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
Winner:
Piecework by Susan Alff
Finalists:
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

Tanya McDonald, “so many haiku about masks”

Our Bloodroot Haiku Award judge is Tanya McDonald. Here is what she has to say about the current role of haiku.

The challenges of 2020 have affected us all, but as a haiku poet and editor, I don’t feel that the role of haiku poets has changed from what it was a year ago. Our job has always been to pay attention to the world around us and to convey those observations and experiences through concise language. These observations may include nature scenes and seasonal references—cherry blossoms, migrating geese, etc.—but they may also include everyday human life.

If 2020 has changed anything in haiku, it’s the subject matter and vocabulary. This year, I’ve read haiku about tear gas and marching in solidarity, about rampant forest fires and evacuations, about standing in line to vote, about work-from-home and homeschooling, about social distancing and cancellations, about essential workers, about a future vaccine, about isolation from loved ones, and so, so many haiku about masks. I will read more haiku on these topics because this is our world in 2020.

Our role as haiku poets is still to witness, to document, to interpret, and to share with others. Our haiku not only illustrate an observation, they invite readers to bring their own experiences and emotions to the poem. In this way, haiku encourage empathy, not only with the poet but with the subject matter, whether it’s a fawn taking its first steps or someone sleeping rough under an overpass. Whether we act like it or not, we really are all in this together, and if poets can inspire more empathy toward our fellow humans and this planet, then perhaps there is hope for a brighter future for all of us.

Tanya shares this haiku with us, originally published in Presence #68 (November 2020):

his gift of lilac jelly—
back to normal
in air quotes

Tanya McDonald is known for her bright plumage and her love of birds. Her haiku, rengay, and haibun have appeared in various journals. She judged the 2014 Harold G. Henderson Haiku Contest (with Michael Dylan Welch), the 2016 Haiku Poets of Northern California Rengay Contest, and the 2018 Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival Haiku Invitational (with Jacquie Pearce and Paul Chambers). Last year, she edited the 2019 Haiku Society of America’s members’ anthology, A Moment’s Longing, which prepared her for the launch of her new, print haiku journal, Kingfisher in 2020. A Touchstone Award winner and a New Resonance poet, she lives near Seattle, Washington.

Introducing Davis McCombs

Davis McCombs will be judging our Mary Ruffin Poole Award for poems on American heritage, nature, or siblinghood.

He has this to say about the role of the poet:

Even though the challenges and upheavals of 2020 have been unprecedented, I do not believe that the role of the poet—or of the poem, for that matter—have changed from what they have always been. So often in these last months I have thought of what Seamus Heaney wrote on this very topic. Heaney was my mentor and teacher in college and this brief passage is taken from his marvelous essay “The Government of the Tongue”:

“Here is the great paradox of poetry and of the imaginative arts in general. Faced with the brutality of the historical onslaught, they are practically useless. Yet they verify our singularity, they strike and stake out the ore of self which lies at the base of every individuated life. In one sense, the efficacy of poetry is nil—no lyric has ever stopped a tank. In another sense, it is unlimited.”

No one wrestled with these questions more than Heaney did. And I think what he says here is wonderfully perceptive and absolutely correct. 

Davis shares this poem with us:

Davis McCombs is the author of three collections of poetry, Ultima Thule (Yale 2000), Dismal Rock (Tupelo 2007), and lore (University of Utah Press 2016). His poems have appeared in Poetry, The New Yorker, The Missouri Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, American Poetry Review and many other publications. A recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation, McCombs directs the Program in Creative Writing and Translation at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, where he has taught since 2001.

Leatha Kendrick “the huge unknown of everything…”

Leatha Kendrick is the author of five poetry collections, most recently And Luckier, from Accents Publishing. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Exit 7, Tar River Poetry, Appalachian Heritage, New Madrid Review, the Southern Poetry Review, the James Dickey Review, Still: An Online Journal, the Baltimore Review, The Southern Women’s Review, and in anthologies including The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume 3—Contemporary Appalachia and What Comes Down to Us – Twenty-Five Contemporary Kentucky Poets. She lives and writes in Lexington, Kentucky.

