We spoke with Prof. Rachel Falu, Dr. Fannie Hewlett, and Prof. Deborah Rudd to learn more about the history of the event.
1. Tell us a little about the Stigalls and the poetry contest, when did the Stigall Poetry Contest begin, describe the contest and tell us when Chattanooga State started it?
Prof. Rudd: We began a writing contest (essays or poetry) in 2007. We began with $75 for first place winner, and $50 for second and third place winners. Of course, the winning money increased nearly every year! Dr. Don Andrews always found the money and then for the last two years, Betty Proctor and The Communicator funded the contest. The next year we decided to accept only poetry, and then when we thought about John Stigall, we decided to name it for him. John published internationally and enjoyed teaching “Creative Writing” here to students.
Iris, his wife, was a saint! She came the last four years after his death, and she would talk about John and how he wrote his poems. His poems were very explicit, and Iris would just blush a little and continue talking about how he got some of his ideas. Iris was an excellent speaker although she was fearful of speaking. She did a great job! Unfortunately, Iris died this past fall, and we will miss her dearly!
2. What type of students would you encourage to come out to this event?
Prof. Falu: I would encourage all students to attend the event, Black History Month is a vital part of American History, but especially those interested in creative expression or enrolled or ever have been enrolled in a course that has selected topics dedicated to African American History or culture.
3. Do you have a favorite poem from past students?
Dr. Hewlett: My favorite poem was shared by 2015's John Stigall Poetry Contest Winner Fabeionia Story, "An Ode to Her King."
An Ode to Her King
Beautiful soul to whom do you belong?
Perhaps I'm wrong pursuing the energy that radiates from you,
yet I can see you draw that need for me too,
who knew black love would ensue, the food for thought we've greedily indulged?
riveted by the way you see through my eyes,
within those moments precious time happily shared amidst two,
left mystified upon the pleasure gained when I sit with you,
and every word you produce,
pushes me closer to a soulgasm,
pounding new life into my mental chasm,
Melanin King your mind was made for mines,
most unashamedly to see you i pine,
a great injustice our time which quickly fades away,
an instantaneous intrigue shook me that day,
see I knew that you were something different,
who was this cocoa Gemini that summoned my attention?,
reeking of nonconformed brilliance, my captor is a safe distance,
though I do not bear my carnal mind,
fervency binds when we touch each other,
hugging your neck, body against your chest our minds are lovers,
beautiful soul I digress,
limit’s the sky if you and I coalesce,
tell me, is that so far fetched?, To you I want to stand next,
black man you are intrinsic,
loved one, your wounds are unattended,
no disrespectfulness in this mention, neither malicious intention,
how can one person give so much upon so little provision?,
you see these about you love I ponder,
to me you are an endless wonder,
a book that I would love to learn,
a fire smoldering and yet I don't regret the burn,
assured I rest within prospects of my turn,
the seething thoughts of my churn, are but a surface you have yet to scratch,
when did this truth within my spirit dispatch,
the undeniable fact, that I was yours even before our time,
so don't deny that you in turn would be mines,
my head you go to like Rye,
intoxicated and fried when your head I roam,
so close that I can smell your breath when we were alone,
and it's torture love until I kiss you,
think I'm addicted to way those creme n' coffee lips move,
I am content with the salaciousness to which I allude,
I know that you feel it too,
look at me love let me take off your shoes,
heaven to me those chocolate feet on my lap,
undoubtedly we will have, the destiny to which we are entitled,
I'm glad that your reluctance let me win,
yes we were born more than friends,
love I was made to crave your brown skin,
even though the plan is separation,
Black man you are the foundation of which this bronze nation stands upon,
be not dismayed, legibly I spray veracity,
contrarily to what this history shows,
your weight surpasses pure gold,
more than selective scenes of degradation,
stereotypical images of incarceration,
or deadbeats failing their creations,
lies portray you a clown, so your kids will never know their greatness,
a twisted to take upon a fraudulent fate,
the blood within your veins and royalty I do correlate,
my love there is no mistake, within the way that I relate to you,
see I was meant to complement your hue,
and to this oath I hold true, keeping you lifted this I'm honored to do.... You and that soul which I find beautiful
You haven't missed your chance to hear this year's winners read their poems. The John Stigall Poetry Reading has been rescheduled to Tuesday, February 16th due to inclement weather on February 9th. The reading will be held in the library's Mobile Classroom at 4:00p.