Poets & Writers Blogs

Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise Accepting Submissions

Applications are currently open for the Vilcek Foundation’s Prizes for Creative Promise in Literature. Three prizes of $50,000 each are awarded to writers not born in the United States to recognize achievement early in their careers. Poets, fiction writers, and nonfiction writers who are thirty-eight years of age or younger and have published at least one full-length book are eligible. Winners will be notified in the fall and honored at an annual awards ceremony in New York City in Spring 2020.

Using the online submission system, submit a writing sample of up to twenty pages, a curriculum vitae, proof of your immigration status, five press clippings about your work, and contact information for two professional references by June 10. There is no application fee. Visit the website for complete guidelines and eligibility requirements.

The shortlist will be chosen by a jury of experts from the literary community who will evaluate the applicants based on their “excellence, innovation, and impact.”

Established in 2009, the Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise aim to “encourage and support emerging to mid-career immigrant artists and scientists who have demonstrated exceptional achievements early in their careers.” The awards are given annually to biomedical scientists and in alternating years to writers, dancers, musicians, designers, fashion designers, theater artists, architects, visual artists, and culinary artists. The Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Literature was last awarded in 2011 to Dinaw Mengestu.

The Vilcek Prizes are sponsored by the Vilcek Foundation, which is dedicated to raising awareness of immigrant contributions to America. Jan and Marica Vilcek, immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia, established the foundation in 2000.

Deadline Approaches for St. Francis College Literary Prize

Submissions are open for the biennial St. Francis College Literary Prize. The $50,000 award is given to a midcareer author for their third, fourth, or fifth book of fiction. Chris Abani, Ron Currie, and Kate Christensen will judge. The shortlist will be announced on August 15, and the winner will be announced at the Brooklyn Book Festival in September.

To submit, mail five copies of a book of fiction published between June 2017 and May 2019 to St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn, NY 11201. Self-published books and English translations are also eligible. The deadline is May 15. There is no entry fee.

First awarded in 2009, the prize is designed to recognize “authors at this crucial stage in their careers” and give them more opportunities to focus on their craft. Past winners include Dana Spiotta for Innocents and Others, Maud Casey for The Man Who Walked Away, and David Vann for Dirt.

Marilyn Nelson Wins Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize

Today the Poetry Foundation named Marilyn Nelson the winner of the 2019 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. The annual award for outstanding lifetime achievement is one of the most prestigious awards given to American poets and includes a $100,000 prize. The Poetry Foundation also named Terrance Hayes the recipient of the 2019 Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism and Naomi Shihab Nye the 2019–2021 Young People’s Poet Laureate. The three awards will be presented at the Pegasus Awards Ceremony at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago on June 10.

Poet and translator Marilyn Nelson has published several books, including three poetry collections that were finalists for the National Book Award: Carver: A Life in Poems (Front Street Press, 2001), The Fields of Praise: New and Selected Poems (Louisiana State University Press, 1997), and The Homeplace (Louisiana State University Press, 1990). Nelson won the Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America in 2012 and is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is a professor emeritus at the University of Connecticut at Storrs and was the state’s poet laureate from 2001 to 2006.

“Marilyn Nelson has been committed throughout her career to meticulously chronicling the contemporary and historical experience—and contributions—of Black people in America,” said Don Share, editor of the foundation’s magazine, Poetry. “Everyone who cares about how life is lived and felt in this country should read her vivid and deeply considered work.”

The inaugural Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize was awarded to Adrienne Rich in 1986. The prize has since been awarded to Gary Snyder, C. K. Williams, W. S. Merwin, Joy Harjo, and Martín Espada, among others.

The Young People’s Poet Laureate title, which includes a $25,000 prize, celebrates a living writer’s devotion to writing exceptional poetry for young readers. As the 2019–2021 laureate, Nye plans to bring poetry to geographically underserved areas. Nye, who is a professor of creative writing at Texas State University, has published several poetry collections for both young readers and adults. BOA Editions published her most recent collection for adults, The Tiny Journalist, last month.

The $7,500 Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism, which honors a book of poetry criticism published in the previous year, was awarded to Terrance Hayes for his book To Float in the Space Between: A Life and Work in Conversation with the Life and Work of Etheridge Knight (Wave Books, 2018). A professor at New York University, Hayes has been recognized with numerous awards, including a 2010 National Book Award for his poetry collection Lighthead (Penguin Books, 2010).

