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The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

The Oldest College Newspaper in Pennsylvania

The Lafayette

Liv Bamford ’24 wins H. MacKnight Black Poetry Prize

Liv+Bamford+24+read+her+winning+poem+at+a+ceremony+last+Thursday.
Photo by Emma Sylvester for The Lafayette
Liv Bamford ’24 read her winning poem at a ceremony last Thursday.

Liv Bamford ‘24 writes about love, but not the big, sweeping gestures of romance novels. Instead, her award-winning poem “unspoken sentiment” captures the daily moments that build a steady kind of love.

Bamford, whose submission earned her this year’s H. MacKnight Black Poetry Prize, originally wrote the poem as an anniversary present for her girlfriend.

“The central message of the poem is what it means to be in a relationship that is fully reciprocated in every way,” Bamford said. “It’s very nice.”

It wasn’t a planned gift, but something that flowed out of Bamford spontaneously as she felt “very inspired and full of love” on her second anniversary.

The poem features everyday acts of service, including Bamford’s personal favorite: filling up her girlfriend’s water bottle before they go to bed at night.

“All of these things I mention doing are completely reciprocated all the time in these little moments,” Bamford said. “It doesn’t always have to be grandiose surprise dates or big presents. It’s the little things we both do for each other.”

The H. MacKnight Black Poetry Prize, named for the class of 1916 alumnus who became a prominent poet until he died in 1931, is awarded to a senior each year. This year’s contest was judged by Chiyuma Elliott, the author of four poetry books and a professor of African American studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

“The world that those poems created was incredibly coherent,” Elliott said of the winning poem and the honorable mention, “Sonnet to Press on Your Tongue” by Jacob Moldover ‘24. “These two particular poems, in addition to having all of the beautiful technical proficiency and meaning and emotional complexity, the coordinates of their visual world tracked really beautifully. One could see the poems moving.”

“I had already given it to a person, and that in itself is very vulnerable,” Bamford said of her decision to submit the poem to the contest. “It was something that I truly felt, and a very authentic perspective I was bringing, so it felt like something I was very comfortable putting out there because even if I didn’t get any reception or any award for it, I knew that I liked it.”

Bamford and Moldover read their poems alongside Elliott at a ceremony last Thursday.

While Bamford’s poetry output has slowed down since coming to college, this experience has inspired a renewed focus on writing.

“Being recognized for my writing, for something that I enjoyed doing that seems to have some benefit or enjoyment for others is really cool,” she said.

Disclaimer: Assistant Business Manager Liv Bamford ‘24 and Business Manager Jacob Moldover ‘24 did not contribute writing or reporting.

• • •

unspoken sentiment

before i met you, i never had anywhere to put my wallet and keys.

pockets filled and brimming,

i would clumsily reach to pay for coffee with my house key

and unlock car doors with my debit card.

 

now, you open your bag towards me as if to say, “here, let me carry your things.

let me fill my space with yours which you cannot hold alone.

let me bear the responsibility of getting us coffee and taking us home.”

 

true, i do not have enough pockets for the both of us.

but i can throw your trash away at lunch so you do not have to get up;

pull your arm back when we are walking because even though you can

it doesn’t mean you should jaywalk.

 

i can tell you ‘i love You’ by filling your water bottle before you go to bed,

and even though i twist the lid on too tightly,

i can promise you will never be without ice.

 

and as i rest it on your nightstand,

i silently beg of you to never plug your phone in before you go to sleep

because it would break my heart to lose that job.

let me always untie your shoes after a night out,

for i can promise you i will place them by the front door

where they will be next to a canvas tote bag hung up on the wall.

 

already inside it, my wallet and keys.

 

let me do these things for you as you do for me.

let us both wake up in the morning content.

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About the Contributors
Madeline Marriott
Madeline Marriott, Editor-in-Chief
Maddie (she/her) is a senior English major with a Government & Law minor. As the Editor-in-Chief, a Mentor Writing Associate, a Senior Student Contributor for Lafayette Communications, a Communications Intern for the Office of Sustainability, co-founder and Vice President of English Club, and a Senior Interviewer for Lafayette Admissions, no writing happens on campus without her knowing about it. Her Google Calendar would make your head spin. She is a die-hard Swiftie and Phillies fan, a collector of tote bags, a builder of a Hay Day empire, and an avid Goodreads and Letterboxd user. She smokes cigars and uses an old-timey typewriter and notepad in the newsroom.
Emma Sylvester, Photo Editor

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