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2nd Place in the Lupercal High School Poetry Contest: "Xinyuan “Joyce” Pu" by Xinran (Olivia) Ma

"Xinyuan “Joyce” Pu" by Xinran (Olivia) Ma of Culver Academies in Culver, Indiana

Puella, discipula, activista, vertit, apparet, inducit

in feminam, apud magistras, ad populos;

ducendo aemulos, docendo artem, dirigendo actus.


“A girl, a student, an activist, turns, appears, introduces

into a woman, among teachers, to the people;

by means of leading (her) peers, teaching art, directing performances.”

The poet Xinran (Olivia) Ma (left) with the woman honored in this poem, Xinyuan “Joyce” Pu (right)

This poem is inspired by Xinyuan “Joyce” Pu, a communication major student at Northwestern University. During the summer of 2018 and 2019, I was honored to work with her on an NPO which she founded, Kilo Theater, and to eventually produce the first student-run two-day nonprofit theater festival in Shanghai, China. Seeing her giving the closing remarks at the theater festival as founder and organizer of this program in 2019, I thought how I wished I could grow up to be a leader like her, when, ironically, she is merely three years older than me.


When we first met in 2018, Joyce was yet a girl, a high school rising senior, and an ambitious activist who was passionate about theatrical arts and wanted to change Chinese performance art education by introducing American theater education to high schools in Shanghai. Hence, the poem starts with puella, discipula, and activista. In 2018, the Kilo Theater ten-day summer acting class, which she organized and taught, involved merely eight students. Yet in 2019, seven local schools and 95 students participated our theater festival, attracting over 600 audience during the two nights. I witnessed how she led her peers, or ducendum aemulos, in organizing the theater festival; how she taught Shanghai students with no experience on professional stage theatrical art in preparation for the final performance, or docendum artem; and how she stood behind the light-boards for fifteen hours a day directing the plays, or dirigendo actus, two days before opening. From that point, I no longer saw her as puella, discipula, activista. Instead, I see her as a woman who leads others to success, a teacher who is knowledgeable enough to teach her peers, and an activist who finally is able to introduce what she is passionate about to the greater public. Hence, I employed in my poem “vertit in feminam”, “apparet … apud magistras”, and “inducit … ad populos”.


I intend to illustrate her growth as a leader and coming-of-age as a young woman in the poem, with the first group having nominative puella, verb vertit, preposition in and accusative feminam, reads “a girl turns into a woman”. Similarly, I illustrate how she is “a student appearing among teachers” and “an activist introducing (theater) to the public” in the second and third groups. I then use three gerundives all beginning with d and Ablative of Means to further illustrate what exactly she does to grow with the addition of three corresponding accusatives all beginning with a — leading her peers, teaching art, and directing performances. Overall, the poem follows the structure of “three nominative subjects, three finite verbs / three preposition and three accusatives; three ablative gerundives and three accusatives” to demonstrate how Joyce has grown through accomplishing different things.

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