Dante Micheaux Wins Four Quartets Prize

At a ceremony in New York City this afternoon, Dante Micheaux was named the winner of the second annual Four Quartets Prize. Micheaux, who won for his book-length poem, Circus (Indolent Books), will receive $20,000. The annual award is given for a unified and complete sequence of poems published during the previous year. Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Carmen Giménez Smith, and Rosanna Warren judged.

“How right that this poet’s first name should be Dante,” wrote the judges in their citation. “For his Circus is a Comedy: a savage comedy, lacerating dialects, fingering wounds, looking for loves right and wrong in the crevices of history and of humiliated bodies. And yet, and yet. His language exults, triumphs, and freely rummages in the treasuries of the Bible, Baudelaire, Whitman, Eliot, Baraka, and Mahalia Jackson, taking what it needs, making it his sovereign own, a wrested blessing.”

Upon accepting the award, Micheaux thanked his grandmother, saying she “put the pen in my hand, put my hand in her hand, and taught me how to write.” Micheaux also thanked Michael Broder, his publisher at Indolent Books, a small press based in Brooklyn devoted to poetry that is “innovative, provocative, risky, and relevant.” Micheaux is the author of one previous collection, Amorous Shepherd (Sheep Meadow Press, 2010), and has published poems in the American Poetry Review, Callaloo, Poetry, PN Review, and Tongue, among others.

The finalists for the prize were Catherine Barnett for her poem sequence “Accursed Questions” from Human Hours (Graywolf Press) and Meredith Stricker for her chapbook anemochore (Newfound Press).

The Poetry Society of America and the T. S. Eliot Foundation established the Four Quartets Prize two years ago to celebrate the poetic sequence and honor T. S. Eliot’s legacy. Danez Smith won the inaugural prize for their lyric sequence “summer, somewhere” from Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press).

Watchale Workshop: An Alternative Narrative for California’s Central Valley

Jamie Moore is the author of the novella, Our Small Faces (ELJ Publications, 2013). Her work has been published in magazines including TAYO Literary Magazine and the Nervous Breakdown. She is a professor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, California, and executive director of the Watchale Workshop.

California’s Central Valley has a surprisingly rich literary history, and the Watchale Workshop team has learned a few things about our literary community. Firstly, it is a community centered around Fresno, the city hub of the Central Valley and location of the nearest MFA program, which makes many of the literary events inaccessible to community members in the south part of the region, particularly writing students at the College of the Sequoias, where I teach. Secondly, many events are focused on a single genre—poetry—perhaps as a result of the success of poets from the area. Lastly, and of greatest concern to us, many literary events are focused on and organized by men. Knowing the rich diversity of writers in our area, the Watchale Workshop aimed to showcase what more the Central Valley has to offer with our inaugural day-long event full of workshops and lectures that took place on April 6 at the College of the Sequoias.

The idea for Watchale started as a conversation between fellow writers over coffee. The four of us at Watchale were brought together by a desire to create opportunities for writers like us: POC, queer, emerging. After recruiting a student team in September 2018, Watchale was conceptualized, the name derived from Sandra Cisneros’s poem “Loose Woman.” We wanted to make a statement: Watch out! We’re coming for you! We’ve been here! We’re ready to be heard!

With our mission statement in mind—to create an alternative narrative of our literary community—we carefully curated a lineup of writers that put women and queer voices at the center of our literary conversation. We invited women writers who not only had Central Valley connections, but those we knew would help us create a space for our student writers to be included in the larger literary community. I wanted Watchale to complement the women-centered literary groups already doing work in Fresno, such as Fresno Women Read and Women Writers of Color Central Valley. This was our festival to shine.

And shine we did. In the morning, generative workshops in several genres led by P&W–supported writers Ife-Chudeni Oputa, Monique Quintana, and Wendy C. Ortiz encouraged participants to pick up their pens and get writing. Oputa’s workshop focused on the theme of “Ownership,” asking emerging poets to consider the duality of ownership, and what we owe to ourselves and our communities.

After a rousing reading with Sara Borjas and Wendy C. Ortiz, participants gathered for craft lectures on topics like community organizing, freedom and futurity, scene writing, poetry structure, and self-publishing. The evening reading celebrated both our student readers from the College of the Sequoias Quill Creative Writing Club and our featured writers of the workshop.

