UAA Love Poem Contest asks what healthy relationships look like

Healthy relationships are important to the overall well-being of people, especially college students who may be vulnerable to stress. Feelings and connections can be complicated and it can be difficult to make sense of them, even when talking with friends, family, lovers, or counselors. Writing can help a lot and that is why UAA is having a Love Poem Contest, held by UAA Student Activities and Commuter Programs and UAA Student Health and Counseling. The contest is a part of Health and Wellness Month, which has a theme of “Healthy Relationships.”

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash.

Relationships can be tricky and sometimes it can be difficult to distinguish if one is more positive than negative. For example, abuse within them is not always cut and dry. A partner can be controlling another partner in subtle ways, like finances, expectations and socially. All relationships have pros and cons, but there are tipping points between good and bad, like if a partner is very thoughtful and caring but also extremely flaky and unreliable. Corey Miller is the UAA Students Activities Coordinator and talks about how relationships are not always crystal clear and how the contest can bring clarity to some.

“This contest will let students share their creativity. It asks, ‘what does a healthy relationship look like’ and has an open format on how students can write these poems,” Miller said.

The poetry contest has only a few guidelines as to what kind of poems can be submitted. Poems can express any emotions like happy, sad, deep, funny and can be long or short. The only stipulations for submission are poems cannot include any offensive language, including hate speech, racial slurs, sexual innuendos, sexist comments or violence, nudity, or threats of violence, as shown in the official submission form. The contest is open to all UAA students 18 years old and over until Sept. 25. To submit entries, go to the submission form found on the UAA Student Activities and Commuter Programs Facebook page. Participation in the contest permits UAA to share the submitted poem on UAA Facebook pages.

The contest winners will be announced on Oct. 1, during a Zoom meeting and the winner will receive a $100 cash prize payable by check. Ashlee Haze, an award-winning spoken word artist and published author will judge the contest. She was featured on National Public Radio’s’ Tiny Desk Concert series for “For Colored Girls (The Missy Elliot Poem)” as part of Blood Orange’s performance of “By Ourselves” from the album Negro Swan. Haze is a well-established poet; her literary roots originate from Atlanta and Chicago, both big spoken word scenes. She discusses how she will judge the poems and what inspires her as a writer.

“I am inspired by the world around me. I am constantly writing the world both as I wish it to be and as it is,” Haze said. She also speaks of an important component when judging poetry. “Vulnerability [is an important aspect of how poems are viewed]. I want to know that you connect with the words you wrote first. Then I will connect with them.”

Ashlee Haze is an award-winning spoken word poet known for her outspoken and stirring works, such as “For Colored Girls (The Missy Elliot Poem).” She will be judging the UAA Love Poem Contest. Photo courtesy of Ashlee Haze.

The contest supports Health and Wellness month at UAA and can be beneficial during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students can feel more isolated due to a lack of social contact and events being limited. Writing, with poetry in particular, can be a great way to stay mentally healthy, according to Psychology Today. Classic poetry such as “She Walks in beauty,” by Lord Byron or contemporary pieces such as “Fons,” by Pura López-Colomé can be very enjoyable to read. Haze speaks about the importance of creative outlets during difficult times.

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“Poetry for me has been a way to process what is happening to me. I think in quarantine it’s so easy to feel isolated or alone poetry allows you to tell your story, even without an audience. We become an audience to ourselves,” Haze said.

For more information about the UAA Love Poem Contest, visit the UAA Student Activities and Commuter Programs Facebook page. To enter a submission, participants must be UAA students who are 18 years of age or older and adhere to the poetry guidelines listed on the submission form. Open submissions will close on Sept. 25. For more information about mental or physical health, contact the UAA Student Health and Counseling Center.