Department of English, College of LAS, University of Illinois

Illinois Department of English Blog


Welcome to the Department of English blog.

My name is Vicki Mahaffey and I took over as
head of the department on July 1, 2016. I'll be using this site to post updates and information of interest to our faculty, students, and alumni,
along with reflections about our discipline(s) in particular and the humanities in general. As anyone who has ever worked or studied here knows, the Department of English is a vibrant place. If you have something you'd like to see posted here, or if you want to contact me about the content of this blog, drop me an email at

Friday, April 8, 2011

Kevin T. Early Memorial Scholarship

Earlier this week I met with Yarah Kudaimi, the winner of this year's Kevin T. Early Memorial Scholarship. This award, given in honor of Kevin T. Early, who was a promising young poet, goes annually to recognize the best poetry submitted by a U of I Freshman. Submissions (a total of 38 this year) are judged anonymously by members of our creative writing faculty.

It is a treat for me to be able to speak with each year's winner, because good, young poets are pretty much guaranteed to be thoughtful, interesting people. Ms. Kudaimi, who has not yet declared a major, is certainly no exception to this rule. She reads Arabic, for example, and when I asked her what poets she liked to read she mentioned Charles Simic right away. How many Freshman have a favorite contemporary poet, I wonder? Is this some new trend?

Ms. Kudaimi also struck me as very self-possessed: in addition to telling me who she liked to read, she asked me who I enjoy reading (I told her, for those keeping score at home, that I liked Christopher Marlowe, James Wright, and Wallace Stevens). The faculty judge of this contest praised Kudaimi's poems for their "clear voice, compelling detail," and "sense of lived experience." Also for their concision, their avoidance of abstraction, and their "well-shaped" lines. Very Impressive, all around. So: congratulations!

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