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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 once shared with me that during one of his most successful years, his work was accepted into 24 of the journals/competitions to which he’d submitted. During the submission period that marked those 24 wins, he submitted to 300 places. I remind myself of that statistic whenever my work doesn’t find a home. I also remind myself that the same year he was shortlisted for a national book award – that rejections don’t always speak to the caliber of the poem, and they never speak to the value of the poet.

Thank you so much for sharing your work with us; I do not take it for granted.

As always, I invite you to spend some time with the 2021 Pinesong, and I’d like to share a piece of my own from the inaugural issue of Our Rhythm | Our Blues. Though the submission period has ended, I will be posting here throughout the year. I hope to see you at our meeting next Saturday!

Lumpkin Out. 

Ashley Lumpkin is a Georgia-raised, Carolina-based writer, editor, actor, and educator. She is the author of five poetry collections: {} At First Sight, Second Glance, Terrorism and Other Topics for Tea, #AshleyLumpkin, and Genesis. Her book “I Hate You All Equally.”, is a collection of conversations from her years as a classroom teacher. A lover of performance as well as the written word, she has been a competing member of the Bull City Slam Team since 2015 and currently serves as its assistant coach. She is one-fifth (and only Slytherin member) of the Big Dreams Collective and currently serves as the adult contest director of the North Carolina Poetry Society.

Above all else, Ashley considers herself a teacher, poet, and fryer of food. She is a lover of mathematics and language. She loves you too. 

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 poet who typically shares my work via performance (and sometimes competition), my wheelhouse is narrative free verse. But any poet who competes at the national level will tell you haiku slams are the highlight of the competition. I’ve spent years developing a form called the disciple, that stems from my utter frustration with pantoums. 

The Joanna Catherine Scott Award blends creativity and technical proficiency. Send us your sonnets, sestinas, villanelles, and pantoums. Bops and ballades. Centos and ghazals. Send us your contemporary expressed in 50 lines or less through traditional form  to pinesongawards@gmail.com. Be sure to check out the adult contest page for a complete list of submission guidelines. 

Check out this pantoum from Taylor Mali; then have a laugh with this sonnet from RJ Walker (…and Miley Cyrus. Just. Trust me)  Be sure to check out the 2021 contest winners in the 2021 Pinesong; and read Mary Jaimes Sarrano’s below. 

Lumpkin out. 

Mary Jaimes-Serrano is an author of romance novels and poetry. She has poetry published in Heron Clan VII and her books are available on Amazon and Kindle as well as her author website. She will be starting her MFA in writing in January of 2022. She can be found on Twitter @MaryJaimesSerr1 or on her website dedicated to her books and poetry @ mjaimesserrano.com

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 last moment, I settled upon a different marker for 2022: truth.

What does it mean for 2022 to be a year of truth? And what does that mean for you as you craft poems? Well. Real honesty requires both compassion and courage. And it is my hope that we all, regardless of the intentions we have (or have yet to) set, can approach this new year with both. 

Send us your poems of any form or style on the theme of love or courage to pinesongawards@gmail.com. Be sure to check out the adult contest page for a complete list of submission guidelines. The Carol Bessent award will be judged by Angelo T. Geter and the Poetry of Courage Award will be judged by Kerri French-Nelson.s]

The folks at Poetry Foundation have curated a delightful collection of New Year’s Resolution Poems that will delight you. Be sure to check out the 2021 contest winners in the 2021 Pinesong; and read our judges’ bios below.  

Lumpkin out. 

Angelo Geter is a poet, educator, and performance artist who currently serves as the Poet Laureate of Rock Hill, SC.  He is a 2020 Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellow.  a 2018 National Poetry Slam champion, Rustbelt Regional Poetry Slam finalist,  Southern Fried Regional Poetry Slam finalist, and has performed at venues and competitions all across the country. He is the recipient of the Fall Lines 2021 Saluda River Prize for Poetry.  He is also the founder of the One Word Poetry Festival, a 3-day poetry festival based in Rock Hill, SC complete with readings, workshops, and performances.  His work has appeared on All Def Poetry, Charleston Currents, Gratefulness.com, and the Academy of American Poets “Poem a Day” series. 

Kerri French is the author of Every Room in the Body (Moon City Press, 2017), winner of 

the 2016 Moon City Poetry Award and the North Carolina Poetry Society’s 2018 Brockman-Campbell Book Award. Instruments of Summer, her chapbook of poems about Amy Winehouse, was published in 2013 by Dancing Girl Press. Her poetry has appeared in Washington Square Review, BOAAT, Copper Nickel, The Los Angeles Review, The Journal, Mid-American Review, Barrow Street, and Nashville Review, among others. A North Carolina native, she has lived in Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, and England and holds degrees from UNC-Chapel Hill, UNC-Greensboro, and Boston University. She now lives outside of Nashville, Tennessee and teaches at the University of Memphis.

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 lost loved ones, or those who don’t celebrate any holidays this season and wish we would all just calm down already. My point? This season is complicated. That the holidays require us to honor the complexity of opposing emotions, ideas, and truths simultaneously, in ways that can stretch us to our limits. 

