One of the longest-serving and most beloved members of the Colleges' Department of English and Comparative Literature recently received five checks in the mail. The monetary award was only $435, but it represents five prizes in a poetry contest that's been around for more than a quarter-century.
The faculty member was Professor of English and comparative literature Peter Cummings P'92, who was recently named a multiple-category winner in the World Order of Narrative and Formalist Poets 2007 competitions.
Cummings said he submitted entries in 16 of 18 formal categories, and received two first prizes, two seconds, one third and seven honorable mentions. The third-place winner, “Lighthouse by Land,” is printed below. The five prize-winning poems will be published in a chapbook of all prize winners' poems.
This is the second consecutive year his work has been honored in the competitions; he received two honorable mentions in the 2006 competitions, and was invited to enter the '07 contests.
The World Order of Narrative and Formalist Poets, which has sponsored these international contests since 1980, is directed by poet, critic, and art historian Alfred Dorn, who has said he regards the New Formalists as the most dynamic movement in current American Poetry.
A member of the HWS faculty since 1970, Cummings holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Carolina and his bachelor's and master's degrees from Cornell. Cummings has advised many English majors taking part in the Bath, England, program abroad, and estimates that he has written 700 sonnets, of which about 100 have been published. He is best known on campus for his popular courses in Shakespeare and his athletic career. He has published widely on the works of Shakespeare and other poets, and has won several first- and second-place awards as a cyclist and triathlete over many years. He will retire from the department at HWS at the end of the Spring 2008 semester.
Research has shown that he has taught more than 6,250 students and graded more than 36,000 student essays.
Cummings expressed surprise and gratitude with the contest results, saying “Five checks in one day [totaling $435] is a record for me — for anything. I may take my friend [Professor of History Emeritus] Marvin Bram's advice and frame them in a mat of gold — real gold. I figure it would cost me about $450.”
“Lighthouse by Land” won third place in the John Joseph Memorial Award, a category in which each 14-line sonnet had to be about a lighthouse.
Lighthouse by Land
The lighthouse at Saint Augustine harbor,
like so much else in this historic city,
is among the very first in America.
— tourist brochure
That day we went by bicycle astray
along the beach Saint Augustine provides,
we thought, 'We can't go wrong, there is no way
to miss the road of sand on a two-way ride.”
In joy we went too far, chill darkness fell,
together with a fog that dimmed the moon;
for ten or twenty feet we saw quite well,
beyond that, thicker than we'd ever seen.
We crept, we rolled more slowly than we might
at any time, to miss the gullies, stuff
the tide hauls in, and keep the going light,
until we both had had about enough.
“O look at that!” The lighthouse beam winks there,
and we on earth come home by light in air.
Cummings is shown with his trained therapy dog Mitzi, a Bichon Frise whom he takes to Seneca Lake Terrace and ARC sites.