Leatha is our judge for the Joanna Catherine Scott Award for poems in a traditional form.

Here are her views on how 2020 has impacted the role of the poet:

As the pandemic spread across the world this year, poetry became one of the ways humans made it through the uncertain days. People went looking for the poems that had helped them through dark times in the past and shared poetry to comfort themselves and cheer each other up. Poets and those who maybe had never written a poem before were moved to a new intensity of attention. As 2020 unfolded we sat by our windows and went for walks, and the world leapt up on us like a big dog, nearly knocking us down. And we wrote what we saw and heard and felt. And on those nights when we couldn’t sleep, when the huge unknown of everything pressed in at the windows, we got up and wrote some more, saying this is how it feels now, and maybe this, as well.

The events of 2020 have not changed so much as affirmed “the role of the poet in society,” which is to pay attention to the world as it is and to shape poems from it. In a year filled with extraordinary and historic moments, poems have voiced our wonder – our outrage – our despair – our grief – our gratitude – our ordinary encounter with being alive in a particular body, culture, history, family, place, at this instant in time.

Poetry is uniquely suited to convey the immediacy of sensory experience and give a shape to the fullness of lived moments, with all the paradoxes and contradictions they contain. The shaping function of poetry creates Frost’s “momentary stay against confusion” for both poet and reader. Whether we are a writer or a reader poems both stir us up and settle us down. It’s why we turn to reading and to writing them again and again.

This poem, written in late 2018, was published by Rattle and turned out to be the opening poem in her latest book, And Luckier, published in April, 2020:

https://www.accents-publishing.com/andluckier.html

may I introduce Virgil Suárez

If your poem has a lot to say, it may be right for our Thomas H. McDill Award, which accepts work of up to 70 lines in any form or style.

This year’s judge is Virgil Suárez, who was born in Havana, Cuba in 1962.  At the age of twelve he arrived in the United States. He received an MFA from Louisiana State University in 1987.  He is the author of eight collections of poetry, most recently 90 MILES: SELECTED AND NEW, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press.  His work has appeared in a multitude of magazines and journals internationally.

He has been taking photographs on the road for the last three decades. When he is not writing, he is out riding his motorcycle up and down the Blue Highways of the Southeast, photographing disappearing urban and rural landscapes. His 10th volume of poetry, THE PAINTED BUNTING’S LAST MOLT, will be published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in the Spring of 2020.

On the subject of the current role of the poet in society, he says:

“I think young poets will have no difficulty in making their work more political, and more relevant to their times.
2020 has been a tough year for everyone. Personally, I have been able to get a lot of work done during
the pandemic. It’s what I’ve been training for all my life, having more time than I know what to do with,
so I write. The way folks have adjusted (well, some folks haven’t really, at all) but those of us who have
taken the pandemic seriously have adapted to best of our ability. I’ve been writing and cooking a lot.
I’ve been reading on Zoom from my new book: THE PAINTED BUNTING’S LAST MOLT out from
the University of Pittsburgh Press. I’ve been thinking about lines of distribution. About how so many
of us depend on medicine. What if medicine stopped coming to our local pharmacies? Such a question
lead to the poem featured here.”

Big Pharma Blues

Better living through pharmacology,
except when CVS can’t fill a pres-
cription, claiming your mental
health pills are no longer available.
Suddenly, the old fears emerge:
a man drifting through the back
roads, wandering between burning
pines and wild boars grazing
at his feet. If this is how the world
ends, then I want to be food
for the animals. They can sniff
out danger and the flesh of this
man gorged on Japanese natto
and tobiko. Sometimes you have
to lose in order to come back
in new formulated chemistry.
Nature doesn’t need medicine
to know how much fuckery
there is In the human heart.

student awards

North Carolina Poetry Society’s wonderful Student Contests Director, Arianna Del Palazzo, has been hard at work organizing the contests for students from grade 3 and up. The winning poems will published alongside our adult winners in the Pinesong awards anthology. The student poets will also be invited to read their work at Awards Day.

