Olatunji Osho-Williams ’21 was named a winner of the Hill-Stead Museum’s 2020 Fresh Voices Poetry Competition. Since 1993, student poets from throughout Connecticut have entered the competition, which is open to all New England high school students. It offers students the opportunity to write and perform poems suitable for presentation and publication.
This past academic year, Tunji took Michael Cervas’ Creative Writing class in which he wrote poems and other prose and decided to submit five poems to the competition. After hearing in May that he had advanced to the finalist stage of the competition, Tunji read his poems to a panel of judges via a Zoom call, which also included 15 other finalists. The next day, he learned that he was one of six winners.
“I was elated,” said Tunji. “It felt like a satisfying conclusion to an overall positive school year. I’m excited to share my work with a much larger audience than my mom and my Creative Writing class.”
Tunji says writing has always been a way to make sense of the ideas, words and concepts that bounce around in his head. “For me, it’s easier to sort things out by putting words in a document,” he explained. “Poetry is a way for me effectively to communicate not only ideas but feeling through words that sound good together. I had never been interested in poetry, aside from the occasional class assignment, until the end of my Third Form year at Westminster, when I realized that I enjoy writing. I have been actively writing poetry for about two-and-a-half years now.”
Looking back, Tunji says that in his Fourth Form year when he took AP Language and Composition with teacher Bryan Tawney, he not only learned how to understand what writers were saying but how they communicate their ideas. “This class taught me to critically assess how a writer’s or speaker’s language influences their audience,” said Tunji. “It also changed my thinking of writing as more than telling stories, but as a tool to make change. During that same year, I tried out Mr. Court’s Independent Study in Creative Writing as an experiment because I knew I was interested in some form of writing, and I saw it as an opportunity to try something new. I’m glad I made that first step. This past year in Mr. Cervas’ Creative Writing class, I branched out and wrote prose in addition to poetry.”
“What is really remarkable about Tunji is that he is equally as talented as a fiction and nonfiction writer,” said Michael.
The six winners from this year’s Fresh Voices Poetry Competition will read their poems live at Young Poets Day with acclaimed spoken word poet, author and activist Mahogany L. Browne at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival Aug. 9. In addition, in January 2021, the winning poets will have their work featured on Hill-Stead’s website in the online poetry journal “Theodate.”
Over the years, Tunji is the fourth Westminster student to win the Hill-Stead Museum’s Young Voices Poetry Competition.