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Lighted Corners Wins Gold and Sweeps Poetry Awards

Nicole Patterson

lighted corners 2020 feature

The Columbia Scholastic Press Association (CSPA) awarded Lighted Corners, the Mount’s literary and arts magazine, a gold medal for the Spring 2020 volume and three Gold Circle awards to Therese “Tess” Boegel, C’23, Gigi Gaston, C’20, and Jazlyn Ibarra, C’21, for their poetry.

“Mount students placed first, second and third in the traditional poetry category—I’ve never seen that before,” said faculty adviser and Associate Professor of English, Tom Bligh, Ph.D., C’94.

Bligh taught each of the Gold Circle recipients, at various times, in his Introduction to Creative Writing course. He has been at the magazine’s helm since 2007 and witnessed achievements and milestones—including the first-ever completely digital edition.

“This is wonderful work in the middle of a pandemic,” said Professor of English and Chair of the Department Indrani Mitra, Ph.D. This year there were 233 student submissions.

The student-run magazine publishes poetry, creative nonfiction, fiction, visual art and photography. Lighted Corners continues to be a fierce competitor in overall concept, design and content—earning medals 11 times in the past 13 years. In 2019, the magazine won a gold medal and Betsy Busch, C’22, Katie Brittingham, C’19, Sierra Merson, C’19, and Megan Schultz, C’19, won Gold Circle awards in multiple categories.

CSPA is an international student press association, founded in 1925, that awards crowns for excellent publications, gold circles for individual achievements and medals for entire magazines. Their critique included assessment of the magazine’s reader-friendly information, verbal elements of prose fiction, nonfiction and poetry, and visual communication of content, design and typography: essential, verbal and visual. Lighted Corners received All-Columbian honors in the essential and visual categories, earning 95% or more of the possible points.

Rachel Donohue, C’21, was instrumental in designing the magazine’s visual concept and impact. In addition to creating the new Lighted Corners logo, she also served as art and design editor. The Spring 2020 issue cohesively and thoughtfully incorporated themes of wither, decay and growth.

“Our theme, Cycles, explores the constant renewal of life, even in death,” wrote Breanna DeSimone, C’20, in her editor’s letter. “This year’s magazine is a testament to the triumph of growth.”

Donohue included photographs from the Mount’s student exhibition Earthworks, which was on display at Williams Gallery at Delaplaine Fine Arts Center in late 2019, to cement its concept. Students in Professor Elizabeth Holtry’s Environmental Art course used materials found in nature, and on the mountain, to create their sculptures.

“Rachel enhances every project she touches and is a delight to work with. I’m really lucky that such a talented, well-rounded student took on the challenge of running the magazine,” Bligh said. Donohue has served in various editorial roles and is editor in chief in 2020-21.

Therese “Tess” Boegel

tess-boegel_in-black.jpgGold Circle recipient Therese “Tess” Boegel won first place for her poem “Perspective.” Her poem about how a tree taught her to climb, to see the world better, quickly shifts to her mother’s arms lifting her as she sees the world below: “The world that lay below me and was mine.” Her journey’s imagery includes silver arms lifting her and finding mockingbirds as tutors to learn how to read, write and repeat the song. “One day I found I had mastered both. / My challenges to read and write / Lifted me so I could view the world better; / I climbed with books between my teeth. / The pine tree taught me to climb.”

Boegel is a 2019 Founder’s Scholarship recipient and has been on the President’s List for students with a 4.0 average each semester since she started at the Mount.

Gigi Gaston

gigi_lighted-corners.jpegGold Circle recipient Gigi Gaston won second place for her pantoum, a poem featuring a pattern of repeated lines. “Tonton Macoute (Uncle Gunnysack)” emphasizes issues of fear, humanity, immigration, corruption and home. Her poem is inspired by Natasha Trethewey’s “Incident” and Gaston’s own Haitian roots. “My grandpa, God rest his soul, had to go through this,” she said—talking about him living in terror.

Gaston submitted her poem for three years before it was published in Lighted Corners. She added a paragraph above the poem to provide historical context and inform the reader of her title.

“The Tonton Macoute, created in 1959, was the secret service in Haiti in charge of keeping François (Papa Doc) Duvalier in power and getting rid of his enemies. The nickname came from a bogeyman myth in which misbehaving kids are kidnapped and put in a gunnysack to later be eaten for breakfast. The group was made up of illiterate fanatics who believed in voodoo and used their new power to terrorize people.”

The Mount alumna is now studying film at Johns Hopkins University; she is working toward becoming a producer and says she is honored to be published. “Timing is everything,” she added.

Jazlyn Ibarra

jazlyn-ibarra.pngGold Circle recipient Jazlyn Ibarra’s pantoum “Forever” won third place. The senior studies English and communication, and she was honored to be recognized for the award. She has been with Lighted Corners as a staff member, co-submission manager and co-fiction editor.

“Forever” is inspired by her grandfather, Mario Carrero, who passed away three years ago. Ibarra writes about his memory and sees him sitting in the church pews. “My grandfather was one of the first important people in my life that I lost. He was a deeply religious man and when I went to write this poem, I had no idea I would write about him,” she said.

Ibarra’s poem, written as part ode and part memory, was included in the decay section of the magazine. “It was somewhat hard to go back and forth between remembering and accepting. Death and decay are a part of life,” she explained.

Betsy Busch

betsy-busch_headshot.jpgLast year’s Gold Circle award recipient Betsy Busch was published in the winning Spring 2020 issue of Lighted Corners. Her fiction submission “The Day it Happened” was recently selected for inclusion in the 2020/2021 publication of plain china: Best Undergraduate Writing.

The idea for Busch’s piece came from a pre-pandemic trip to the Arboretum in Washington, D.C., with her mom and little sister. “We were talking about which flowers were just starting to bloom, since it was March. I wondered what it would be like if all the flowers bloomed at once—it would be beautiful, but it would also be terrifying, because that’s not how nature works,” she said. While it could be read as a statement on climate change, and that’s an issue she’s passionate about, she says she didn’t write it with that in mind.

The year 2020 was unprecedented, or as Busch said: “Nothing natural lasts forever, but there’s still beauty to be found in everything.”

Follow Lighted Corners on Instagram at @lightedcorners.

Nicole Patterson