Ngo '19 Receives Gold Medal for Poetry

Adalyn Ngo '19 has been awarded a Gold Medal by the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers in the national 2018 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for her poetry collection, Forged through Forces of Nature. Of the 350,000 works of art and writing submitted by students, less than 1 percent, or 3,300, were selected as national medalists. Ngo will join other recipients at a presentation ceremony on June 7 at Carnegie Hall. Their award-winning work will be showcased at Parsons School of Design's Pratt Manhattan Gallery from June 1-10.

"I was in disbelief," said Ngo when she learned she had received the award. "My writing exists as an extension of myself; I never regarded it as something worthy of a prize.  I initially submitted my works at the encouragement of my friend, who is a visual artist. I saw my name on the list of medalists and it didn't quite register it was me.  I saw my name and my school and the collection title, but I couldn't grasp the notion that someone had read my words and decided that it held potential or value.  Creative writing is also something so difficult to judge because of its innate objectiveness.  I guess I am merely grateful that someone out there believes in my writing.

Ngo frequently credits her family for influencing her writing. "My mother introduced me to poetry at a young age," she says. "She would recite poems in Vietnamese to me, and she claims that when I was very young, I would recite them.  Of course, I didn't know the meaning of the words, but I like to think that the cadence and rhythm stayed with me." 

"Poetry is, in a way, the most visceral form that language takes. There is no harsh definition of what makes a poem in the same way there are parameters for what makes a story or narrative. Every now and then, this urge to write strikes me like lightning, and I know the idea is good, and I know I must capture it before it inevitably fades." 

Ngo admires poets Alicia Ostriker and Pablo Neruda. She has also recently written two plays produced in the Black Box Theater. For both works, "In Your Corner" and "Things You Miss While Sitting In A Coffee Shop," she was inspired by the social dynamics at school. 

Below is a poem from Adalyn Ngo's submitted collection, Forged through Forces of Nature.

How Primal Creatures Discover Fire

They tell you they love you
and this is how it starts

Everything is a golden shade, soft and bright
nearly orange
They used to juice oranges in the kitchen
white granite countertops and expensive juicers
The fresh pulp only made it harder to swallow
Everyone knows the glittering gold never lasts
This is where you mess up,
go wrong (it's inevitable, isn't it?
(it is your fault even if it doesn't mean to be))

There is thunder
and then it burns like lightning
Spurred forest fire words rush through you,
screaming between the flickers
(it is your fault(it is always your fault))

Fire subsides without oxygen
and eventually, all of it burns out
You are left with embers to clean up and so you return
Put the books back on the shelves where they belong
lift up and repair the broken furniture they kicked over
(they didn't mean to)
Quietly piece back the remnants of a past life
to convince yourself that nothing had burned

Covering the ashes does not mean
there was no fire
The smell lingers, but

You do not mind
The reason we cannot smell our own scent
is because we have nullified it,
grown accustomed to living with it,
so back when we needed to
we could detect if something new was in the air,
something dangerous

The smell of smoke has been their so long,
you do not remember a time without it
Waves of fog and haze roll into your vision
and you find yourself growing tired and dizzy,
but of what, you don't know

In all of it, you must remind yourself:
"It is because they love you.
It is because they love you."