Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

    Vázquez-Valarezo poetry award celebrates 20th anniversary

    This year, the Vázquez-Valarezo Poetry Award that is offered by Augustana’s Women and Gender Studies department is celebrating its twentieth anniversary.  The award is given to the submission that best reflects the chosen theme for the year, with this year’s theme being “Time’s Up!”, with past themes being It’s About Time”, “Making Peace”, “Tears of Anger”, “Mean Girls”.
    “The award was created in 1997 . . . The Women and Gender Studies Board accepted my petition to name the award “Vázquez-Valarezo” to honor my parents who had recently passed away,” Dr. Jeanneth Vázquez, a professor of Spanish at Augustana college, said in an interview over email.  Vázquez also funds the award.
    Vázquez’s parents were both educators in Ecuador for thirty-five years, as well as being writers.
    “They were a source of great inspiration to me, they were reading and discussing poetry with me even before I was able to read & write,” Vázquez said over email.  “I could not think of a better way of honoring their memory than naming the Award after them.”
    Lydia Lara, a junior at Augustana College, placed second in last year’s Vázquez-Valarezo Poetry Award with her poem “Bendiciones”, which is Spanish for “Blessings”.  The theme for last year’s award was “Free to be Free”.  Lara said that the inspiration for her poem came from a Latinx tradition.
    “As you are leaving or going away for a long time away, people will give you bendiciones, they’ll give you the cross,” Lara said. “They’re saying that ‘I hope that you have safe travels’ or ‘I hope that you’re safe in the time that you’re away from me.'”
    Lara said that her inspiration for the poem came from when a time when she went home to visit her family and was very sad when leaving, so her mom gave her bendiciones.  She said that she came home and went to work on her poem, and needed some inspiration to finish it.
    “I got the email and saw the theme of ‘Freedom’ and it was a trigger that was telling me, ‘I need this theme in my poem,” Lara said.  She went on to finish the poem and actually turned it in twenty minutes after the deadline, but it was still accepted.
    “Time’s Up”, this year’s theme is representative of the organization founded in January of 2018 to give women, men, the LGBT+ community, and people of color a platform in the media to speak up about sexual harassment.  The theme is an important part of the consideration for the award but also serves as inspiration for Augustana artists, as it did for Lara.
    “The Award is given annually to the best submission on a theme related to women and gender,” Vázquez said. “Aside from recognizing excellence, the Award is designed to encourage Augustana student poets, and undiscovered talent, to submit their work for consideration.”
    “I probably never would have considered submitting my own work or seeing it published or even searching for that creative outlet,” Lara said.
    Winners are chosen by a selected panel of three Augustana professors that rotates on a year to year basis.  Submissions are being accepted through March 30.  The top three poems from 2015, 2016, and 2017 can all be found on Augustana’s Digital Commons.

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    Vázquez-Valarezo poetry award celebrates 20th anniversary