The Mary Ruffin Poole American Heritage Award seeks to honor the places that we come from. Our families. Our country. Our earth. Send us your poems of any form or style on the theme of American heritage, sibling-hood, or nature to pinesongawards@gmail.com . Be sure to check out the adult contest page for a complete list of submission guidelines. This history can be complicated to grapple with, and we are looking forward to diving into all that complexity.

Take a listen to this piece by poet and filmmaker Phil Kaye, then read this classic of Claude McKay’s. Be sure to check out the 2021 Mary Ruffin Poole winners in the 2021 Pinesong; and read our judge’s bio below. 

Lumpkin out. 

Richard Smyth has published poems in such journals as The Southern Poetry Review, The Florida Review, Tampa Review, Kansas Quarterly, and others.  He is editor and publisher of the poetry journal Albatross, now in its 36th year.  He holds a Ph.D. in English from the University of Florida and currently lives in Boston, Massachusetts, where he teaches Computer Science in a local public school district.

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 reading for International Women’s Day. She was not yet the poet laureate of North Carolina, but had begun cultivating the kind of writing community that I had always dreamed of being a part of. She owned every bit of her Black-woman-poet experience and had no reservations about sharing all of the wisdom that can be packed into a first-meeting, first-reading conversation, with me. I was in absolute awe. And though I didn’t have Gideon’s quote in my arsenal at the time, in retrospect, I can say she absolutely made poetry more real. 

The poet laureate award is awarded for a serious poem of any subject and style to a poet currently residing in North Carolina. Our preliminary judge, Anne McCaster, will select ten finalists, and Green will select the winning piece. Send us your poems of up to 110 lines (including poem title, any epigraph, blank lines, and lines of text) to pinesongawards@gmail.com . Be sure to check out the adult contest page for a complete list of submission guidelines. 

Before you do anything else, read Green’s that boy from georgia is coming through here. Be sure to check out the 2021 Poet Laureate Award winner in the 2021 Pinesong; and learn about this year’s preliminary judge below. 

Lumpkin out. 


Anne McMaster is a poet and professional playwright. A former lecturer in Theatre and English in NI and California, she designs /facilitates projects on dementia and creativity, education, community development, mental health, and creative writing and works internationally as a creative writing mentor. Her work is published in journals and anthologies in the UK, Ireland and America and she writes regularly for BBC Radio Ulster. Walking Off the Land, her debut collection, was published by Hedgehog Poetry Press in May 2021. Póame – a collection of poetry in Ulster Scots – will be published in late 2021 and Unexpected Item in the Bagging Area (Collected Poems) in 2022.

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 by adults for children, also hold delights for the grown-ups who read them. Send your poems that capture the child’s imagination in up to 36 lines to pinesongawards@gmail.com . Be sure to check out the adult contest page for a complete list of submission guidelines. 

Here’s a poem of Silverstein’s that my six-year-old self is jealous she didn’t get to break out as a retort to her parents, offered along with this reminder that poetry for children is not always full of whimsy. Be sure to check out the 2021 Alice Osborn winners in the 2021 Pinesong; and read Erny’s bio below.

Lumpkin out.

Kristina Erny is a third culture poet who grew up in South Korea. Her poetry has appeared in The Los Angeles Review, Tupelo Quarterly, Yemassee, Bluestem, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the University of Arizona, and her work has been the recipient of the Tupelo Quarterly Inaugural Poetry Open Prize and the Ruskin Art Club Poetry Award. Her manuscript Wax of What’s Left was a finalist for Tupelo Press’s Dorset Prize, Ahsahta Sawtooth Poetry award, and the Colorado Prize for Poetry. After many years of teaching internationally, she currently teaches university creative writing and lives in Kentucky with her husband, sons, and daughter. 

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 might say that the traditional length of our contests would not be enough for him. He needs…more. 

The Thomas H. McDill Award offers the opportunity to craft a more substantial work, while still adhering to craft and powerful use of language. These poems can (and should) stretch beyond our typical limit of 36 lines and really wow us. Send your poems of up to 70 lines on any theme to pinesongawards@gmail.com . Be sure to check out the adult contest page for a complete list of submission guidelines. 

If you didn’t get a chance last week, today is a perfect day for Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude. You also need to sink your teeth into this heartwrenching offering from Danez Smith. Be sure to check out the 2021 Thomas H. McDill winners in the 2021 Pinesong; and learn about this year’s judge, Gaynor Kane.

Lumpkin out. 

Gaynor Kane came to writing late, after finishing a degree with a creative writing module. Her full collection, ‘Venus in Pink Marble’ was released on her 50th birthday in 2020, published by the Hedgehog Poetry Press. She has three other publications, from that press: a micro collection, ‘Circling the Sun’ (2018), about the early aviatrixes, a chapbook, ‘Memory Forest’ (2019), about burial rituals and last wishes, and a co-authored chapbook of pandemic poetry ‘Penned In’ (2020).Her forthcoming chapbook of love poems ‘Eight Types of Love’ is due to be published in February 2022. Her poems have earned places in several competitions. She has been guest editor of the Bangor Literary journal and has also performed at several festivals, including the Belfast Book Festival, Stendhal Music and Arts Festival and Cheltenham Poetry Festival.

