Prize-winning Student Poet Writes to Enhance Life

A creative writing class assignment has led to an honor for freshman Brian Thomas, an English and political science double major. Thomas is the winner of the annual Iris N. Spencer Undergraduate Poetry Award from West Chester University, an award that recognizes poetic achievement among undergraduates enrolled in U.S. colleges or universities.

Brian Thomas 2017

Brian Thomas 2017 wins award that recognizes poetic achievement among undergraduates enrolled in U.S. colleges or universities.

As the recipient of this award, Thomas will receive $1,500 dollars and read at the West Chester University poetry conference June 4 -7, for which he’s earned a full scholarship. U.S. Poet Laureate Natasha Trethewey (2012-2013) will offer the keynote address at the conference where Thomas will read his winning poem, “Sonnet for the Poets, Frank, Hart and You.” It was Thomas’s first attempt at a sonnet.

“The sonnet is traditionally a love poem, so I decided to write about my admiration for writing and poetry at large,” Thomas explains. “It’s a love poem for poetry, instead of say, a love poem for a girlfriend.

“I really look forward to the workshop portion of the conference and getting pointed feedback about my work from established and talented poets,” he said. “I can take their idea, thoughts, and criticisms and use it to improve my own writing.”

The winning sonnet blossomed from an assignment in an introductory poetry writing course, taught by visiting creative writing professor, Anna Maria Hong. Hong recommended that Thomas pursue the award.

“It’s a wonderful poem that deserves this recognition,” Hong said in an email. “Brian has a very promising writing and reading life ahead.”

In addition to writing poetry, Thomas is a fiction reader for the campus literary magazine The Lantern, and a regular participant in the Literary Society, a campus group that meets weekly to share and critique student writing.

“I know that I will always write, if only for myself,” says Thomas, who is from West Chester. “I know you can’t write poems to get rich, but you can write them to enhance your life.”

Brian’s Winning Poem


Sonnet for the Poets, Frank, Hart and You

By Brian Thomas


I want to move your eyes (heavy) across

The lines, O’Hara, Lorca, watch your lips

Inhale it all like smoke and clutch the cross

Around your neck, on string (old string) that dips

Between your heart and world and art and me.

I’ll have to tidy up my face, my hair,

(My room’s a mess) amiss, to kiss and be

Afraid of poems for poems cannot be shared

When they (my fault) are clones of her Hart Crane

Hard-cover she [left me]. I’d like to show

You Crane, and you could paint and go insane

Like me. My room’s a mess and people know,

            I’ll keep my nose in books old lovers left

            And count your eyes as art, your sighs as breath.