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G&A: The Contest Blog

The Library of Congress announced the winner of its 2010 Rebekah Johnson Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, given for a collection published during the past two years. The ten-thousand-dollar prize went to Washington State poet and MacArthur "Genius" fellow Lucia Perillo for her fifth book of poetry, Inseminating the Elephant (Copper Canyon Press, 2009), which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.

Perillo is the third woman to be given the honor, along with Louise Glück and Alice Fulton. Among the other past winners of the biennial prize, given since 1990, are Frank Bidart, Bob Hicok, James Merrill, and Franz Wright.

For readers living in Washington, D.C., Perillo will give a free reading on December 13 at the Library of Congress's James Madison Building in celebration of the prize. To hear her read from her winning work now, check out the video below.

Last week, we reported on a poetry chapbook contest that recently increased its prize, and this week, we're highlighting an award for a full-length poetry collection that's made a similar move. Spire Press, founded in New York City in 2002, has recently bumped its annual book prize to one thousand dollars. The winner will also see their collection published by Spire and receive twenty author copies.

Spire counts among its authors Maureen Alsop, Matthew Hittinger, Jennifer MacPherson, Alice Pettway, and Elizabeth Rees, a winner of the aforementioned Codhill Press chapbook contest (she also won Spire's chapbook award in 2007). Last year's book prize winner was Christina Olson for Before I Came Home Naked, which received praise from poets such as Paul Guest, Aimee Nezhukumatathil, and Katrina Vandenberg.

To submit to this year's contest, send a manuscript of forty-eight to eighty pages with an entry fee of twenty dollars (low-income writers may apply for a waiver) by December 20. Full guidelines are available on the Spire Web site.

The winners of this year’s fifty-thousand-dollar Whiting Writers' Awards, given to promising writers nominated by established authors and literary professionals across the United States, were announced last night at a ceremony in New York City. This marks the twenty-fifth year of the prizes, which have bolstered the early careers of luminaries including Jorie Graham, Denis Johnson, Alice McDermott, David Foster Wallace, and C. D. Wright.

The winning poets are Matt Donovan, author of the collection Vellum (Mariner Books, 2007); Jane Springer, author of Dear Blackbird (University of Utah Press, 2007); and L. B. Thompson, whose chapbook is Tendered Notes (Center for Book Arts, 2003). The fiction winners are Michael Dahlie, author of the novel A Gentleman’s Guide to Graceful Living (Norton, 2008); Rattawut Lapcharoensap, author of the short story collection Sightseeing (Grove Press, 2004); and Lydia Peelle, author of the story collection Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing (Harper Perennial, 2009). The nonfiction winners are Elif Batuman, author of The Possessed, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux last February; Amy Leach, whose essay collection about animals, plants, and stars is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in 2012; and Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, author of the memoir When Skateboards Will Be Free (The Dial Press, 2009).

Six of the winners hold MFAs—from New York University, University of Iowa’s nonfiction program, University of Michigan, University of Virginia, and Washington University—and two hold doctorate degrees. Among the magazines that have published multiple winners’ works are Granta, the New Yorker, and Orion. Full biographies on the winners are posted on the Web site of the Mrs. Giles Whiting Foundation, sponsor of the awards.

In the video below, creative nonfiction winner Sayrafiezadeh reveals a dirty little literary secret.

Bloomington, New York's Codhill Press, whose "voice was conceived as lying at the intersection between spiritual, literary, and poetic thought," is open for entries to its fifth annual poetry chapbook contest, this year with a prize of one thousand dollars. The winner, selected by Pauline Uchmanowicz, will also receive fifty copies of his or her chapbook, which will be distributed by SUNY Press—another recent development for Codhill.

The competition's finalists will also have their manuscripts considered for publication by the press, "dedicated to making beautifully crafted, carefully edited books." Images of selections from the Codhill catalogue, including 2009 chapbook contest winner Elizabeth Rees's Tilting Gravity, are viewable online.

To enter this year's contest, poets writing in English should send a manuscript of twenty to thirty pages with a twenty-five-dollar entry fee by November 30. Details on what to submit along with your poems are available on the Codhill Press Web site.