Students and community members were invigorated by a literary space that felt like us, of us, for us. I deeply believe we served that purpose and thus, Watchale became the literary event of my dreams. Watchale is a love letter to the Central Valley and to the writers who’ve been missing from the narrative thus far. We’re here now.

Support for Readings & Workshops in California is provided by the California Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Photo: (from left to right) Marcus Moreno, Jamie Moore, Martin Velasco Ramos, Destina Hernandez, Wendy C. Ortiz, and Sara Borjas (Credit: Marcus Moreno).

Submissions Open for the Miami Book Fair/de Groot Prize

Submissions are currently open for the Miami Book Fair/de Groot Prize for an unpublished novella. The winner will receive $6,000 and publication by Melville House; two runners-up will each receive $3,000. The winner and runners-up will each receive travel and lodging expenses to read and participate at the Miami Book Fair in 2020.

Writers who have not published a book of fiction are eligible. Using Submittable, submit a manuscript of 17,000 to 40,000 words by May 10. The entry fee is $50 until April 30 and $70 thereafter. Visit the prize’s Terms & Conditions page for complete guidelines.

Justin Torres will judge this year’s competition. Torres is an assistant professor of English at the University of California in Los Angeles and author of the novel We the Animals. The winner will be announced on or before November 1.

Marci Vogel won the 2017 award for her novella, Death & Other Holidays. Jim Shepard judged.

Photo: Miami Book Fair

OutWrite: The Sanctuary of Representation

dave ring is the community chair of the OutWrite LGBTQ literary festival in Washington, D.C. He has been honored to receive fellowships and residencies from Lambda Literary, FutureScapes, DISQUIET, and the Sundress Academy for the Arts. Currently at work on a novel, his stories have been published or are forthcoming by GlitterShip, A Punk Rock Future, and the Disconnect. He is the editor of the anthology Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of a City That Never Was published by Mason Jar Press. Follow him on Twitter at @slickhop.

Currently I’m the community chair of the annual OutWrite LGBTQ literary festival, held annually on the first weekend in August in Washington, D.C. I inherited the position from Julie Enszer, the editor of Sinister Wisdom. Last year’s keynote speaker was activist and writer Michelle Tea, and the festival itself featured more than ninety authors, forty exhibitors, and a full day of readings and panels—all put on by volunteers.

In addition to the annual festival, OutWrite holds a number of literary events throughout the year. Marianne Kirby, author of the novels Dust Bath Revival and Hogtown Market, organizes an annual speculative reading series in May at East City Bookshop that changes its name a bit each year. In 2017 we held the first reading, “The Future Is Queer,” with Craig Gidney, Sunny Moraine, Day Al-Mohamed, and Sarah Pinsker. In 2018 “The Future Is Still Queer” welcomed Na’amen Tilahun, K. M. Szpara, Ruthanna Emrys, and Marlena Chertock. 2019’s reading on May 4 will be called “The Future Is Still Very Queer” and features Rashid Darden, Nibedita Sen, and Lara Elena Donnelly.

Reflecting on the reading series, Marianne says, “Curating this series of readings focused on queer speculative fiction has been a tremendous reminder that queer identity by its very nature is speculative. When we create and share our visions of the future, we create radical art.”

OutWrite events always remind me how beautiful and affirming representation is. Representation can become sanctuary in a reality that frequently erases, elides, or minimizes queer people’s existence, not only in relation to queerness, of course, but all the other identities that they carry with them. Honoring and showcasing those identities has been a gauntlet worth picking up.

This year’s festival has three featured writers: Kristen Arnett, Jericho Brown, and Wo Chan. Themes include: faith and sexuality, exploring colonialism and diaspora-driven identities, the legacy of Stonewall, and the line between identity and commodity (particularly for writers of color). Friday, August 2 is our kickoff and on Saturday, August 3, we’ll have ten panels and twenty readings. The festival concludes on Sunday, August 4 with six writing workshops, open to both emerging and experienced writers. One of those workshops, “Culinary Speculative” led by Nibedita Sen, will explore the exciting intersection of worldbuilding and food. Please join us!

Support for Readings & Workshops in Washington, D.C. is provided by an endowment established with generous contributions from the Poets & Writers Board of Directors and others. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Photos: (top) dave ring and Michelle Tea (Credit: Phill Branch). (bottom) The Future Is Queer readers (Credit: dave ring).

