Western Connecticut State University Professional Writing student Isabella Bullock recently was named one of five Connecticut Collegiate Poets by the Connecticut Poetry Circuit for 2022-23. As a result of this honor, the Westport resident will travel the state participating in poetry readings and events.
After graduating from Staples High School, Bullock planned to study Creative Writing with an emphasis on playwriting and screenwriting at a New York State public university. A year into her studies, Covid forced her classes online and Bullock realized it didn’t make sense to pay the out-of-state tuition to continue her education at home.
“It was definitely a lane change,” Bullock said. “I started looking at college options in Connecticut to transfer to, and only Western Connecticut State University had the same creative opportunities. I transferred to WCSU in 2020 as a Professional Writing major with a focus on creative writing and a minor in marketing.”
Once in WCSU’s Professional Writing program, Bullock met Professor of Writing and Literature Dr. Brian Clements, who has authored or edited more than15 print and digital collections of poetry — and her love of poetry was awakened.
“I had always liked poetry, but never realized how much I love it,” Bullock said. “Poetry is the foundation for a lot of my writing, so when Dr. Clements sent me an application to be considered to be a Connecticut Collegiate Poet, I trusted his guidance and what he believes I’m capable of and applied. It was a shock that I was selected.”
Bullock is the second WCSU Professional Writing student selected as a Connecticut Collegiate Poet. Professional Writing major Michelle Rochniak, of Wallingford, was selected last year.
“The Connecticut Poetry Circuit is a longstanding tradition that recognizes the best undergraduate poets in the state, and the Writing program at WCSU is delighted to have had one of our student poets selected for the Connecticut Poetry Circuit in each of the first two years we’ve nominated our poets,” Clements said. “Isabella Bullock, a senior Writing major with a
Creative Writing specialization, was selected this year along with poets from Yale, Wesleyan, Quinnipiac and Eastern Connecticut State University, and we’re not the least bit surprised she was selected — Isabella’s poems have a rich sonic layering that accompanies a calmness of spirit unusual among poets her age. She’s already an accomplished poet, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing her widely in print in coming years.”
Bullock, who commutes to WCSU and works two part-time jobs while taking classes, said her poems are about life, real experiences and what she’s witnessed as a people watcher. “God is also a big part of my poetry as an inspiration,” she said, “and a lot of what I write about is based upon my faith.”
Thinking about what made her transfer to WCSU, Bullock said, “I love where I am now. I didn’t expect to love WCSU as much as I do. I’ve learned so much and I appreciate my school and my professors.” When she graduates in May, Bullock plans to take a working gap year to teach English in Vietnam.
“I’ll be getting my feet wet with teaching,” Bullock explained. “My minor is in marketing, so at some point I could do corporate writing. I’m also considering pursuing a master’s degree and I aspire to write a book one day. With Covid, I stopped planning, but I like to stay open to possibilities and options.”
For now, Bullock’s “lane change” will have her traversing Connecticut on the Collegiate Poet public readings circuit.
The Connecticut Poetry Circuit was established in 1968 to continue the work of the New England Poetry Circuit, which was founded in 1964 by the Academy of American Poets and Holly Stevens, daughter of the acclaimed poet and Hartford insurance executive Wallace Stevens. Each year, the Connecticut Poetry Circuit enlists a panel of poets to judge a statewide contest of college-student poets. Five student poets are selected to tour the circuit each spring and will read their work at a number of universities and events.
In addition to Bullock, this year’s winning student poets are Sara Greene of Eastern Connecticut State University, Oliver Egger of Wesleyan University, Alisa Mejia of Quinnipiac University and John Nguyen of Yale University.