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Literature Essay Contest

The English department at Western Kentucky University is pleased to announce our second annual Literature Essay Contest. Students should visit https://www.wku.edu/english/essay-contests.php to complete an application and submit a 500-750-word essay (MLA style; pdf format) based on the prompt below. The English department will invite finalists, their teachers, and family to campus for a reception and ceremony on February 6th where they will be recognized.

The winners will receive scholarships if they choose to major or minor in English at WKU and cash prizes whether or not they attend WKU. First Place: $500 Scholarship and $200 cash; Second Place: $300 Scholarship and $100 cash; Third Place: $200 Scholarship and $50 cash. The winners’ schools will receive $50 contributions to their PTA funds. Applications and Essays are due January 22

The following poem is by Mary Ellen Miller. Read the poem carefully, and then write a well-organized, 500-750-word essay analyzing how the poet uses poetic devices to develop the speaker’s emotional response.


You were Sleeping when it Happened

The cat strolled in brandishing a rabbit,

small and semi-eaten but still alive.

I screamed—not loud enough to wake you.

It was a muted scream, more a grinding

of some unused muscle in my throat.

(Listening back, the sound amazes.)

That awful moment, knowing as I did

what must be done.


There’s a towel in the garbage can outside.

It wraps a tiny, tiny, heart still beating.


Your wife is in the shower, running the water

hot until it hurts. She hopes that dreadful business

in the towel will soon be done.


One time my careful car crushed a creature,

a darting, careless, well-dressed dog.

Back and forth I drove to polish off the job.

There was that heavy, cold machine between us.

Besides it was a matter of good manners.

I mashed that lump until the wheels ran flat.


Then I wrapped my work in my best coat

and bore it like a soldier

house to house until I found

the proper door.


True, this time I had no weapon

and you were sleeping when it happened.

Not to excuse myself (I am no warrior),

but without some shield, I’ll take the easy route.





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 Last Modified 11/26/18