English department presents Roland Heintzelman Awards

The Newtonite

[media-credit name=”Jacob Schwartz” align=”alignright” width=”200″]Heintzelman Award[/media-credit]

Senior Derek Butterton won the 55th Anual M. Roland Heintzelman Merioal Award for his poem. Photo by: Jacob Schwartz

by Fatema Zaidi

In the 55th Annual M. Roland Heintzelman Memorial Awards assembly May 19, the trustees announced one of the first-prize winners as senior Derek Butterton and the honorable mention winner to be senior Peter Wu.
According to the program, the awards “are intended to recognize students’ sustained efforts to write or speak effectively, using their skill so that others may share their accomplishment and to declare the merits of a single piece of work representing the student’s finest creative achievement.”
English department head Melissa Dilworth welcomed everyone and said that this was the first year that she served on the board of trustees, so “it was the first year I got to see what went on behind the scenes.”
Dilworth went through the criteria of the award and then introduced Butterton’s piece by stating that it “was the only poem among the other submissions,” and “it emerged as a winner because it lingered in our consciousness long after reading it.”
“Silences,” by Butterton, described many soundless moments. One of the moments is when one is observing others and silently judging them: “I am the God of untold stories./ I am with you in the airport, watching the travelers./ I am with you on the subway, amid the reflections.”
The piece also spoke of the profound silence when, “you are alone in a room/ With someone you secretly care about/ And you are about to say something/ But then you don’t.”
Butterton speaks of the silence when one asks a question that yearns for an answer.
“I am the questions that ask softly for answers,/ Not because they deserve them,/ But because they are lonely,” he read.
Then, he ended his piece by saying, “I am the God of silences,” which earned a loud applause that reverberated throughout the auditorium.
Afterwards, Dilworth introduced Wu’s series of vignettes before he stood up at the podium to read his piece.
“His pieces speak of moments simply lived,” she said.
Wu’s vignettes spanned from first grade to 12th grade and  enlightened the audience and caused them to laugh.
The description he gave of himself as a first grader in the vignette is, “a new kid with shaved head from lice, Harry Potter glasses and sneakers with shoelaces.”
This vignette spoke of his trouble with an impatient lunch lady as he struggled to tie his shoe.
“Tying shoes under pressure is difficult, especially for a person who just learned how to do it. My fingers fumbled on the long laces as I tied, then re-tied, then re-tied. I could feel Ms. Madden’s eyes bore into the top of my head,” he recounted
He ended the story of first grade defeat by sadly stating, “Ms. Rosengard, my first teacher, spent the rest of the day talking about how “Peirce” is an acronym. The “P” stood for patience…”
Skipping his second grade vignette, Wu read out loud his third grade vignette, the day most remember as 9/11.
Confusion of what was really going on was apparent in the vignette as he talked about his reaction to the scenes displayed on the televison. “Cool! Look at those explosions!” Wu read.
A third grader’s lack of ability to empathize was also emphasized in this moment.
After his mother describes how his own father could have been in one of the buildings, Wu recalls thinking, “But that’s stupid. Dad’s right here.”
Other memories spoke of racism and bullies, but the series ended with his 12th grade vignette.
Wu talked of the stresses of senior year as he read from the vignette, “I can’t go to the annual Brookline-Newton football game next month because everybody has too much work. The phrases ‘GPA,’ ‘SAT II,’ and ‘Early Decision’ turn heads in twelfth grade classrooms.”
But he has also come to the realization that he is not the only one bearing all the stresses. “I told my sixth-grade sister that she’s lucky because she really doesn’t have any obligations, pressures, or stresses. But in retrospect, I realize how wrong I was.”