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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 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 . 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 . 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 . 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 . 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 . 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 . 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 . 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.

Countdown to Contests

We are less than two weeks away from the start of our submission period! Have you already selected the poems you’ll be entering? Still working on those final edits? Wherever you are in the process, I hope you know how excited we are to receive your work.

If you’ve not had a chance to familiarize yourself with the rules for this year’s contests, please head over to the adult contest page to check those out. I want to point out here, that this year we are including sestinas in the Joanna Catherine Scott award (all traditional forms) instead of as a separate contest.

Speaking of the Joanna Catherine Scott award, I had the great privilege yesterday of attending a workship with the incomprable Crystal Valentine, where we spent a bit of time discussing Elizabeth Bishop’s villanelle One Art.

The villanelle is made up of five tercets followed by a quatrain, with two repeating rhymes and two refrains. The first and third lines of the opening tercet are repeated alternately in the last lines of the succeeding stanzas; then in the final stanza, the refrain serves as the poem’s two concluding lines. Using capitals for the refrains and and lowercase letters for the rhymes, the form can be expressed as

A1 b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 A2.

Though I’ve not yet successfully crafted one myself, the villanelle is one of my favorite forms to read. After you’ve had your fill of Bishop’s well known offering, try this one from Porsha Olayiwola.

I’d love to read a villanelle of yours – will you be submitting one for the contest ?

Lumpkin out.

An Introduction

This past Saturday, NCPS held our Fall 2021 meeting. We had amazing readings from the winners of our book awards and an open mic that was nothing short of breathtaking. It was also my very first fall meeting listening to the work with “Adult Contest Director ears,” and I left the meeting with a new found awe for the kind of talent we have here in Carolina – plus a dose of sympathy for the task our judges will have set before them at the start of the new year.

I’ve thought long and hard about what my first post to the Pinesong Awards blog should be: A favorite poem? A recap of a meeting? Just wait until just before the contests open and inundate with prompts and potential inspirations? Then I thought: How else will I honor my Xanga-Myspace-LiveJournal roots if not by fully introducing myself to this world of Pinesong Awards Blog Readers?

I am Ashley R. Lumpkin – “Milli” if you’ve known me around the many performance poetry circles in North Carolina – a writer and math teacher who calls Greensboro home. I believe that Nikky Finney is the greatest writer currently walking the earth, and that every Shonda Rhimes television show will come back around, if you give it the time and space to do so.

When Celestine asked me to take the reigns as director, I hesitantly accepted. I’ve not been a member of NCPS long. My approach to poetry is first musical, then lyric. The names and faces of our Carolina legends have not yet been integrated into my personal canon. I question the validity of classics. I do not yet know how that medley of characteristics will work together to aide me in this role, but as Saturday’s meeting drew to a close, I was certain that accpeting the position was absolutely the right thing to do.

My vision for the blog is simple: I seek to inform and inspire. Here, you will find information about the Pinesong Awards, their judges, the forms they allow – along with poems, prompts, and the occasional musings of their director.

For now, I’ll leave you with this prompt by poet Akeem Rollins:

(1) Pick a natural disaster (ex: wildfires, earthquare, tornado, etc). Take 5 minutes to write down every single word you can think of and/or find about this disaster.

(2) Pick an illness or condition you have or had and do the same. 5 minutes. List everything you can.

(3) Write a poem describing the disaster as your condition. Use as many words from both lists as possible. Bonus points if you make it a pantoum. Bonus bonus points if you consider this inspiration for your submission to the Priscilla Webster-Williams Health and Healing contest (or any of our other awards).

Lumpkin out.

The Victorious Poetry

It is my pleasure and honor to present the winning poems of the Pinesong Awards for 2021:

Poet Laureate Award
Preliminary Judge Taylor Byas
Final selection by Jaki Shelton Green
Piecework by Susan Alff
The Children’s Section by Laura Alderson
Synagogue 1964 by Joanne Durham
Compost by Janet Ford
Garage by Maura High
Fruit by Jo Ann Hoffman
The Day After Christmas by Sandra Pope
Lessons In Applied Etymology by Celisa Steele
Orphaned by Andrew Taylor-Troutman
Standing at the Fence Staring into Cow Eyes Waiting for a Sign by Lucinda Trew

Alice Osborn Award
Judge Corrie Williamson
First Place:
A Bucket List for Spring by Shelly Reed Thieman
Second Place:
Flying Lesson by Nancy Swanson
Honorable Mention:
Cow Lullaby by Jeffery Beam
Suppose by Carmen Dressler Ward

Carol Bessent Hayman Poetry of Love Award
Judge Lindsay Rice
First Place:
Love in Black and White by Jenny Bates
Second Place:
Summoning My Grandmother in Dream by Margie Emshoff
Honorable Mention:
Milkshakes in May by Pam Baggett
Bowerbirds by Hilda Downer
Ruby and Darling. by Gary Phillips

Joanna Catherine Scott Award
Judge Leatha Kendrick
First Place:
Lost Poem by Mark Smith-Soto
Second Place:
Field Peas-A Mirrored Poem by Gary Phillips
Honorable Mention:
Near Sonnet for Full Revelry by S.L. Cockerille
Petition by Benjamin Cutler
frosted brown weed patch by Richard Ramsey

Katherine Kennedy McIntyre Light Verse Award
Judge Amie Whittemore
First Place:
Vespers by Ana Pugatch
Second Place:
Her Kitchen Hands Make Love by Mary Alice Dixon
Honorable Mention:
Back Yard Conundrum by Les Brown
The Art of Fishing by Earl Carlton Huband
Soliloquy of a Couch Potato by Martin Settle

Mary Ruffin Poole American Heritage Award
Judge Davis McCombs
First Place:
What is at stake. by Mary Hennessy
Second Place:
Glory by Laura Alderson
Honorable Mention:
The Barn by Les Brown
Morning Walk in a Small Coastal Town by Jo Ann Hoffman
the moonlight by Jonathan Humphrey

Poetry of Courage Award
Judge Robin Anna Smith
First Place:
Storms by Lucia Walton Robinson
Second Place:
On Hope by Emily Wilmer
Honorable Mention:
Ode to Epilepsy by Diana Ewell Engel
You, a Vessel by Anne Maren-Hogan
Nestlings by Nancy Young

Bruce Lader Poetry of Witness Award
Judge Kristina Erny
First Place:
Blank Billboard Blues by Jeanne Julian
Second Place:
Assume the Position by JeanMarie Olivieri
Honorable Mention:
White Harvest by Joyce Brown
Whose Garden Is It? by Kathleen Calby

Bloodroot Haiku Award
Judge Tanya McDonald
First Place:
emerald sheen by Anne Curran
Second Place:
boa tank by Jay Friedenberg
Honorable Mention:
the dry bellies by Seren Fargo
a split keel by Debbie Strange

Ruth Morris Moose Sestina Award
Judge Barbara Sabol
First Place:
Old Man with Old Dog by Jane Shlensky
Second Place:
Bird Counts by Jeanne Julian
Honorable Mention:
Cloud-Reading by Erica Reid
The Healing Miles by Melinda Thomsen
My Will Turned Into a Sestina by Susan Willey Spalt

Thomas H. McDill Award
Judge Virgil Suárez
First Place:
The Children’s Memorial: A Blueprint by Don Ball
Second Place:
The Stone Wall by Ana Pugatch
Honorable Mention:
Epiphany by Joseph Mills
The Caryatids by Andrew Weatherly