And The Winners Are

January 19, 2012

The Poetry Council of NC, a self-supporting, all-volunteer nonprofit organization founded in 1949 to foster a deeper appreciation of poetry in the state, has announced the winners of its annual poetry contests. Judges were permitted to select 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place winners as well as up to 3 honorable mentions in each contest category, with the exception of the book contest which has no 3rd place winner. Some judges elected to name fewer winners.

All winners will receive their awards, including cash prizes for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place, at Poetry Day to be held at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory on April 14. Winning poems will also be published in the Council’s annual awards anthology, Bay Leaves, and winning poets will be invited to read their poems at Poetry Day. An additional category for Performance Poetry is judged and awarded at Poetry Day. Information on any of the contests, Poetry Day, and the Poetry Council is available at

The complete list of category winners and judges is as follows:

Oscar Arnold Young (book contest):
JUDGE: Paul Hostovsky, Medfield, MA & Ron Moran, Simpsonville, SC
1st The Swing Girl by Katherine Soniat, Asheville, NC
2nd Lie Down with Me by Julie Suk, Charlotte, NC
HM Rendering the Bones by Susan M. Lefler, Brevard, NC
HM An Innocent in the House of the Dead by Joanna Catherine Scott, Chapel
Hill, NC

Gladys Owings Hughes Heritage (free verse):
JUDGE: Darnell Arnoult, Harrogate, TN
1st “Babies Hurtling Several Stories” by Ross White, Durham, NC
2nd “Daddy Imagines a Good Death” by JS Absher, Raleigh, NC
3rd “The Museum of Broken Things” by Jane Shlensky, Bahama, NC

Charles Shull (traditional poetry):
JUDGE: Paul Bone, Evansville, IN
1st “Facts about Early America” by Ross White, Durham, NC (rhyming couplets)
2nd “Basic Bad Day” by Peg Russell, Murphy, NC (terza rima)
3rd “Featured Reader” by Alice Osborn, Raleigh, NC (sestina)
HM “On a Recent Engagement” by Michael A. Moreno, Rockville, MD (sonnet)
HM “Water the Lover” by Ellen Summers, Greensboro, NC (sonnet)

James Larkin Pearson (free verse):
JUDGE: Felicia Mitchell, Emory, VA
1st “Address to Monarchs” by Ross White, Durham, NC
2nd “My Mother’s Lake” by Ann Campanella, Huntersville, NC
3rd “What Burns for Light” by Lisa Zerkle, Charlotte, NC
HM “Circumventing the Circumference” by Terry Collins, Mount Airy, NC
HM “Things Fall Out of My Father” by Robert Moyer, Winston Salem, NC
HM “The Lesbians Next Door” by Alice Osborn, Raleigh, NC

Ellen Johnston-Hale (humorous verse):
JUDGE: Gloria Alden, Southington, OH
1st “Where Time Does Not Fly” by Susan Spalt, Carrboro, NC
2nd “The Voice” by Barbara Brooks, Hillsborough, NC
3rd “Arctic” by Lisa Zerkle, Charlotte, NC
HM “Black Friday” by Doris Dix Caruso, Burlington, NC
HM “Patience” by Jane Shlensky, Bahama, NC
HM “I Think They Got It!” by Janet Ireland Trail, Greensboro, NC

Charlotte Young (elementary school):
JUDGE: David Roderick, Greensboro, NC
1st “Jupiter” by Sydney Campanella (home-schooled), Huntersville, NC
2nd “Light Saves Us” by Paige Morrison (North Forest Pines Elem.), Wake Forest, NC
3rd “Blue” by Joellen Callahan (North Forest Pines Elem.), Wake Forest, NC
HM “Doves” by Sonja Woolley (Episcopal Day School), Southern Pines, NC
HM “Nature Walk” by Lilly Corcoran (Episcopal Day School), Southern Pines, NC

Carol Bessent Hayman (middle school):
JUDGE: David Roderick, Greensboro, NC
1st “The Pledge of Sausage” by Devan Stocks (Clarkton School of Discovery), Clarkton, NC
2nd “Pumpkin Patch” by Kenneth Mote (Clarkton School of Discovery), Clarkton, NC

Sam Ragan North Carolina Connection (high school):
JUDGE: Natasha Trethewey, Decatur, GA
1st “Lesson of the Lark” by Maggie Apple of North Guilford High School
2nd “Black Birds” by Jennifer Comerford of North Guilford High School

Soniat Wins Oscar Arnold Young Award

January 6, 2012


Katherine Soniat, of Asheville, has been named recipient of this year’s Oscar Arnold Young Award for the best book of poetry from North Carolina for her collection entitled The Swing Girl, published by Louisiana State University Press. The award, given annually since 1959 by the Poetry Council of NC, is one of the state’s most prestigious awards for poetry.

