Big Ole Comprehensive Guide to the Contests

This post gathers information and inspirations for all 11 contests, with definitions of each award category and a list of links for further exploration.

If you are seeking guidance for your entries, you will find it below.

Please note that all line counts should include the title, blank lines (after the title and between stanzas, etc.), and any epigraphs. Any entry that exceeds the line count is disqualified.

Poet Laureate Award:
serious poems, up to 110 lines

Substantial poetry of the highest caliber, with a generous line limit that allows for deep exploration and expansive expression. Ten entries will be selected as finalists by the preliminary judge and a winner will be chosen by North Carolina’s Poet Laureate.

Alice Osborn Award:
poems written for children by adults, up to 36 lines

Submissions should appeal to children, but also hold delights for adults that read to them. Playful language, surprises and novelty, rhyme (if artful), a touch of melancholy: all these and more might capture a child’s imagination.

Carol Bessent Hayman Poetry of Love Award:
on the theme of love, up to 36 lines

Love was the theme of the first written poem we know of, and it has walked hand in hand with poetry ever since. Poems submitted to this category may be in praise or lamentation, about new love or old love, passionate love or gentle love; whatever stirs this deepest of emotions.

Joanna Catherine Scott Award:
sonnets or other traditional forms, up to 36 lines

Poems in this category will employ contemporary thought expressed through a traditional form, blending creativity and technical proficiency.

Katherine Kennedy McIntyre Light Verse Award:
whimsical poems, up to 36 lines

Whimsy can circumvent bias and foment acceptance. Humorous celebrations of human foibles and light-hearted observations of this thing called life are most welcome in this category.

Mary Ruffin Poole American Heritage Award
poems of heritage, sibling-hood, or nature, up to 36 lines

The Mary Ruffin Poole American Heritage contest seeks to honor the places we come from. Our families. Our country. Our earth.

Poetry of Courage Award:
poems in praise of bravery, up to 36 lines

Submissions may be in any form or style that deals with courage in the face of crisis. From facing the first day of school as a brand new kindergartner, to finding strength to move on after the loss of a loved one.

Bruce Lader Poetry of Witness Award:
poems dealing with current issues, up to 36 lines

Poems in this category will bear witness to that which concerns you, which disgusts or inspires, scares or emboldens, uplifts or fills you with despair. Our window on the world is bigger than ever. Reflect on it.

Bloodroot Haiku Award:
haiku or senryu, 17 or fewer syllables in up to 3 lines

Haiku captures an experience and expresses it directly and plainly. They are untitled, avoid end rhymes, utilize common language, and focus on the present moment.

Ruth Morris Moose Sestina Award:
any subject in sestina form

Poems in the sestina form, which provides a technical challenge suitable for a wide range of subjects from the serious to the non-sensical.

Thomas H. McDill Award:
any form or style, up to 70 lines

With a limit of 70 lines, the McDill Award offers the opportunity to craft a more substantial work on any theme while still adhering to strong craft and powerful use of poetic language and devices.

The Pinesong Awards anthologies for 2019 and 2020 are available online at the NCPS website. Click here for 2019 and here for 2020.

Ready to submit your work? Click here.

If you need a little push or inspiration for entering contests in general, check out these posts:

For our poem for this posting, let me share this one of mine, originally published as a Poetry in Plain Sight poster in 2018:

Mountain Bridge

You want to name the trees
wrestle with memory to find
the proper words. Then grow
silent. The forest closes in, wraps
us in one hundred shades of color.

I smile at pine saplings. Stroke
their soft needles as I would
tousle a beloved child’s hair.

Again you begin to speak
exposing the hundred shades
of your personality. A mystery
that struggles with my love.

Published by Craig Kittner

The Adult Contests Director for the North Carolina Poetry Society, Craig has lived in a lot of places. Providence, RI saw the start of interesting things that DC helped solidify. He's worked a lot of jobs, too. Dealing blackjack was an interesting challenge. Now he lives kind-of-near the sea and makes his living through communication. But don't we all. Recent publications include Rabid Oak, Bones, and the Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.

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