Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Death of Poetry Revisited

The Death of Poetry Revisited

Not quite a year ago, I wrote a column titled “The Reports of Poetry’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated,” in which I suggested the vibrant poetic community in the small town of Lincolnton, NC, was evidence of poetry’s continued vitality. I’ve just wrapped up accepting submissions to the annual Oscar Arnold Young Contest for an outstanding book of poems written in the previous year by a NC poet. As a result I have new information to support my claim countering the common supposition that nobody reads, writes, buys, or cares about poetry anymore.

The Poetry Council of NC received 25 submissions to the contest. That means there were at least 25 books of poetry published by NC writers in 2010 alone. Actually, from subsequent conversations with other writers, I know of 5 others that weren’t submitted. So, at least 30 books of poetry were published by NC writers in 2010, and I suspect there were even more than that. Regardless of the exact number, that is a lot of poetry for something “no one is doing or reading anymore.” I doubt there were that many novels by NC writers published in the same year.

The books came from both well-established poets like David Rigsbee, Joseph Bathanti and Stephen Smith and first-time book publishers like Malaika King Albrecht and Jodi Barnes. There were a lot from the Raleigh area, 9 in fact, but they also came from Pinehurst, Gastonia, Wilmington, and even Hickory. And they came from established presses like Main Street Rag, Finishing Line and New South Books, as well as newer presses like Jacar and Big Table.

The selection of one of these books as the outstanding book of poetry from last year will not be an easy task. There is a great deal of quality work represented here. I have written favorable reviews of 10 of them myself, and 1 of them was published after my recommendation. If I were the judge, I think I would have to draw straws to choose among my half dozen favorites. Fortunately for my own sanity I’m not the judge who has to make that selection.

The results of the contest will be released later this summer. The winner, second place finisher, and a couple of honorable mentions will be given the opportunity to read from their winning works at Poetry Day to be held at Catawba College in Salisbury on October 1. The winner and second place finisher will also have a selection of their work published in the Poetry Council’s annual anthology of contest winners, Bay Leaves. For more information, visit www.poetrycouncilofnc.wordpress.com or contact me at asowens1@yahoo.com or by phone at 828-234-4266.

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