Soniat is the author of four previous books and has a fifth, A Raft, A Boat, A Bridge, forthcoming from Dream Horse Press later this year. Formerly a professor at Hollins University and Virginia Tech, she currently teaches in the Great Smokies Writing Program of the University of NC at Asheville.

Former NC Poet Laureate Kathryn Stripling Byer says of Soniat’s poems, “the fluidity of their cadence and the luminosity of their imagery carry the reader to the wellspring of poetry itself, that deep delight whose source is, in Soniat’s words ‘beauty on its way to being mystery’.”

Soniat will receive a cash prize for this honor and give a reading at the Council’s annual Poetry Day to be held this year on April 14 at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, NC. Poems from her book will also be featured in the Council’s annual awards anthology, Bay Leaves, to be released at Poetry Day.

This year’s contest received 24 submissions and was judged by Ronald Moran, Professor Emeritus at Clemson University and author of 13 books of poetry and scholarship, and Paul Hostovsky, Pushcart Prize recipient and author of 6 collections of poetry.

The judges also selected Lie Down with Me: New and Selected Poems (Autumn House Press) by Julie Suk of Charlotte, as First Runner-Up, and Rendering the Bones (Wind Publications) by Brevard’s Susan Lefler and An Innocent in the House of the Dead (Main Street Rag) by Joanna Catherine Scott of Chapel Hill as Honorable Mentions.

All of the winning poets will be invited to read at Poetry Day. The Poetry Council sponsors and facilitates a total of 9 annual contests. The results from the other contests will be released in the next few weeks. Information about the Council and the contests can be found at

2012 Contest Rules

November 6, 2011

The previous posting of these contest rules had the wrong date for Poetry Day. Here are the corrected rules.
Click on link to view or print pdf; click on images to enlarge

2012 contest rules Publication3_forPDFprint

“Knit 2 Together,” by Jo Barbara Taylor

October 18, 2011

2011 Charles Shull Contest for Traditional Poetry, Third Place

Jo Barbara Taylor
Knit 2 Together

a common knitting pattern direction

Knitting needles click clicking along
like a song, create loops and bridges
in fabric, a weave that grows warm and strong
like brown baked bread folded in soft edges.
Our lives roll and unroll through the days,
fiber and color in skeins of yarn twined
in knits and purls. We unravel, ‘come frayed
from time to time, lose tension in the bind,
but find the loose thread to pull and darn,
crochet the hole through which we fall, the hook
looping each scattered stitch in fresh yarn.
Life resumes a steady beat like a book
of sonnets rhymed and metered. Needles click
and we weave our fabric deep and thick.

Bindings, by Karol Neufeld

October 12, 2011

2011 Charles Shull Contest for Traditional Poetry, Second Place

Karol Neufeld

After the small wet shape has struggled out of the dark,
pushed past pain, slipped from safety into the air of self
you know; there’s no return for either one of you,
no going back to tenderness of nesting dolls, one
body holding the other, one sustaining shadow
bound with fragile tissue to another. Cells no more

will grow inside. Here’s what you don’t yet know: more
than your life you will love this child. In bed in the dark
you’ll imagine him in danger, pray that no grim shadow
will threaten him. He will come to you, proud of himself
for some little thing; you’ll hug him, feel his heart beat one
skin away. Every detail of his life concerns you:

food he eats, the socks and shoes he wears, stories you
read together before sleep. could you have known that more
and more your thoughts will wind around his welfare, one
by one your dreams will draw his days? His cries in dark
nightmare nights will summon your singing, bring him yourself
as a comforter. All will be well in your shadow.

Days follow days, age him into freedom; the shadow
of petulance lurks around the house. On good days you
chuckle together about the dog, you catch yourself
just before ruining the moment — Why can’t it be more
like this all the time?
Because he’s moving down the dark
trail of future, where you can’t go. There’s room for only one.