April 30 Contest Roundup for Poets

Poets! Consider submitting your manuscripts and poems to the following contests, all with a deadline of April 30. Each contest offers publication or a prize of at least $1,000:

Ashland Poetry Press Richard Snyder Publication Prize: A prize of $1,000, publication by Ashland Poetry Press, and 50 author copies is given annually for a poetry collection. Entry fee: $27.

Beloit Poetry Journal Adrienne Rich Award for Poetry: A prize of $1,500 and publication in Beloit Poetry Journal is given annually for a single poem. Patricia Smith will judge. Entry fee: $15.

Finishing Line Press New Women’s Voices Chapbook Competition: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Finishing Line Press is given annually for a poetry chapbook by a woman who has not yet published a full-length collection. Leah Maines will judge. Entry fee: $16.

Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,000 and publication by Marsh Hawk Press is given annually for a poetry collection. Marge Piercy will judge. Entry fee: $25.

Mudfish Poetry Prize: A prize of $1,200 and publication in Mudfish is given annually for a single poem. John Yau will judge. Entry fee: $20.

Poetry Foundation Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowships: Five fellowships of $25,800 each are given annually to U.S. poets between the ages of 21 and 31. Entry fee: None.

Trio House Press Louise Bogan Award: A prize of $1,000, publication by Trio House Press, and 20 author copies is given annually for a poetry collection. The winner is also asked to serve as a part-time volunteer for Trio House Press for two years after publication. Sandy Longhorn will judge Entry fee: $25.

Trio House Press Trio Award for First or Second Book: A prize of $1,000, publication by Trio House Press, and 20 author copies is given annually for a first or second poetry collection. The winner is also asked to serve as a part-time volunteer for Trio House Press for two years after publication. Malena Mörling will judge. Entry fee: $25.

Tupelo Press Berkshire Prize: A prize of $3,000 and publication by Tupelo Press is given annually for a first or second poetry collection. Entry fee: $30.

University of Iowa Press Iowa Poetry Prize: Publication by University of Iowa Press is given annually for a poetry collection. Entry fee: $20.

University of Pittsburgh Press Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize: A prize of $5,000 and publication by University of Pittsburgh Press is given annually for a debut poetry collection. Ed Ochester will judge. Entry fee: $25.

Visit the contest websites for complete guidelines, and check out the Grants & Awards database and Submission Calendar for more contests in poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction.

Matwaala Poets and the New York City Polyphony

Usha Akella is the author of six books, and her most recent collection was published by Sahitya Akademi in India. She earned an MSt in Creative Writing from Cambridge University and is the founder of Matwaala, the South Asian Diaspora Poets’ Collective, and the Poetry Caravan series, which brings poetry readings and workshops to women’s shelters, senior homes, educational institutions, and hospitals. She has read her poems at a number of international poetry festivals and was selected as a Creative Ambassador for Austin, Texas in 2015.

Walking toward the Red Room at the KGB Bar in the East Village for a Matwaala poetry reading, Sophie Naz and I spotted a sign with the words “Waste your money” in front of a restaurant and we burst out laughing. It’s these random things that punctuate one’s flowing experience of the tumult of New York City—and I’d say of Matwaala too. Things that are quirky, like little bolts of lightning in our pedestrian life. Like Salman Rushdie sauntering in at the opening of the Matwaala poetry festival at New York University. Like Yogesh Patel’s whale metaphor to capture the angst of immigration or Sophie Naz’s Russian hat, a prominent sartorial prop at the festival. Like the Matwaala mug, which acts as the physical award given to the poet-of-honor with their lines of poetry inscribed on it.

Since its inception, Matwaala has been marked by magic, community, and camaraderie, a festival that was birthed to increase the visibility of South Asian poetry. Realizing its mission could be achieved in New York City, where it broils with academic institutions and cultural ferment, Pramila Venkateswaran, our codirector, and I moved it from Austin, Texas to New York in 2017.

Eleven of us gathered at New York University, Hunter College, Nassau Community College, and the Red Room to read and share our poetry with students, faculty, and audience members. U.K. poets Yogesh Patel, the 2019 poet-of-honor, and Kavita A. Jindal joined us from across the pond. U.S. poets Indran Amirthanayagam, Zilka Joseph, Vikas Menon, Sophia Naz, Ralph Nazareth, Ravi Shankar, Yuyutsu Sharma, Vivek Sharma, and Pramila Venkatewaran visibly moved audiences with poetry textured by the issues of immigration, displacement, politics, identity, family, and experiential moments of life that have no labels.

