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.

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!