Suitcases, boxes go with him to find every one
of his dreams. The house seems sedate without his shadow,
but sun still shines through the windows. You wake in the dark,
restless, wide-eyed, with worrisome thoughts. Long ago you
could rely on touch to learn his story; now he’s more
than far away, he’s grown away. He has become himself,

and will share only what he chooses. You tell yourself,
It’s as it should be, and believe it. Yet for one
day, if only in a dream, you yearn to hold once more
his baby self secure in your arms, your mere shadow
bringing comfort, peace. The man will always be your
child, however old he grows or far he goes into the dark.

Below the cross Mary crouches, weeps in the shadow
of the Holy One. Here’s mother love, I tell you:
Judas’ mother sheds more tears somewhere in the dark.

Balance, by Jane Shlensky

October 6, 2011

Charles Shull Contest for Traditional Poetry, 2011 First Place

Jane Shlensky

Each morning Granny hobbles to the spring
uphill two miles with buckets in her hands,
through woods now thick with frost, limbs cleared of leaves.
And over rocks almost atop a hill
behind her house, she sees the water gush,
and, slow with age, she stoops to clear away
the leaves and sticks that clot the pulses’ rush,
and, cracked cup in her hand, she dips into
“sweet water” as she calls it, gathered wild
as honey in abandoned trees, and pours
the nectar into metal milking pails
to carry down the mountain, arms held far
from hips and sides, all tense–as pugilists
might hold their arms, quite low with hands in fists.
But her fists grip the metal handle’s cut
into her palms, as water weighs her down
and down the well-worn path toward her house.
I offer her a new artesian well,
but she just laughs at me and shakes her head.
I ask if I may carry home the spring
for her, but she denies she wants the help
and says it gives her reason for a walk
among the trees on any given day
and carrying two buckets makes her sure
of foot and balanced in a world that’s not.


August 25, 2011



2011 Poetry Day Reservation Form

August 17, 2011

Click on Image to enlarge and print

One Giant Leap, by Glenn Cassidy

July 26, 2011

Ellen T. Johnston-Hale Contest for Light Verse, 2010 Honorable Mention

Glenn Cassidy
One Giant Leap

Have you ever rubber-band stretched a metaphor
til it wrapped around the globe
and circled back upon itself,
over and over and over itself
til the literal and the ‘phorical crossed
fie and six and sevenical
and the giant elastic ball got loose
and bounded down the stairs?

Have you ever taffy-pulled a metaphor
til as thin as a strand of human hair,
til it sagged and taffy-sugary-stuck itself
to dirt and lint and ants?
Have you ever surgically enhanced a metaphor
til as tight as Joan Rivers’ cheeks
til it brought smooth and shiny youth
to a wrinkly old idea?

If you were to bungee-jump a metaphor
til your nose was kissing sand,
would you grasp at the purchaseless air
or trust that soon enough you’d stand
once more on dictionary bedrock?
Would you let pitch and color and meaning
swirl Peter Max-like round your head?
Could you take that giant leap for metaphor,
without fear the cord may shred?

The Therapist Thought Doing a Collage Might Help Me Understand Me Better, by Richard Allen Taylor

July 15, 2011

Ellen T. Johnston-Hale Contest for Light Verse, 2010 Third Place

Richard Allen Taylor

The melange of images begins with a tiny human
climbing a mountain of sand that leads to a cave
that leads to a highway that pauses by a pepper red
fire hydrant which mysteriously brings to mind my 401(k)
and how it has stood patiently though visited often by the dogs
of the stock market. It sits just across from the face of time,
a Rolex, of course, so precious ins the currency
it counts. Near the upper left corner is Wyoming
which ends in a plateau that drops into a canyon as deep
as hell, where an Energizer battery fuels a chipmunk that almost
looks like a bunny–just pretend it is a bunny. Parts of the face
of a fashion model from an Oil of Olay ad are pasted all over,
an eye to the East, one to the West, lips to the South
where Georgia might be, if this were a map,
(and a map it may be), and she might represent
the scattered and divided way love can show up, or she might
just be filler. If only I could read the routes and lines
that take me from one state to another. I ride a deviled
egg from Boston to Maine, then turn South again
to a vase of yellow flowers that no one ever gave me,
ever, and I am pleased to see a fine green bottle
of Chardonnay at hand, though the collection of ancient
gold pieces reminds me of the fortunes I never had
and may never have again, but all in all, this cutting
and pasting has been meaningful, a story
with wine and women. But maybe I should have
riffed through more magazines,
as what seems to be missing is the song.