By: Angel Zhong
Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire - W.B. Yeats
This year’s winner of the Seamus Heaney Prize is Marco Gonzalez (‘21), a double major in English and Sociology with a minor Psychology.
Every year, the English Department awards one or two English majors or minors with the Seamus Heaney Fellowship. The recipient(s) receive(s) a week-long trip to the Yeats International Summer School (YISS) in Sligo, Ireland, and their roundtrip airfare, as well as boarding and program costs, are covered.
Though the advent of the coronavirus pandemic has certainly complicated any travel plans for the foreseeable future, Gonzalez is enthused about the trip, as well as winning the award overall.
“For me it means a lot, because growing up, I had a learning disability and it went undiagnosed for a long time, and I struggled a lot with reading and writing so I always hid from it,” he shared.
“Facing those challenges and having the assistance helped me overcome it a lot, so you know going through school and struggling with it for a long time, this really means a lot to me—like this is a big,” added Gonzales.
Gonzalez first felt a pull to English because he sensed that it wasn’t a subject he possessed a natural affinity for. It required substantial diligence and motivation on his part, and the fruits of his labor eventually begat a continued draw towards English. He would go on to minor in it initially—for the purpose of honing his professional writing skills—and subsequently major in it after taking Dr. Camille Norton’s British Literature course.
In terms of his love of literature, Gonzalez typically enjoys the works of veteran writers, as well as non-fiction titles. What he relishes most while reading are the rich, small details that dimensionalize the words on the page. Additionally, Gonzalez describes himself as someone preoccupied with the often unseen external circumstances that shape the author’s creative process.
“You gotta be inspired by something like what's going on, what's the atmosphere where you're at,” he said. “The weather, you know the type of weather you're in, but definitely these details that are inspiring you—that are driving [them] towards that [writing].”
With regard to book recommendations, Gonzalez has many: Death and An Irishman Foresees His Death by William Butler Yeats, A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf, Disabled and The Sentry by Wilfred Owens, Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, and Atomic Habits by James Clear—to name a few.
After Pacific, Gonzalez aims to continue advocating for veterans by working with Veterans Affairs while maintaining his appreciation of all things literary.