Isabel Rose Catalan, Creative Writing Major

Summer Institute ’20

Creative Writing (BFA)

The UArts Pre-College Summer Institute Creative Writing program was a reminder that I was and remain on the path where I feel most myself.


Pre-College Summer Institute ’20
Creative Writing (BFA) ’25

Called by the shelves and spines that have inspired her, Isabel primarily reads and writes fantasy and poetry. Her current fantasy series of choice is A Chorus of Dragons by Jenn Lyons. Additionally, she has been a foilist fencer since age six. Isabel’s fascination with languages, travel and culture powers her passion for worldbuilding. She learned in third grade that being a writer was what she would call her destiny, and refuses to let the support and opportunities she’s been given go to waste. Isabel agrees with Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who said, “The person born with a talent they are meant to use will find their greatest happiness in using it.” Early in 2021, Isabel’s poem “The Box on the Shelf” was published by the Moonstone Arts Center in Philadelphia; in July she performed her spoken word piece “Sentence Kisses for a City” at the Barnes Foundation during the Welcome America Festival. Finally, this dragon-lover wishes that bookstores had sleepover weekends and hopes to be counted among the incredible writers of epic fantasy and intricate poetry.

Of her experience in the Summer Institute Creative Writing program, Isabel says

The ongoing pandemic created a paradox for me personally: the illusion of abundant available time and many tedious, draining tasks most young adults are not dealing with. The intensive program challenged the speed of my creative energy and polished the truth that there is always available inspiration, no matter what else is happening.


Work Samples


Metaphor Exercise/Prose, Summer 2020


Empathy is a blessing and a curse, the most common description of anything that can cure and ail simultaneously. It is what inflicts injury; it is the wound itself and how it festers; it is the poultice and the warm soup to comfort the heart, soothe the soul. Empathy is blade and blood and bandage. It is the blessing that enhances joy; it is the curse that carves another’s pain into the scars of the empath.

Empathy is a door, allowing the empathetic—and sometimes even the rarer empath—to pass through it and comfort with more understanding and comprehension than the sympathetic. Sympathy is only a window. Empathy is the understanding that many do not understand.

Empathy is the figure that’s a feeling that can make another’s second-hand experience your first-hand experience.

“document wings”

Poetry, Autumn 2021


knowing names is knives complying to a curse
sacrifice to dulcify the drums of the soul’s chambers
ablaze as a suffering summer valley beating with envy
vessels blessed by a vaccination against linguistic ignorance
tongues boasting delightfully in the dance of fluency
meanings traced into brains which orbit a kind of brilliance
ever-lyrical nourishment of expression and communication
covenant of history in the hymn of memory
moonshine upon the catalogue of slaughter
verse upon tablets scrawled in the sanctuary of dreams
caught by the plague of shadows
the lambent ink should mark every door and forehead
why should the gate to the mind be at the front
landmark of the temple of the third eye pry
pray for safe passage
unwritable testament healed through play
the muse manifests manuscripts and wine
books flags on shelves in the kingdom of loudest silent voices


“Sleeper and Dreamer Meet”

Fantasy, Autumn 2021


“What house is as strong as a cloud this day?”

Cri Retel only speaks what comes to them in dreams, but no one sees them sleep. Parents unidentified, progeny of the city, no one knows if they were born with the body dubbed daughter or the one labelled son. Silver circles the size of corn kernels mark the indigo skin above chartreuse eyes. They have a voice like the seasons; climates expected from a predictable perch, and as shocking as a storm whose words leave survivors discussing it for weeks. Some herald Cri Retel as a local prophet or seek to have them condemned as an omen or blasphemer.

What a waste that would be.

I study Cri Retel from the shadows of trees and taverns, obsessive and fascinated, because I never dream. At night the three moons hover; in the morning the sun bleeds peach juice across the sky. To me, only rest lies between the four great lights.

Cri Retel speaks to everyone. They loiter at the checkpoint with a grin as wide as the gates. Newcomers to the city soon know of the person comparable to a riddle-uttering swindler or a child offering free fruit when the harvest is too much even to sell.

Our meeting is an eclipse. The bouncer at Stardust propels me face-first out of the popular alehouse. There are shouts—something about too many concoctions called Sweetest Dreams. Once I establish which blue-gray blob is the ground, I stand. They lie stargazing, back parallel to the carved stone of the fountain at the center of the plaza.

“The red tree smokes blue. Six sins in the first sip from the cup.”

I shiver in the summer air and ask without a second thought.

“What would it take to taste your mind for one night?”


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