Here is Arianna’s announcement of the winners:

The Student Contest submissions came to a close on February 1st, 2020 with over 500 submissions! So many talented poets submitted their work. Our 4 judges certainly had a difficult task at hand. 


It is with much excitement and pride we announce this years NC Student Poetry Contest Winners! 

Sherry Pruitt Award

First place: bao
Emily Yang
Second Place: Ambiance
LauraLee Hurst
Third Place: Insignificant Ant
Charles Canady
Honorable Mention: Sour Sayings
Baker Sanders
Honorable Mention: Away
Matilda Ziegler
Honorable Mention: Winter is Approaching
Nathan Creech

Joan Scott Memorial Award

First Place: If You Stayed in Cabin Six
Gray Fickling
Second Place: I Want to Be There
Anna Berens
Third Place: Storms
Delaney Osborne
Honorable Mentions: Lighting
Raya Robertson
Honorable Mention: Hopeful Beginning
Sanjana Solanki
Honorable Mention: The Earth and Us
Megan Perry

Travis Tuck Jordan Award

First Place: The Round Soccer Ball
Principe Nzayiramya
Second Place: Clyde
Gray Fickling
Third Place: The State Fair
Hailey Williams
Honorable Mention: Sea Creatures
Muna Uchendu
Honorable Mention: Mythical Creatures
Olivia Smith
Honorable Mention: A Day in the Life of a Frog
Alexandra Leszczuk

Mary Chilton Award

First Place: Ode To My Violin
Nadya Kotlyarevska
Second Place: Sensitive
Lela Ward
Third Place: Flood Prison
Avery Anderson
Honorable Mention: Stars Shine Brightly
Kenna Zhang
Honorable Mention: Eggs
Alex Pomeloy
Honorable Mention: Being Aware
Katherine Lyons

A huge thanks to all the teachers who took the time to submit multiple student poems. Without their willingness to participate, contests like this would not be possible! 

awards announcement!

It’s that time! Our 12 judges have made their selections for the North Carolina Poetry Society Pinesong Awards for 2020. Many of them pointed out that the process was both challenging and rewarding given the high quality of the submissions. North Carolina Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green wrote, “It is both delightful and inspiring to read the breadth of literary genius that we have in our State.”

A total of 654 qualified entries from 163 poets were reviewed by the judges. From those 42 poems by 33 poets were given first, second, or honorable mention awards and will be published in the Pinesong anthology. Nine other poems were declared finalists in the Poet Laureate contest.

The winning poems were highly praised by the judges, particularly for their authenticity and command of language. Michael Rothenberg spoke of poems that hit him hard and fast with “a clarity I find appealing.” Julia Beach recognized the use of images and “how they called to each other from each stanza, and how they remained in a constant state of transformation within the poem.” Bloodroot judge, Julie Warther, described the winning haiku as “crystalline moments.” Amelia Martens mentioned “thoughtful line breaks, where the poem uses white space to expand or suspend a thought on the page.” Dr. Marcia L. Hurlow responded to language that was “ musical and precise without calling undue attention to itself.”

For myself, this has been a labor of love, and I am proud to present your Pinesong Awards for 2020:

Poet Laureate Award
Preliminary Judge Michael Rothenberg

Final selection by Jaki Shelton Green

Winner:
Elegy for Joe by Joyce Brown

Finalists:
Frank O’Hara Gets Dirty in Bull City by Hugh Findlay
My Father and I Have Nightmares by Janet Ford
River in Your Living Room by Jeanne Julian
Arachnidaea by Stephen C. Pollock
Thematic Variations on GFCBA by Connie Ralston
The 4th pillow by Erica Rothman
Margie Skips a Grade by Maria Rouphail
Corresponding with Richard Wilbur by Melinda Thomsen
Watching the Watcher by Christina Xiong

