Lisa J. Sullivan, an English major with a concentration in creative writing at Bridgewater State University, is this year’s United States winner of the Ireland Poetry Project Prize. The entry she submitted, “To the Bog of Allen,” was a poem written in response to Nigel Rolfe’s short video “Into the Mire.”
“It was an ekphrastic poetry contest,” Sullivan said. “‘Into the the Mire’ by Nigel Rolfe spoke to me in particular. I pictured what the guy would be feeling as he fell into the peat bog. I also wanted to use geographical accuracies as well as a metaphor for past political religious struggles in Ireland.”
This is not Sullivan’s first achievement in writing. Just months before winning the prize, she published a chapbook of 11 poems called The Childless Mother through the Adrian Tinsley Program (ATP), which is run by the undergraduate research department.
According to Sullivan’s abstract, the poems are from the point of view of childfree people, written in order to help “dispel” social stigma that they “lead empty lives” or “are selfish or without parental instincts.”
Sullivan used scientific data and interviewed a pastor and a psychologist to develop the point of view used in the poems.
The ATP program, according to Director of Undergraduate Research Jenny Shanahan, is an opportunity for students to apply for a grant that allows them to gather research for a creative project over a ten-week period during the summer. Students are given a stipend of $4,000 if they are given the grant, and their mentors receive a $2,000 stipend.
“ATP grants are what makes Bridgewater a special place to be,” said Shanahan. “There are so many programs for the math and science departments, but this allows students in the arts and humanities to succeed.”
Sullivan said the undergraduate research department has been very supportive of her writing. Her poetry professor and ATP program mentor John Mulrooney has also helped her grow as a writer.
“I am fortunate to work with many great students at Bridgewater, and the variety of backgrounds always impresses me,” said Mulrooney, who is also an Assistant Professor in Creative Writing at BSU. “Lisa brings enthusiasm and dedication as well as a rich life experience to the creative classroom.”
Mulrooney added that Sullivan has an intense focus in her writing, and her methods show perseverance and dedication in finding “what the physical world can reveal.”
Sullivan is planning on entering graduate school next year. She is working to get an MFA in poetry.
“I have a need to write, just as a painter would have a need to paint,” said Sullivan. “I like to connect to people through poetry. I love art. I love words. I love language.”
Elizabeth Keeling is a Comment staff writer. Email her at email@example.com.