Polk State Student Wins First Place in Statewide Poetry Contest

Posted on by Polk Newsroom

When she’s not attending classes at Polk State College, or answering calls for help as a Polk County Sheriff’s Office 911 dispatcher, Misty Roper is writing poetry — a passion that in February earned her first place in the 2013 Florida Collegiate Honors Council Writing Contest.

Roper is the first Polk State College student to ever win first place in the writing contest. She received her award in late February at the Florida Collegiate Honors Council Conference in Fort Lauderdale, topping competing poets from Honors Programs at colleges and universities across the state.

“Hearing my name called as the winner was overwhelming,” said Roper, 35, a resident of Bartow. “It was an honor just to place, but to win first place — that’s big.”

District Dean of Academic & Student Services Patricia Jones agreed Roper’s win is indeed “big.”

“Having Misty win the FCHC writing contest was such a proud moment not only for the Honors Program but for the entire College,” she said. “In addition to working full time, and pursuing a degree to reach her future career goals, she dedicates her time and energy to her passion — poetry. She’s a wonderful example of the students at Polk State, who are hard-working, determined, and won’t let anything stand between them and their goals.”

Roper has been writing poetry since childhood.

“For me, poetry is a way to process my feelings,” she said. “It’s a way to vent in a constructive way.”

About a decade ago, when she discovered online forums for poets — where she could receive feedback and encouragement — Roper took her hobby to a new level. Since then, she’s published a book of her works, and another is in development.

“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten better about using metaphors and similes to mask what the actual situation is in my poems,” Roper said. “By using creativity to hide the personal aspect of it, my poems are more universal to the readers. They come away with their own meanings.”

Roper’s winning poem — “Semele” — is a perfect example of the complexity of her work.

On the surface, it’s about the Greek god Zeus and an affair he had with Semele, a priestess and his great-granddaughter. Zeus inadvertently kills Semele, but takes from her body his child, who will be named Dionysus, the god of revelry and alcohol.

However, the title — which is pronounced just like “simile,” a figure of speech that compares two unlike things — hints at deeper meanings.

“It is about something else that happened in my life,” Roper said, “but I don’t have to tell anyone what I’m talking about and they can still appreciate the poem and take away from it their own meanings.”

Roper has worked as a Polk County Sheriff’s Office 911 operator and dispatcher for 16 years. She is studying for her Associate in Arts degree at Polk State, and plans to eventually transfer to a university to study chemistry. Ultimately, she would like to work as a crime lab technician for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Here is her winning poem, “Semele,” follows:


Every time the eyes turn away
I cease to exist —
Dying a numbered death
Roaming in solitary, spectral form
The evidence of my existence foregone.

A returning glance won’t bring my resurrection…

Hovering bee-like around you,
Minimally acknowledged
This distant yeast mouth
Expands and swallows me.

In the absence of the buzzing wings
The mead waits for Dionysus
To be reborn.

More Conference Highlights

Roper’s win came during Polk State’s most successful appearance yet at the FCHC Conference.

The College had 21 students attend the event, nearly double the participation of last year. Also, the College had nine students make presentations, three times the number of presenters last year.

In addition to Roper, presenters included:

Brandon Crotchett, Polk City, “My First Love”

Ryan Darley, Auburndale, “STEM-Powered Change”

Slade Fernandes, Davenport, “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”

Sarah Massey, Lakeland, “Political Activism: Finding a Voice for America’s Youth”

Rosemary Reynolds, Winter Haven, “Mountain Lake Memories”

Robin Savage, Auburndale, “Human Sex Determination: A Biological Analysis”

Katie Widner, Winter Haven, “Voter Identification in America’s Political Theatre”

Jacob Wilson, Lake Alfred, “A Long Hard Look at the American Political System”

Faculty attending the event included Brad Massey and Ana Maria Myers, both Honors Program coordinators; and professors William Caldecutt, Colleen Caldecutt, Anthony Cornett, Greg Harris and Logan Randolph.

Also, Polk State President Eileen Holden was the event’s keynote speaker.

The FCHC is a professional association of undergraduate honors programs and colleges in Florida. Since the 1990s, it has hosted an annual conference, allowing Honors professionals and students the opportunity to network and share expertise.

Polk State College began attending the conference in 2009, as part of its emphasis on growing its Honors Program and to offer Honors students the opportunity to connect on a professional level with other Honors programs.

The Polk State Honors Program offers smaller, more rigorous classes, field trips, priority registration, and numerous scholarship opportunities. To qualify for the program, students must meet certain GPA requirements and score highly on tests such as the ACT or SAT.