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On rejection…

We are two weeks into 2022, and I have already received two rejections for work that I submitted last year. As I prepared submissions to be sent to our contest judges, I held both of those rejections close to my heart. I know that every poem that will be read over the next few weeks was entered with care and hope. And though they each tell stories worthy of being heard, less than ten percent will be recognized by our judges. My heart already breaks for the people who will begin their year with rejection. One of my favorite poets…

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Joanna Catherine Scott Award

I was introduced to poetry by Mrs.Heard, arguably the best first grade teacher in the game. She harnessed the power of the PTA to type, print, and publish (via FedEx coil binding) the stories that I and my classmates wrote in our short story journals; she put our books on the shelves alongside Beverly Cleary and Mercer Mayer; and she guided each of us through creating our own collection of poetry. We wrote acrostics, limericks, concrete poems, and haiku. She taught us the value of form.  All these years later, my relationship to form is a bit different. As a…

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Carol Bessent Hayman Poetry of Love Award + Poetry of Courage Award

Happy New Year.  The first few days of the year are filled with such reflection and hope. With so much possibility. And, despite the uncertainty of the past two years, I have found that people are approaching the start of 2022 with the same belief that this year can be a year of joy and healing and reclamation.I like to go into each year with a word that sets the tone and guides my growth (often in unexpected ways). Up until almost midnight, I thought my word for this year was going to be “open”, and then, right at the…

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Mary Ruffin Poole American Heritage Award

Here’s where I admit that I’ve written and deleted what feels like a ridiculous number of beginnings to this blog post. I want to talk about this holiday season. The utter joy of scrolling through various social media feeds and seeing friends who haven’t seen family members in years, donning their matching pajamas and sharing meals together. But. I can’t talk about that without mentioning how nervous I am about an uptick in virus cases when several of these reconvened family members inevitably carry asymptomatic COVID back to school and work. Or. Thinking about those with strained family relationships, grieving…

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Poet Laureate Award

Yesterday, I was blessed to begin the day with poetry. Gideon Young – teacher, poet, and flutist – captivated each of us with a program of haiku, a few longer poems, and absolutely gorgeous music. Perhaps what resonated with me most, was a very conversational moment in the program when Gideon said, “poetry became real for me, when poets became real for me.” I found myself at that moment, wanting to reach out to all of my mentors in this craft, and this morning, those words were with me still.  I met Jaki Shelton Green several years ago during a…

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Alice Osborn Award

I attribute my love of poetry almost entirely to my first-grade teacher, who after letting me read the final chapter of Charlotte’s Web aloud during storytime (because she was too overcome with emotion to continue), discovered that I also had the rhythmic timing necessary to read poems aloud to the class. We, of course, dove into the Shel Silverstein classics. She challenged us with harder, second-grade poems. We read them to each other. We illustrated the lines. We fell in love with poetry.  The Alice Osborn award, judged by Kristian Erny, celebrates playful language, surprise, and novelty. These poems, written…

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Thomas H. McDill Award

I spent these past few days celebrating Thanksgiving with my family and a few close friends. It was three days of food and games and laughter and impromptu crochet projects that filled me with utter joy. Here, I also acknowledge that the holiday itself has a violent history that deserves our reflection – one that some believe is beyond redemption. I also believe that magic is possible when people gather together to express gratitude.  What does that have to do with the Pinesong Awards? Well. Not much. Until you consider what happens when my father begins to say grace. You…

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Katherine Kennedy McIntyre Light Verse Award

One of the current conversations in the performance poetry community is centered around the consumption of trauma. If you’ve never been to a poetry slam, let me confess openly that some of the stereotypes ring true. As the event goes on you are likely to hear stories about racism and homophobia, depression and alcoholism, violence and grief – happy poems don’t win slams. Even in our conversations about craft, we highlight the ways that poetry heals us  – all of the ways we write through our traumas and bring our pain to the page.  Here, I don’t by any means…

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Bruce Lader Poetry of Witness Award

Bruce Lader Poetry of Witness Award I think often about what it means to live in the Information Age, particularly now at a time when getting news (or opinions or snapshots of your meal) seems to take precedence over accuracy or consequence. I think about what it means to bear witness – to decide, “I will stand with you. Watch with you. I will not let this be forgotten.”  A part of me wants to share now about Darnella Frazier, and how George Floyd’s murderer would have gone free had it not been for her witness.  I want to tell…

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