Five South Aiken High School creative writing students agreed – with some anxiety – last week to read their own poems to professional poets.
Happily, they got solid reviews.
Thanks to Skype, teacher Ginger Dunker invited her daughter, Erin Mullikin, a master's candidate and adjunct instructor at Syracuse University, to talk with the high school students.
Mulliken was joined by friend David Wojciechowski, a recent master's degree graduate in fine arts.
“My students were able to gain an insight into what's like to be a professional writer,” Dunker said.
Mullikin took her mother's literature class in the late 1990s. The younger woman has twice captured the prestigious Joyce Carol Oates creative writing award, and Wojciechowski has also won the award.
“I've always been into reading,” Mullikin said. “For some people, it gives way to writing, and I wanted to learn how to do that. As a little kid, I had a silly diary.”
She started with poet Emily Dickinson in her mother's literature class before abandoning poetry for a while after high school.
Like most young people, she had a natural inclination to find a more lucrative field. Then, at Clemson University, Mullikin found a writing community, immersing herself back into the fold.
“I still don't know why I chose poetry over prose,” she said. “I think it's the way my mind works – small blocks rather than several pages.”
The students who accepted the challenge and read their poetry were Callie Lockhart, Star Gainey, Dontae Jones and twins Kaitlyn and Morgan Pruiett. Both girls started writing when they were much younger.
They describe themselves as feminists, but with different writing styles. Kaitlyn said her work tends to be more emotional, while Morgan's writing is perhaps angrier.
Morgan's poem that day described the differences between men and women. She started with the reality that men don't have to worry how they look or what they wear and or what they weigh. Women have no such luxury in those ways and many others in society, she said.
“I like the strong sense that you know what you're talking about,” Mulliken told Morgan.
Dunker admires her daughter and her friend for their decision to continue with what they love best.
“The students saw what it takes for them to create their pieces,” Dunker said.
Mullikin urged the high school students to continue to write and take advantage of their gifts.
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter.
He has been with the newspaper since September 2001.
He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.