Back in Austin, what is foremost in my heart is gratitude for so many who believe in softening borders. Kindness has no skin color. Bonnie Rose Marcus and the Readings & Workshops Program at Poets & Writers, Tim Tomlinson and Deedle Tomlinson, and Norman Spencer made so much possible. The universities that hosted us—NYU, Hunter, and NCC—gave South Asian voices a chance to be heard. Live on poetry is what I heard for three days. Your time is now.

Support for the Readings & Workshops Program in New York City is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, with additional support from the Frances Abbey Endowment, the Cowles Charitable Trust, and the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Photos: (top) Pramila Venkateswaran and Usha Akella (Credit: Usha Akella). (bottom) left to right: audience member, Ravi Shankar, Kavita A. Jindal, Salman Rushdie, Yuyutsu Sharma, Indran Amirthanayagam, Yogesh Patel, Zilka Joseph, Usha Akella, and Pramila Venkateswaran (Credit: Usha Akella).

Powers, Gander Win 2019 Pulitzer Prizes

This afternoon the winners of the 2019 Pulitzer Prizes were announced at Columbia University in New York City. The annual $15,000 prizes are given for works of journalism and literature published during the previous year. First awarded in 1917, the Pulitzer Prizes are considered among the most prestigious prizes in American letters.

The award in fiction went to Richard Powers for his novel The Overstory (Norton). The finalists were Rebecca Makkai for The Great Believers (Viking) and Tommy Orange for There There (Knopf).

Forrest Gander won the award in poetry for Be With (New Directions). The finalists were Jos Charles for feeld (Milkweed Editions) and A. E. Stallings for Like (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

Jeffrey C. Stewart won the award in biography for The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke (Oxford University Press). The finalists were Max Boot for The Road Not Taken: Edward Lansdale and the American Tragedy in Vietnam (Norton) and Caroline Weber for Proust’s Duchess: How Three Celebrated Women Captured the Imagination of Fin-de-Siècle Paris (Knopf).

The nonfiction award went to Eliza Griswold for Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). The finalists were Elizabeth Rush for Rising: Dispatches From the New American Shore (Milkweed Editions) and Bernice Yeung for In a Day’s Work: The Fight to End Sexual Violence Against America’s Most Vulnerable Workers (New Press).

David W. Blight won the award in history of the United States for Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (Simon & Schuster). The finalists were W. Fitzhugh Brundage for Civilizing Torture: An American Tradition (Belknap) and Victoria Johnson for American Eden: David Hosack, Botany, and Medicine in the Garden of the Early Republic (Norton).

Each year the Pulitzer Prizes receive nearly 1,400 submissions for its five book categories. The 2018 winners included poet Frank Bidart, fiction writer Andrew Sean Greer, and nonfiction writer Caroline Fraser.

Read more about Powers’s winning book in “A Talk in the Woods: Barbara Kingsolver and Richard Powers” from the November/December 2018 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine.

Photo: Richard Powers

BOMB’s Biennial Fiction Contest Open for Submissions

Submissions are currently open for BOMB’s Biennial Fiction Contest. The contest winner will receive $1,000 and publication in BOMB’s literary supplement, First Proof. Artist and writer Renee Gladman will judge.

Using the online submission system, submit a story of up to 5,000 words with a $20 entry fee, which includes a yearlong subscription to the magazine. The deadline is May 5. The winner will be announced on July 31, 2019. 

In 2017, Kristen Gleason’s “Mumbai” was chosen as the winning entry by Paul La Farge. Previous winners include Jen GeorgeMichael Baptist, and Karen Walker Thompson

Established in 1981 as a quarterly magazine of conversations and interviews between artists, BOMB is now a “multi-media publishing house that creates, disseminates, and preserves artist-generated content from interviews to artists’ essays to new literature.”

Creative Writing From Queer Resistance

Jack York is a queer fatty from Queens, New York. She writes mostly poetry and creative nonfiction, but is rapidly rediscovering her love of fan fiction. She coproduces Streaks of Lavender, a zine on queer resistance through creative writing and community building. York earned her BA in English from Queens College, and works as an administrative coordinator for the New York Public Library. Find her on Instagram @jackyork_ and @streaksoflavender.

When I entered the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York City for the first time in October 2017, I was the largest person in the room. This is typical for most spaces I’m in, but what surprised me is that this time I wasn’t sure if I should shrink or rise to fill my space.

