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Literature Essay Contest

The English department at Western Kentucky University is pleased to announce our third annual Literature Essay Contest. Students should visit the links on the right 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 15th 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. Essays are due January 17th.

The following poem is by Tom Hunley. Read the poem carefully, and then write a well-organized, 500-750-word essay that discusses the overall theme and message of the poem and some of the poetic devices the poet uses to express that message. Be sure to analyze what the poem means as a whole and describe how its particulars work.


Silence Sang Tom to Sleep

Silence is God's first language.

- Saint John of the Cross


A moment of silence, please,

for Tom C. Hunley, who let silence

sing him to sleep


After this world of noise

what if the dead gather in stadiums

to listen to their version of rock stars

performing perfect satisfying silence

a silence with the voices of angels in it

a silence like a calm see that you

can walk on, and what if all the gathered dead

applaud with a silence of their own

waving cell phones set to vibrate


What if God's silence

so maddening in this world

becomes, in the next world,

a caressing wind that infuses

everything with its music

reminds the last fruits to ripen,

lets you hear in each breeze

the songs of mountains, stars, seas 




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 Last Modified 9/11/19