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Home  >  Reading and Writing  >  Creative Contests  >  Poetry Out Loud
Remembering Jessie Withrow

It is with great sadness that we follow "The Birth of a Songwriter Through Poetry" with the news that on July 3, 2000, a drunk driver killed Jessie Withrow.

The Department of Creative Writing and Literary Arts (CWLA), University of Alaska Anchorage, has established an award in Jessie’s honor. It will be presented at CWLA’s Annual Poetry Out Loud High School Championship, a poetry "slam" featuring teams from area high schools in which original poetry is presented. Jessie was among the winners of Poetry Out Loud two years ago. She was truly a gifted young woman. Her original poetry and her presentation of it were inspiring examples of remarkable individual achievement. Accordingly, the Jessie Withrow Prize for Excellence will be awarded to the Poetry Out Loud participant with the highest individual score.


An Anchorage Daily News Editorial July 6, 2000

That Jessie Withrow died at 20 is bad enough. But that she died the way she did is enough to make a peaceful person cry for blood, scream for revenge, hear no pleas for mercy.

Jessie was riding her bike on the sidewalk along Minnesota Drive Monday night. Russell D. Carlson crashed the pickup he was driving into a car that had stopped for a red light. Then he crashed into Jessie. Police say Mr. Carlson, 39, was drunk at the time. That’s not surprising; since, according to police, Mr. Carlson had six previous drunken driving convictions in Alaska. His license had been revoked. Seems he was drunk more than he was sober on the road.

Mr. Carlson, we don’t want any excuses. We don’t want to hear about your terrible childhood. We don’t want to hear about how hard you tried to quit drinking. We don’t want to hear what hardship alcohol has wrought on your life and on those who love you. We want this promising young woman back. We want her to return for her junior year at Bates College in the fall. We want her to have the chance to make it on the dean’s list again. We want Jessie, who grew up in Anchorage, to graduate and come back to town to find work. We want her to fall in love and get married, maybe have children. We want her to pursue all the dreams and adventures open to the intelligent, creative and hard-working young woman she was. Bring Jessie back to her family. Give her back her life. You can’t do that? Then you shouldn’t have been drinking and driving.

Reprinted with the permission of the Anchorage Daily News

Related Articles
The Birth of a Songwriter Through Poetry
2002 and 2003 Winner of the Jessie Withrow Prize for Excellence: Bradley Treuer

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