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 wish to suggest that poetry cannot carry all of that weight, but instead, I dare say it can and should do much more. The Katherine Kennedy McIntyre Light Verse Award welcomes whimsy, humor, and other light-hearted observations of this thing called life. We welcome joy and all the ways that it too moves us. 

Send your light verse of up to 36 lines pinesongawards@gmail.com . Be sure to check out the adult contest page for a complete list of submission guidelines. 

That’s all from me. I’m cutting this week’s post a little short in order to give you more time to revel in Ross Gay’s Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude; check out the 2021 Katherine Kennedy McIntyre winners in the 2021 Pinesong; and learn about this year’s judge, Jeremy Paden. 

Lumpkin out. 

Jeremy Paden was born in Milan, Italy and raised in Central America and the Caribbean. He received his PhD in Latin American literature at Emory University and is a Professor of Spanish at Transylvania University in Lexington, KY. He also teaches literary translation at Spalding University’s low-residency MFA. He is the author of three chapbooks, one of which he has translated into Spanish, and the author of two recent full-length collections of poetry: world as sacred burning heart published by 3:A Taos Press and Autorretrato como una iguana, a collection of poems written in Spanish and translated into English which co-won the 2020 Valparaíso Poeta en Nueva York prize. His illustrated and bilingual children’s book, Under the Ocelot Sun published by Shadelandhouse Modern Press co-won a 2020 Campoy-Ada prize for Children’s Literature. As a translator, he has published a chapbook of translations and two full-length collections: A Stone to the Chest by the Argentine poet Carlos Aldazábal and The Correspondences by the Mexican poet Alí Calderón. 

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 you about the Christmas that no one did end up standing in the kitchen with my Great Aunt Ruth, on what turned out to be the last night she made her mother’s famous biscuits, and now the recipe is lost to the family forever. 

What I need to tell you is this: the poet’s job is to bear witness. To focus our attention on things large and small – all that ultimately shapes us. The Bruce Lader Poetry of Witness Award, judged by Ashlee Haze,  is for poems of any form and style that address contemporary events or issues. 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. We have more information than we could ever need. What will choose to bear witness to? What will you not let us forget? 

Send your poems of up to 36 lines pinesongawards@gmail.com . Be sure to check out the adult contest page for a complete list of submission guidelines. 

That’s all from me, but do take a moment to read Haze’s bio before you go; check out the 2021 Bruce Lader winners in the 2021 Pinesong; and in lieu of a poem, I thought I’d share a review of Crossing the Rift, a collection of work by NC poets bearing witness to the tragedy of September 11th. 

Lumpkin out. 

Ashlee Haze is a poet and spoken word artist from Atlanta by way of Chicago. She is the host of Moderne Philosophy, an educational podcast for creatives and modern thinkers. Her work has appeared in numerous publications and media outlets, including work recently published in the May issue of Poetry Magazine. She holds a B.A. in Philosophy from Georgia State University and spends her time innovating ways to tell the stories not often told. 

Bloodroot Haiku Award

Each week, I’d like to take a moment to highlight an individual contest from this year’s Pinesong Awards. First up: The Bloodroot Haiku Award.

The contemporary English haiku is derived from the traditional Japanese form and is most commonly perceived as having three unrhymed lines of five, seven, and five syllables, featuring some image from nature. There are, however, a few questions: Does the English concept of a syllable correspond to what the Japanese form attempted to convey? How pertinent is the line count to the form; that is, can we have any number of lines that total seventeen syllables? How strictly do we have to adhere to a total of seventeen anyway? Short poems with lines of three, four, and three syllables are becoming more and more popular in English classrooms. I’ve personally encountered some six-eight-six delights, and both of these structures have borne the name haiku. And finally, can we call poems that follow this structure but aren’t about nature (or senryu) a type of haiku as well? 

Well friends, I have no definitive answers for the haiku conversation at large, but I will tell you what our Robert Moyer, this year’s Bloodroot Haiku Award judge will be looking for: 

Send your three-line poems of 10 – 20 syllables on any topic of your choosing to pinesongawards@gmail.com . Be sure to check out the adult contest page for a complete list of submission guidelines. 

That’s all from me, but do take a moment to read Robert’s bio before you go; check out the 2021 Bloodroot Haiku award winners in the 2021 Pinesong; and enjoy these five-seven-five offerings from Etheridge Knight. 

Lumpkin out. 

Robert Moyer lives in Winston-Salem, NC, where he was the local host for Haiku North America 2007 and 2019 as well as for three quarterly meetings of the Haiku Society of America. He has had work published in numerous journals, such as frogpond, Modern Haiku, bottle rockets, Heron’s Nest, Failed Haiku, Presence, acorn, and Sketchbook. He was a frequent contributor to Haiku News and had 27 poems included in their anthology. He has been included in a number of anthologies, including the ten-year Acorn anthology, Haiku 2021, and JAR OF RAIN, all “best of” collections. He also served as judge for the British Haiku Society contest in 2017.  He is the poet in residence at the Arts Based School, and host of the monthly Meetup session, HOW TO HAIKU.