The group was diverse in race, ethnicity, age, gender, size, and ability. We came from various career paths, most having rushed to the museum from work or school. We brought different levels of publishing, of confidence, of practice. Yes, our queerness united us, but more than that was the desire for community, for a place to feel less othered, for folks to intentionally hold space for our thoughts and words, to be with us as we tried to resist rather than acquiesce.

Creative Writing From Queer Resistance is an eight-week workshop conceived and facilitated by Nancy Agabian. Since 2017, it has brought together three cohorts of queer writers to meet in community, read the work of our queer author ancestors, and continue their legacy of resistance through writing. As each workshop ended, there was a strong desire to continue this work, and across cohorts, participants have become friends and accountability partners for their writing.

What began as a simple, “We should make a zine!” has blossomed into Streaks of Lavender, a forthcoming zine produced by workshop alums. Through this zine, we are creating opportunities to build community beyond the safety of the museum’s gallery walls and to turn our words into action.

At the 2019 New York City Feminist Zinefest, we cofacilitated a creative writing workshop for queer, trans, and gender non-conforming folks focusing on rage, the theme of our zine’s first issue. Inspired by Nancy’s workshop, we read Sandra Cisneros and Audre Lorde alongside some of our own work, and invited participants to share too. We discussed anger, fear, and how we can find safety in our minds and our beds, sometimes. We laughed, we stretched, we literally screamed at the top of our lungs.

And me? Two years after I first entered the museum, I’m invigorated and ready to start letting go of those initial insecurities, those doubts that hold so many of us back, especially marginalized folks. Each doubt focuses on I, but through this new community of writers, in so many unexpected ways, I have become we.

The launch party for Streaks of Lavender’s first issue will take place on Tuesday, April 30 at 6:30PM at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art.

Support for the Readings & Workshops Program in New York City is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, with additional support from the Frances Abbey Endowment, the Cowles Charitable Trust, and the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Photos: (top) Jack York (Credit: Jack York). (bottom) Creative Writing From Queer Resistance workshop participants (left to right) bottom row: María José, Nancy Agabian, Priya Nair; top row: Mallory Tyler, Courtney Surmanek, Katrina Ruiz, Jack York, RK Pérez, 鄭伊凌 cheng yi ling (Credit: Al Valentín).

Deadline Approaches for Spoon River Poetry Review Editors’ Prize

Submissions are currently open for the Spoon River Poetry Review Editors’ Prize Contest. The annual contest awards $1,000 and publication in the journal to a single poem. The winning poet will also be invited to read at the annual Lucia Getsi Reading Series held in Bloomington, Illinois. Two runners-up will also each receive $100.

Using the online submission system, submit up to three previously unpublished poems totaling no more than 10 pages with a $20 entry fee, which includes a yearlong subscription to the review. The deadline is April 15. All entries will be considered for publication. Visit the website for complete guidelines.

The judge, who will write an introduction to the winning poem, will be announced after the winner is selected. Recent judges include G. C. Waldrep, Rachel Zucker, Joshua Corey, Juliana Spahr, David Baker, and C. S. Giscombe. Last year, Li-Young Lee selected Mark Svenvold’s poem “Immigration Algorithm (Application Form D (3) b (1) a)” as the winning entry.

Founded in 1976, Spoon River Poetry Review is housed at Illinois State University and celebrates “a poetics of emplacement: writing that reveals the borders of our comfort zones as sites of connection rather than irreconcilable difference.” Kirstin Hotelling Zona has been editor since 2010.

A Thriving Writing Workshop in San Bernardino

Romaine Washington, MEd., is the author of the poetry collection, Sirens in Her Belly (Jamii Publishing, 2015), and a fellow of the Inland Area Writing Project at the University of California in Riverside and the Watering Hole in South Carolina. She writes about her experience as the workshop facilitator for the San Bernardino Inlandia Writing Workshop sponsored by the Inlandia Institute. The library workshop is one of many free writing workshops organized by the Inlandia Institute in California’s Inland Empire region, and cosponsored by Poets & Writers.

Over a year ago, I began attending the San Bernardino Inlandia Institute workshop located in the cozy Howard M. Rowe Branch Library. Facilitator Allyson Jeffredo shared her vision of creating a workshop steeped in honest conversation and a safe space. We were instructed to discuss the heart of the work which primed us to be receptive to constructive critique. Her mission of guiding us to our best writing selves was the perfect example of an effective workshop leader.