A few weeks ago the Canadian Writers’ Trust announced the finalists for its Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, which could have induced a bit of sibling rivalry, given two of the names on the five-strong shortlist. But authors Kathleen Winter and her younger brother, Michael, are far from feeling any familial animosity, according to Canada's the Star—in fact, they've mentioned, tongue-in-cheek, splitting the prize of twenty-five thousand Canadian dollars.

"In terms of anything like battle, it’s more of a tag team," Mr. Winter told the Star. "And the other people had better watch out."

Mr. Winter was shortlisted for The Death of Donna Whalen (Hamish Hamilton Canada). His sister, five years his senior, was nominated for her first novel, Annabel (House of Anansi Press), which is also up for the Scotiabank Giller Prize of fifty thousand Canadian dollars and the twenty-five-thousand-dollar Governor General’s Award for Fiction.

"I wouldn’t be a writer if I hadn’t seen Kathleen writing," says Mr. Winter, who published his first book, the story collection Creaking in Their Skins (Quarry Press, 1994), before his sister released her debut collection, boYs (Biblioasis, 2007). "When I was in university, Kathleen was already a writer. I don't know if there was much of a living in it, but she lived and breathed books and writing. She was always sending things out to publishers and magazines."

The other authors up for the Writers' Trust prize are Trevor Cole for Practical Jean (McClelland & Stewart), Emma Donoghue for Room (HarperCollins), and Michael Helm for Cities of Refuge (McClelland & Stewart). Next Wednesday, all of the finalists will give a reading at the International Festival of Authors, and the winner will be announced on November 2 at Toronto’s Isabel Bader Theatre.

The ten finalists for the T. S. Eliot Prize, a U.K. award worth fifteen thousand pounds, were recently named in what chair of judges Anne Stevenson called an "exceptional year for poetry." Among the titles selected from 123 entries are the second collection from an American Army veteran, three Forward Poetry Prize–nominated books and this year's winner (who is one of two Nobel laureates on the list), and a collection by the great-granddaughter of Sigmund Freud that includes a poetic sequence informed by family letters.

The shortlisted poets, each of whom will receive one thousand pounds, are below.

Simon Armitage for Seeing Stars (Faber)

Annie Freud for The Mirabelles (Picador)

John Haynes for You (Seren)

Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney for Human Chain (Faber; Farrar, Straus and Giroux), which won the Forward Prize this year

Pascale Petit for What the Water Gave Me (Seren)

Robin Robertson for The Wrecking Light (Picador; forthcoming from Mariner Books), which was a 2010 Forward finalist

Fiona Sampson for Rough Music (Carcanet Press), also a 2010 Forward finalist

Brian Turner for Phantom Noise (Bloodaxe, Alice James Books)

Nobel laureate Derek Walcott for White Egrets (Faber; Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Sam Willetts for New Light for the Old Dark (Jonathan Cape)

The winner will be named on January 24 after a reading by the finalists at London's Royal Festival Hall on the previous day.

In the video below, Petit reads from What the Water Gave Me, inspired by the life of artist Frida Kahlo.

The Cleveland Cavaliers lost a star player this year to the sultry climes of Miami, and the Florida city's largest newspaper is looking for a poetic way to usher in the Heat's new signee. Until this Friday at 6 PM, the Miami Herald is running its one-off LeBron James poetry contest to "welcome (or not)" King James to the court.

"Are you so happy (or depressed) that LeBron James has arrived in Miami that you can't find the words?" the Herald asks, offering as a reward for those elusive words the opportunity for the winner to read his or her poem on WLRN Miami Herald News, as well as two tickets to a Miami Heat game. The King's bard will also receive passes to the finale event of O, Miami: A Contemporary Poetry Festival, which will occur for the first time next April.

Submit any number of poems via the online form, each piece being no more than six lines, in honor of James's new jersey number, in any style or form. The director of the new poetry festival, P. Scott Cunningham, will choose six finalists who will be announced on October 26 on WLRN Miami Herald News and online, on the day of the season's opening game.

For a taste of the possibilities of sport and glory in verse, check out NBC Miami's LeBron James poem picks from a couple of esteemed basketball blogs. And for a more dramatic rendering of James's poetry in motion, see the video below.

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