writing-related fields.
To learn more about the Sophie Kerr Award, visit www.washcoll.edu/departments/english/sophie-kerr-legacy.