When Allyson moved, I was invited to be the facilitator and inherited a healthy workshop with friendly, patient, and creatively curious people like former social worker Charlotte LeVecque, who taught us about her love of horses in a poem titled “The Jump”:

He takes off
                         not a foot on the ground
My horse and I take wing

Our haiku guru, Cynthia Charlwood Pringle, transported us to a mini-retreat with these lines:

ocean inhales, holds
its breath – pauses – releases
foamy crescent domes

Our workshop participants range in age from mid-twenties to eighties, from college students to retirees. The octogenarian from Germany and the dancer in her twenties who works with at-risk youth have a mutual admiration for each other’s poetry and joie de vivre. The creative process, natural flow in fellowship, and mutual respect makes each meeting memorable.

We’ve had visits from guest presenters like Marilyn Kallet, the poet laureate of Knoxville, Tennessee, whose dynamic presentation focused on “Joy in Everyday Things.” We went on a library scavenger hunt for inspiration and read impromptu lines with Kallet, but we were all most deeply moved when she read from her work.

For our next meeting, we will have guest presenter and local author Isabel Quintero, whose debut novel, Gabi, a Girl in Pieces (Cinco Puntos Press, 2014), won the 2015 Morris Award for Debut YA Fiction. She will speak to us about expressing our authentic voice. I am excited to see how this will impact our writing.

With each meeting I see growth in what is produced and the quality of constructive comments. Having inherited such a wonderful workshop, my mission is to see each person continue to thrive.

Support for Readings & Workshops in California is provided by the California Arts Council, a state agency, and the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Additional support comes from the Friends of Poets & Writers.

Photos: (top) Romaine Washington (Credit: Romaine Washington); (middle) Workshop participants with Romaine Washington (center), guest presenter Marilyn Kallet (left of center), and Inlandia Institute executive director Cati Porter (right of center) (Credit: Romaine Washington); (bottom) San Bernardino Inlandia workshop (Credit: Alex Arteava).

T. S. Eliot Four Quartets Prize Finalists Announced

Catherine Barnett, Dante Micheaux, and Meredith Stricker have been chosen as the finalists for the 2019 Four Quartets Prize. The annual $20,000 prize, sponsored by the T. S. Eliot Foundation and the Poetry Society of America, is given for a “unified and complete sequence of poems” published in the United States in 2018. The winner will be named at a ceremony in New York City on April 30.

Poets Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Carmen Giménez Smith, and Rosanna Warren judged. “The three finalists for the 2019 Four Quartets Prize represent how the long poem continues to delight, attract, and sustain readers and fellow poets alike into the twenty-first century,” says Phillips. “These poems are daring, expertly crafted, alluring, and infused with a sense of poetic purpose. They rose to the top of an incredibly competitive field of submissions.”

Barnett is nominated for her sequence “Accursed Questions” from her collection Human Hours (Graywolf Press); Micheaux is nominated for his book Circus (Indolent Books); and Stricker is nominated for her chapbook anemochore (Newfound Press). “That the finalist list comprises three different modes of the long poem—the book-length poem, the extended lyric passage, and the chapbook—speaks to the vital diversity of the form,” says Phillips, “for they suggest, rather emphatically, that the American long poem sequence is in good health and in good hands today and going forward into the future.”

Alice Quinn, the executive director of the Poetry Society of America, agrees. “The recent proliferation of chapbook publication in America and of journal publication of sequences of poems has fostered an extraordinary climate for this prize, which is becoming a beacon, holding out hope of significant recognition and reward for achievement in this area of poetic endeavor.”

The London-based T. S. Eliot Foundation and the New York City–based Poetry Society of America established the prize last year on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the publication of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets in America. Clare Reihill, the director of the T. S. Eliot Foundation, says the two organizations launched the award because she “sensed T. S. Eliot’s presence in the land of his birth and early life had somewhat fallen away.” Born in Saint Louis, Eliot spent the majority of his life in the England, where he wrote two of the most important long poems of the twentieth century, The Waste Land and Four Quartets.

Danez Smith won the inaugural prize for their lyric sequence “summer, somewhere” from Don’t Call Us Dead (Graywolf Press). 

Photos (left to right): Catherine Barnett, Dante Micheaux, Meredith Stricker