You know how some schools have gym rats? Kevin A. Nelson, II was a Writing Center rat. In much of his free time at Archbishop Carroll High School, he could be found sitting before a computer in the Writing Center composing or revising his poems. He was MC at the school’s poetry slams during his senior year and he read at various venues around Washington, D.C. He was a poet at his core. He was a prolific writer and, unlike many high school poets, he was devoted to revision. As many of my regular blog readers know, Kevin graduated from Archbishop Carroll High School in 2003, spent his freshman year at Xavier University in New Orleans, and died during the summer of 2004. Since then, his mother, family, and friends have awarded the Kevin A. Nelson, II Scholarship and the Kevin A. Nelson, II Writing Award.
This year, the 2015 Kevin A. Nelson, II Writing Award is awarded to Kevon Turner. Kevon graduated a few weeks ago from Gonzaga College High School in Washington, D.C. Like Kevin, Kevon is a dedicated poet. He writes powerful, insightful, and compressed poems. Sometimes his poems reminds me of the former U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan. He compresses his words and gives the reader only what is essential. Kevon’s poetry dives deeply into the human condition. It looks at hard things. It asks questions but it holds out hope too. This year at Gonzaga, Kevon was one of the editors of The Phoenix, our school’s literary magazine. He was also a co-winner of the English Department’s Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. Poetry Prize. He plans to continue his education this August at Villanova University. I know we will see more of his writing in the future.
Kevon Turner, like Kevin Nelson before him, finds a creative outlet in poetry, adding beauty to the world by what he writes. Not that it’s always pretty. Both Kevon and Kevin learned that poetry can be beautiful without being pretty. Poetry often faces the hard facts of life and offers a new, hopeful way through. I see this in Kevon’s poetry as I saw it in Kevin’s. I’m grateful we can give this young, promising poet an award that remembers such a good and devoted poet who came before him.