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Quarto / Courtesy of Quarto

Quarto gave the spotlight to the three top finishers in their chapbook contest on Friday.

Quarto Magazine, a student-run literary magazine, performed the works of the top three chapbook contest contributors at their annual chapbook event last Friday, Nov. 16, in Dodge 501.

The poetry of the contest’s first-place winner, Mya Alexice, BC ’20, revolved around themes of race and ethnicity. Alexice started writing their selection after taking inspiration from one of their favorite Barnard classes, Advanced Poetry with Professor Saskia Hamilton. When asked about their inspirations for their writing, Alexice explained that they wrote “Portrait of a Cornrow Princess” after they got cornrow braids.

“These braids that primarily people of color get look effortlessly put together and beautiful, but the pain they go through for these braids is immense,” they noted.

Alexice applauded the amount of pain and effort Africans go through with braiding their hair every six weeks, aiming to illustrate the pain behind the seemingly effortless cornrows. They also explained why they chose “Portrait” in their title. “Historically, [a] portrait of a queen is mostly old and European.” By applauding the practice of cornrow braids, Alexice challenged and reframed this portrait of a queen to include people of color and their beauty standards.

While the printed chapbook belongs to only one author, the chapbook event showcased more works and voices. The works of the two runners-up, Amy Gong Liu, CC ’19, and Brianna Zúñiga, CC ’21, drew inspiration from their experiences as children of immigrants.

In her chapbook “Line Symmetry,” Gong Liu drew upon her Asian background. In “Barrio No Se Vende,” Zuniga merged strong Spanish verse with English to bridge the divide between languages, nationalities, and borders.

The chapbooks were printed in black and white, which Quarto’s head of design Charlie Blodnieks, CC ’21, thought was particularly fitting with the somber theme of Alexice’s poems.

According to co-editor-in-chief Priya Pai, CC ’20, the selections are chosen based on which piece resonates with the most members of Quarto. Both Cameron Lee, CC ’20 and the other co-editor-in-chief, and Pai were excited to be on the “other side of the spectrum” in receiving and announcing the winners of the chapbook. Both thought that the team did a wonderful job in producing Quarto’s fall chapbook event.

While sharing and reading poetry is highly personal, the chapbook event allowed for a warm space to share, reflect, and inspire. The remaining copies of Alexice’s chapbook will be available in the the creative writing department’s office in 609 Kent Hall. | @ColumbiaSpec

Quarto Quarto Chapbook Contest
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