“Taking Shape” NYU Student Writing Prize Winners: Lucie Taylor

November 10, 2020

Congratulations to Lucie Taylor, first place winner in the Grey Art Gallery’s NYU Graduate Writing Prize competition; Ruqaiyah Zarook, second-place winner; and David Lamb, honorable mention. The Prizes were awarded for the best essay or poem by an NYU graduate student in response to the exhibition Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s, which was on view at the Grey from January 14 to March 13, 2020. The show was forced to close early due to COVID-19, and entrants worked from the full suite of images, gallery labels, and other resources available on the Grey’s website. The contest judge was Lucy Oakley, Head of Education and Programs at the Grey.


Shafic Abboud (Bifkaya, Lebanon, 1926–Paris, 2004), Cela fait quarante jours (It’s Been Forty Days) (Portrait of Christine Abboud), 1964. Oil on canvas, 28 3/4 x 36 5/8 in. Collection of the Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah, UAE. From the exhibition Taking Shape: Abstraction from the Arab World, 1950s–1980s.


by Lucie Taylor

Forty days in your Achrafieh apartment. Quarante jours. Quarantine.

The flag waves bleu blanc rouge.

Squinting through the glaring golden light,
see your daughter crouching in the corner.
Look again:
she is shapes, lines, figures.
Her edges tremble, vibrate.

A half-century away, an analogous flag bleeds translated colors
above the sirens’ scream.
176 days:
this quarantine rolls on.

Bread’s beginnings bubble up,
full of yawning
holes, nearly spilling from the jar.

Edges tremble.
The oven hisses, roars.
A loaf glows golden,
takes shape,
is born.

Poem inspired by Shafic Abboud, “Cela fait quarante jours” (It’s Been Forty Days) (Portrait of Christine Abboud), 1964.

Lucie Taylor is an MA student in Near Eastern Studies at NYU and the Assistant Editor at the Library of Arabic Literature, which is published by NYU Press in partnership with the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute. She expects to receive her degree in 2022.