Senior Natalia Conte turns passion for poetry into top job at Colonnades

With a staff in place, Conte is ready to get down to the business of producing the 70th volume of the journal.   

by Julia Oakes ‘22

Natalia Conte loves poetry. “I think it’s one of the purest forms of human expression,” she said.

It makes sense, then, that Conte would eventually serve as poetry editor for Colonnades, the last step on her journey to being elected Colonnades editor-in-chief, a role she assumed in September of this year.

The English literature and creative writing major began her time at Colonnades, Elon University’s nationally award-winning literary and art journal, during her sophomore year when she served as a poetry reader. Then she was tasked with leading the section.

She believes her former positions with Colonnades as well as conversations she had with former editor-in-chief Emily DeMaioNewton ‘18 helped her reach the student media organization’s top spot.

Conte is obviously passionate about Colonnades — she wouldn’t have applied to lead it otherwise — but she said her greatest love was for the people in the organization. She was excited to hire her own editorial board and begin the work of building the journal.

“They have their own intrinsic motivation and it’s a beautiful thing,” she said. “I don’t have to stress that they are going to get it done on time.”

In addition to poetry, Conte also enjoys writing nonfiction and admiring visual art.

She said she appreciates “anything that’s very confessional and uses language in an interesting way.”

Conte is now tasked not just with ensuring the journal is populated with high-quality fiction, nonfiction, poetry and art, but also with managing people, a budget and deadlines. She thinks she’s well-equipped to help in all those areas because of her previous professional experiences.

During her summer 2018 internship with Copper Canyon, a nonprofit organization dedicated to publishing poetry from around the world, Conte “gained knowledge on the process of creating a book.” She was excited to implement what she learned in whatever way possible within the organization.

Conte herself continues to read poetry, particularly by notable feminists, and enjoys writing persona poems with an emphasis on family in the formation of identity.

“I think that family dynamics through poetry is important at this point in our lives so that we can understand how our identity was shaped,” Conte said.

With a minor in Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies, Conte finds herself most passionate about social justice issues, particularly the feminist movement. She also enjoys singing and genuinely admires “the way certain words sound together in music.”

Her interests, she said, help shape and inspire her writing. Conte feels as though music has the ability to evoke emotion, and she wants her writing to have a similar impact.

“I always want to write about things that are going to change the world,” she said.

Conte has aimed that world-changing focus on the local community. She’s hoping to publish the writing of a local middle or high schooler in the next edition of Colonnades.

“I am personally trying to collaborate with a class called Teaching Creative Writing in the Community,’” she said. “I’m trying to hold a contest for high school and middle school students in the community of Burlington who have the chance to be published in the next issue of Colonnades.”

Conte devised the project during her time teaching at an Alamance County high school last year, where she discovered creative talent hidden within some of her students.

“I taught at Southern Alamance High School last year and I saw how talented the students were,” she said.

Her goal is to show students that a career in writing is achievable, especially because most students she worked with “didn’t know what they could potentially do with their writing.”

She is also hopeful that the project engages the community and “inspires younger writers or future writers towards publication opportunities.”

The next edition of Colonnades will release late in the 2019 spring semester. Last year’s book was the 69th edition of the journal and was produced under DeMaioNewton’s leadership.