Alice Osborn Award (poems written for children)
Judge Carolyn Guinzio

First Place:
In the Attic by Edward Garvey
Second Place:
Baby Bird in the Daisies by Arlene Mandell
Honorable Mention:
Playing in the Garden by Joyce Brown
That Time I Sat on Arhtur Dellenger’s Tractor by Les Brown
Camels for Two by Martin Settle

Carol Bessent Hayman Poetry of Love Award
Judge Dr. Marcia L. Hurlow

First Place:
My Father Listened by Jo Ann Hoffman
Second Place:
Blondie’s Howl by Kathy Ackerman
Honorable Mention:
Backstory for the Beautiful Abandoned by Laura Alderson
At Play by Patricia Deaton
The best courage is against all odds. by Mary Hennessy

Joanna Catherine Scott Award(sonnet or other traditional form)
Judge Pamela Johnson Parker

First Place:
In My Defense by Barbara Blanks
Second Place:
The Sun’s Uprising by Melinda Thomsen
Honorable Mention:
What the Famous Writer Said by Kenneth Chamlee
Separate Ways by Ron Lavalette
Nasal Biopsy by Stephen C Pollock

Katherine Kennedy McIntyre Light Verse Award
Judge Jeff Worley

First Place:
Ruse de Cezanne by Nick Sweet
Second Place:
Goodbye and Keep Chilled by Jeanne Julian
Honorable Mention:
Generations by Jo Ann Hoffman
Husbandry by JeanMarie Olivieri
The Worship of Dog by Martin Settle

Mary Ruffin Poole American Heritage Award (heritage, sibling-hood, or nature themed)
Judge Sarah McCartt-Jackson

First Place:
A Fall Language by Benjamin Cutler
Second Place:
Kinship by Andrew Taylor-Troutman
Honorable Mention:
Deep Stony by Lucia Walton Robinson

Poetry of Courage Award
Judge Amelia Martens

First Place:
Nam, Man by Hugh Findlay
Second Place:
Waiting for Results by Kathy Ackerman
Honorable Mention:
Please Stand by Kenneth Chamlee
My Mother Quits Smoking by Eric Weil
A Day Different by Glenna D. Wolfe

Poetry of Witness Award (contemporary events or issues)
Judge Brendan Walsh

First Place:
Disposable Rant by Kathy Ackerman
Second Place:
Junkyard Gives up Secret Accounts of Massacre in Iraq by Paloma A Capanna

Bloodroot Haiku Award
Judge Julie Warther

First Place:
empty begging bowl by kj munro
Second Place:
death watch – by Carole MacRury
Honorable Mention:
sun rising by Ed Bremson
crickets at dusk by Glenn Coats
scent of pine by Tracy Davidson

Ruth Morris Moose Sestina Award
Judge Julia Beach

First Place:
Starbucks Sestina by Mary O’Keefe Brady
Second Place:
Where Bluebirds Fly by Tracy Davidson
Honorable Mention:
Competitors by Lee Ann Gillen
Naughty Cocklebur, Artful Iris by Robert Keeler

Thomas H. McDill Award
Judge Adam Day

First Place:
Remnants by Martin Settle
Second Place:
Steve’s Balloons by Stephen C Pollock

from NC to NYC

The 2019 edition of Pinesong is heading to the Big Apple.

Poets House, a national poetry library and literary center, has added the 55th Volume of the North Carolina Poetry Society’s awards anthology to its collection of over 70,000 poetry books.

In addition to its inclusion in the collection, Pinesong 2019 will be on exhibit this summer as part of the 2020 Poets House Showcase. This annual event started in 1992 with a display of 800 works. It now includes over 3,000 volumes, broadsides, anthologies and poetry related texts. More than 800 commercial publishers, university presses, and small presses from across the country are represented in this inclusive exhibit.

Learn more about this cornucopia of American poetry here.