The close friends, who got to know each other at Wadham, were selected from more than forty submissions. Melanie Greenberg wins the top prize for a cycle of three poems, and Anna Schechter is proxime accessit for her short story, ‘The Swap’.
Melanie’s entry, ‘She won’t stop sending lamb hearts to the post office', is a cycle of three carefully-crafted poems whose uncanny imagery kept drawing the judges back to read them again. “The titular poem combines startling imagery with unsettling enjambment and subtle assonance to striking effect”, write the judges.
The poem was inspired by an assignment her tutor gave Melanie where she was told to write a self-portrait without using the word ‘I’. “I wanted to explore the shadow of a presence, one experienced by other people,” said Melanie.
The judges commented that the formal repetition of Hourglass II, with its recycling of lexis and line endings, creates a sense of stasis which sits in tension with its motifs of transience, producing a paradoxical effect of swift stillness reminiscent of the feeling of a holiday or a fever dream.”
Melanie adds: “I wrote Hourglass II originally when I was 18, but came back to it this spring to focus more on the process of world-building and the idea of a chosen exile.”
Read Melanie's poems here
Anna’s entry, ‘The Swap’, is a short story which explores themes of trauma and complicity in the context of American campus culture. The judges were particularly impressed by the subtly interlocking symbolism of the story’s key motifs, the careful manipulation of the reader’s sympathies, and the engaging progress of the narrative.
Anna comments: “The inspiration for this story came when Marie Kondo's Netflix show ‘Tidying Up’ was all the rage and people were getting rid of belongings that did not ‘spark joy.’ As a result, many people were arranging clothing swaps. I watched the show and I went to a bunch of clothing swaps over the winter of 2019. I was sitting in a friend of a friend's dorm room, clothing flying overhead, people trying stuff on in the corner, and I was struck by the potential for (literal) ‘dirty laundry’ to be passed off this way. I started thinking about what lives these articles of clothing had been through, what they had witnessed, who they had touched. Suddenly the clothing took on a life of its own -- a menacing sort of life force. I was caught up in the ability of fabric to hold memories, secrets, pain. The story blossomed from this headspace.”
Read Anna's story here
Congratulating the winners and recognising the hard work and creativity of all who entered, Wadham judges Dr Hannah Bailey and Dr Juliane Zachhuber, awarded the £100 prize to Mealnie and £50 to Anna.
Sarah Lawrence College, a renowned liberal arts college in New York, has been sending visiting students for a year at Wadham College since 1985.